Well it’s been quite a while since I’ve clicked the old “Submit post” button on the blog site and I have to say that I have indeed missed it. There for a while I put this blog, and a lot of other things in my life, on hold waiting for something to happen. The something I was waiting on didn’t happen and now I’m ready to move on. At this point I hope you’re wondering what it was that was supposed to happen but didn’t. The reason I’m hoping this is because it would mean that my ability as a writer to tease you is alive and well. So I hope I got that part right.
Because I’ve always liked the showbiz adage of, “Leave them wanting more,” I’m not going to tell you what that Something is, at least not now. But rest assured O’valued reader I will soon disclose my shocking secret for all to learn. At that point you will all be free to gasp, gossip and opine about my soon to be revealed story. But like I said, that is for a later date.
A while back I got a text message from a friend and coworker alerting me that he had run across a rare item. He knew from a previous conversation that I would be extremely interested in this item and he was right. I guess before I jump headlong into this post I should tell you about the prior conversation which I referenced above.
Here’s how it goes, for the most part: A few months ago a friend and I were discussing the old neighborhood and both of us remembered the local Humpty Dumpty grocery store known for its “Camelot” house brand. Each of us also remarked about how our parents had taken advantage of a special promotion that ran for several weeks in which “Humpty” customers could purchase, at the rate of one volume per week, the entire set of Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia.
Each week a new volume would arrive and customers could eagerly sate their hunger for knowledge as well as their cravings for Camelot brand boxed macaroni, Libbyland frozen dinners for the youngsters and lush green produce for the rest of the clan. I have to admit that I was really young and don’t remember the exact time frame we’re talking about here but I am fairly certain that it was in the early to mid 70’s. I know that at some point we did complete the set and the family book case finally showcased the entire collection for all to see. There was not a prouder family on Chetwood Drive, of this you can rest assured.
The set served us well for several years and the words within were probably plagiarized countless times in school reports of one type or another. A few years later my sister decided that she needed a deeper knowledge and that the beloved F&W’s just wouldn’t suffice. I can’t remember the exact circumstances but at some point, I am thinking it may have been a Christmas gift, Mom & Dad got her a complete set of World Book Encyclopedia. Now these were some reference books of the highest magnitude. You could crack open one of the volumes and pretty much see the knowledge flow forth like a beacon of wisdom and irrefutable truth. After all, who or what could be deemed more reputable and accurate than the World Book?
As a youth I was entranced with all of the interesting articles pertaining to the animals of far off exotic Africa and other items too numerous to mention. These books were of a really good quality. They were heavy and didn’t have the cheap pulp pages and micro print that plagued readers of the Funk & Wagnall. I loved the World Book.
So now let’s get back to the text message I received advising me of the wonderful find that my friend had uncovered. Well you don’t have to be Freddy or Velma from Scooby Doo or even the Head Cashier at Walmart as Larry the Cable Guy is so fond of saying to realize that my friend Ronald had located a complete set of the beloved 1968 World Book Encyclopedia. He asked if I was interested and it took me all of about 11 seconds to acknowledge.
At this point it was decided that since the volumes were located at his cousin’s garage sale a bit of haggling would be obligatory. The price was set out at $15 but he quickly pointed out that not only was the 1968 set complete with all volumes present and accounted for, but also on the bargaining table was a set of the supplemental “Year Books” which updated the collection up though the mid 1970’s. Ronald seemed to think that this should jump the price up to $20 but I was firm at $15. I held my ground because I figured that I was probably the only one in Oklahoma County seeking a set of encyclopedias that was almost as old as I was. I also knew they would be pretty heavy and the prospect of moving them back into the house and back up on a shelf would probably prompt them to take the $15 offer.
But just to make things more fun I told Ronald that I had learned my haggling tactics from Ali Hakim, an ancient Bedouin camel trader who felt incumbent to share his skills with me. Actually Ali Hakim is the name of the Persian peddler in the Lynn Riggs classic play “Green Grow the Lilacs” which was later popularized under the name “Oklahoma.” If you’ve ever seen the movie he was portrayed by Eddie Albert of Green Acres fame. You know you want to sing the song…go ahead, no one is listening. I felt pretty safe using the name because I can’t see Ron ever uttering the phrase, “Alex I’ll take 1950’s Musicals for $1000”
It seems that Ronald’s cousin was selling the set to raise some spending money for an upcoming cruise. Knowing that Ali Hakim was a desert dweller who abhorred the ocean and a devout Muslim that would not approve of any alcohol consumption, I advised Ronald that he would never forgive me if I contributed $20 for the funding of such debauchery on the high seas. The deal was struck at $15.
A couple of days passed and Ronald came back into the office and advised me that he had brought the valuable cargo to work and it was waiting in his truck just scant yards from where we stood. Later that day I met him in the parking lot and like smugglers passing contraband we quickly moved the cargo from one SUV to the other. I now had possession of limitless potential knowledge and Ron’s cousin had $15 which would probably buy her about two shots on a cruise ship.
I have to admit that I really had no place to put the books at the time I took delivery so they rode around in the back of my Blazer for a couple of months until, and I kid you not, a Muslim Peddler sold me a bookcase. He had the thick accent and swarthy skin to boot. Okay, he worked at Mathis Brothers but nonetheless, he was a genuine Muslim Peddler who sold me a bookcase to house my newest find.
And now my friends you can gaze your eyes upon my beloved books of knowledge and the bookcase they now call home.
Have I read any of the articles in the set? Not one as of yet but I am certain that at some point I will want to read the account of a historic person or event relative to a pre 1969 world and I will know exactly where to turn for my facts.