Friday, December 5, 2008

The Gipper read John Carter of Mars books!

Miss Helen P. Miller
Dixon, Illinois
September 3, 1981

Dear Miss Miller:

My brother did see that your letter reached me and first of all, let me thank you for all that you did with the news people in my behalf. Thank you, also, for the snapshot. We were delighted to have it, but, really, you touched a nerve with your letter and opened the door on a great deal of nostalgia and warm memories.

You asked, what did the Dixon Library mean to me? I haven’t seen the new addition to the building, I remember with great warmth the old stone building, and I believe I was probably as regular a patron as the library ever had. And I’m speaking about the time that began when I was about ten years old.

I can barely remember a time in why life when I didn’t know how to read. As a matter of fact, I was a family mystery in that I had learned to read before entering the first grade. The joy of reading has always been with me. Indeed, I can’t think of greater torture than being isolated in a guest room or a hotel room without something to read.

Beginning at about age ten, I would make what to me was a long trek on foot in the evening after dinner -- we called it supper then -- down Hennepin Avenue past South Central School, up the hill and across the street to the library. I would usually take out two books. I made those trips at least once a week and sometimes more often. I didn’t go with a specific book in mind but would browse for lengthy periods.

I, of course, read all the books that a boy that age would like -- The Rover Boys; Frank Merriwell at Yale; Horatio Alger. I discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs and read all the Tarzan books. I am amazed at how few people I meet today know that Burroughs also provided an introduction to science fiction with John Carter of Mars and the other books that he wrote about John Carter and his frequent trips to the strange kingdoms to be found on the planet Mars. Then came all of Zane Grey, Mark Twain, and others. Every once in a while, a kindly librarian would nudge me into things she thought would be helpful -- not only enjoyable, but profitable for me to read.

When we moved to the north side of the river, my walk was across the Galena Avenue bridge through town and to the library. The library was really my house of magic. Now and then I would take a foray upstairs to the Indian museum where I was fascinated by the artifacts and (at that time) the full length birch bark canoe. But mainly it was the books, and I can assure you the love of books still stays with me. I now have a library of my own and am very proud of it. But as I say -- it all started there in my house of magic -- the Dixon Public Library.

Thank you for your kind letter and best regards.


Ronald Reagan

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