Thursday, March 15, 2012

Farewell Encyclopedias

I was saddened to read today that they will discontinue publishing the hard copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

It is still a vivid memory for me when the encyclopedia salesman came to our house.  It was in the evening and he was there for over two hours.  Before he left, he had convinced my parents that encyclopedias were an absolute necessity for their children and that the investment was worth $400.00.  He must have been really good since I remember getting a dollar out of my dad was a major accomplishment.

We couldn't afford the entire set at once so we got a few starter volumes and received one every other month until we had the complete set.  My dad would sit in his recliner at night and read the books and ever so often would interrupt our television watching to astonish us with some peculiar fact.  If it sounded really interesting my brother and I would rush over to see a picture.  Who wouldn't want to see a picture of the worlds tallest man?

We used them for book reports on various topics.  You had to be cautious in choosing a topic and make sure it started with a letter of a volume we all ready owned.  It would be years before we could do a report on zebras.

I remember how when the books were closed the pages all turned to gold and I thought that was amazing.  We lived on a farm and led a pretty sheltered life so it didn't take much to amaze me.

My grandfather built us a special bookcase just to house our single largest investment other than our car and for years we referred the the books and finally got the entire set.

So farewell to the books that made my childhood a little more interesting.  As I type this on my laptop to be printed digitally I think about how far we have come and how glad I am to have had those moments where everything wasn't available to me instantly and I could be amazed by a picture of the worlds tallest man.

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