Growing up on the outskirts of Nashua, NH in the 1960s, I spent a lot of time alone. Books were my best friends. And, being away from downtown made treks to the Nashua Public Library infrequent and special. One day, an odd-looking bus pulled up in my French Canadian ghetto, near the corner of Kinsley and Liberty streets…it was labelled “Bookmobile!” This was to be my weekly oasis, my ticket to reading freedom, for much of my childhood. What a concept!
One day, an odd-looking bus pulled up in my French Canadian ghetto, near the corner of Kinsley and Liberty streets...it was labelled "Bookmobile!" This was to be my weekly oasis, my ticket to reading freedom, for much of my childhood.
The Bookmobile driver was a kindly, white-haired gent (his name long-forgotten, unfortunately) who paid attention to each visitor–he made it his business to get to know me and my bookish interests. I had three topics of overriding concern: outer space, dinosaurs, and whales–he kept an eye out for any books about any of those topics, and glowed proudly when he had something new to share with me each week. I was a precocious kid, and could read big-person books on these subjects, so he made a special effort to find me works in the adult section of the library.
There were only so many books about the stars and planets in those days, so my interests quickly gravitated to science fiction, where the choices were vast and varied. I discovered Jules Verne, and poured through many of his classics. My favorite was “From the Earth to the Moon,” though others, like “20,000 Leagues under the Sea,” I found tedious. H.G. Wells captured my imagination more vividly, especially “War of the Worlds,” “The Time Machine,” and “The Invisible Man.” While most of Verne’s imaginary worlds have come true by now, I consider it a tribute to Wells’ imagination that many of his have not…yet!
Over time, I graduated to contemporary scifi–Arthur Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and to collections of short stories. And, of course, my love of science fiction spilled over into the television of the day–The Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone, and especially, a little-remembered show called Science Fiction Theatre that preceded them.
It was the latter that really fueled my imagination, for its purported theme was to present in stories predictions of the future, grounded in scientific development and evolution. Each week, a new story described fantastic future scientific discoveries–I remember one episode on the artificial heart, another on interplanetary travel, and yet others on driverless cars and disease-curing discoveries. Most of which have come true by now…
There was one, though, that fascinated me profoundly, and ultimately influenced my decision to major in psychology in college. The episode, whose details have dimmed in my memory, was about a scientist who had invented a computer device that could read a subject’s mind, and translate thoughts into written text. The story involved his colleagues attaching the device to the inventor’s brain on his death bed in order to capture his final thoughts. As the printer dutifully captured his thoughts, I was glued to the TV set awaiting his final words: “Our father, who art in heaven…”
40 years in the enterprise software industry in Silicon Valley, with a lot of non-profit arts board experience. French Canadian New England roots, distantly related (I'm guessing) to Jack Kerouac, and inspired by his free spirit.
How fortunate that you had a “book mentor” who took your interests to heart. And how striking that books and TV worked together to fuel your imagination in that “we can do anything” age. I wonder if kids today find themselves stimulated in quite the same way.
Thanks for commenting…yes, we certainly are in a completely new era today. I do think that kids today are enveloped in stimulation of all sorts, perhaps too much so. Any kid looking for inspiration has the whole Internet at his fingertips. I continue to believe we live in an era of accelerating innovation and progress, such that today’s kids will experience so much more change in their lifetimes than we are. But for good?
It brought back some of my own favorite childhood reading memories. Before we had a library nearby we had a small bookmobile too. I had an uncle who gave my older brother his science fiction magazines, and I have always loved science fiction. There was one author who’s name I have forgotten who specialized in short short stories with ironic endings which were usually funny. The basic outline of one of my favorites was about two vampires looking for a world with blood that was still available, while on an elevator ride. They finally got to their last possible stop, and discovered
that they had landed on a world that only had turnips. The moral of the story being that you can’t draw blood from a turnip.
Haha, that’s cute. Reminds me of a series of elaborate jokes I heard around famous expressions, like “A penny saved is a penny earned,” involving a character named Benny who shaves in an urn, or something like that…