There were only a few ways to slow down a hyperactive kid in the 1960s.
You could do it the traditional way with a stern: “Settle down or I will sink you like a three-foot-putt,” from dear old dad in these pro-corporal punishment days of yesteryear.
Or possibly a calmer approach. Maybe some Hop on Pop from dear old dad.
Nope, I wasn’t bouncing on dad’s non-existent belly, instead he or mom would pull out the classic children’s book “Hop on Pop” by Dr. Seuss to calm me down.
This Thursday is Family Literacy Day and hopefully reading is as big a part of life for foothills families as it was in mine. Maybe reading was such a big thing because back in the 1960s only the Jetsons used something like Facebook and Twitter was a sound a bird made, not the latest update on what some celebrity is putting on his hot dog. Books were a major part of our recreation.
On the inevitable eight-hour annual car trip to visit grandparents every summer, I was always the first to ask at the first traffic light: “How long until we get there?”
The response was always the same even if we were driving from Calgary to PEI: “About 20 minutes. Now sit back and enjoy the scenery.” The word shut-up might have deservedly been added (those were the days).
A six-year-old can only watch so many mountains before they start to look the same. However, a toddler can get into the world of Dr. Seuss and other children’s authors for hours.
I read all the classic Seuss, “Green Eggs and Ham”, “Cat in the Hat”, “The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubin’s”, but my favourite was “Yertle the Turtle.”
He was the tyrannical turtle who made his minions stack themselves on top of one another so Yertle could be ruler of all he could see.
My favourite character was Mack, the tiny squished turtle at the bottom who had the guts to ask Yertle to calm down. (Any similarity between Mack and a young boy in the back seat of a car being forced to travel for miles is purely a coincidence).
Of course, the Turtle Tower topples and all Yertle can see is mud. He becomes the King of Mud. It was a great story for a insecure child, who later became an insecure adult.
All kidding aside, my parents were great and actively encouraged me to read.
Magazines like National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, maybe a Good Housekeeping now and then, were always laying around the house.
When my family recently downsized, the moving was stalled because I was sitting there leafing through thousands of Sports Illustrated going as far back as 1967. There was also cool stuff like a sports program from the second Billy Conn versus Joe Louis heavyweight fight and a Calgary Stampeder program with quarterback Jerry Keeling on the cover.
It was all tactile stuff, things a person can hold in their hands, with the smell of paper and maybe the stain from a hot dog because you jumped for joy when Keeling threw a touchdown pass to Rudy Linterman back in 1971 at McMahon Stadium.
While younger generations will hopefully continue to read on iPads and computer screens, I don’t think it will be the same as holding a book.
They also won’t enjoy going into a small book shop like Back to Basics in Okotoks or Pixie Hollow in High River and actually having a person tell you about a book rather than purchasing a book by pressing a button to download a novel.
But maybe I’m just getting old. The main thing is to enjoy having a good read now and then, regardless if its fiction or non-fiction, children’s or adult’s books.
I am not above having a good chuckle over Robert Munsch or Captain Underpants.
I still try to squeeze in a half-an-hour day at least with a book. At present I am reading, “The Bird Detective”, a story for enthusiasts of the next big thing in sport — bird watching.
It’s got cool facts like promiscuity of those songbirds waking you up in the morning.
The best thing is the only twitter in the book is to describe a bird song; it’s not some pointless message.