There are but a few reading memories I have from my childhood. I loved McCloskey’s Homer Price, The MAD Adventures of Captain Klutz, Woody Allen’s Without Feathers, D’aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths and was rather fond of the Uncle Remus “trickster” fables. There was a big brightly illustrated picture book series by Miroslav Sasek called, This is Australia, This is Stamford… that made me dream of travel to faraway lands. I also remember using Battle for the Planet of the Apes (the novelization) when my 12th grade English teacher required oral interpretation of a novel.
Fourth grade was a year of revelations for me. I realized that if I painted everything black I could get the child study team to come in and evaluate me on a regular basis. Rorschach Tests were MUCH more interesting than copying lists of spelling words. I also continued my crusade to become a G-Man just like my boyhood hero, J. Edgar Hoover. If forced, I might have chosen to grow-up as Evil Knievel, although there were more jobs for crime-fighters than daredevils.
There was a series of books in the school library that captured the imaginations of my boyhood friends and me. I remember what the books looked like. Most had red covers with black and white photos consuming the bottom half. The author was C.B. Colby. Thanks to the World Wide Web’s ability to archive bizarre ideas and products I’ve been able to track down a few of the actual titles of these literary masterpieces.
- Bomber Parade Headliners in Bomber Plane History
- Chute!: Air Drop for Defense and Sport
- Submarine Warfare: Men, Weapons, and Ships
- FBI: The G-Mens’ Weapons and Tactics For Combat
- Six-shooter: Pistols, Revolvers, And Automatics, Past And Present
- Two centuries of weapons, 1776-1976
- Jets of the World: New Fighters, Bombers and Transports
- Fighter Parade: Headliners in Fighter Plane History
- First Rifle How to Shoot It Straight and Use It Safe
- Musket to M-14 Pistols, Rifles and Machine Guns
- Leatherneck : The Training, Weapons and Equipment of the United States Marine Corp
- Fighting Gear of World War II Equipment and Weapons of the American G.I
And my personal favorite… Art and Science of Taking to the Woods
I checked these books out of the library by the armload although I’m not sure I actually read them. The photos contributed to my world of fantasy play. Being seen with the texts of Mssr. Colby was as important to gender identity as were water pistols, cap guns, plastic guns that fired rubber pellets and the Boy Scouts – all military artifacts which I enjoyed as a child.
One can imagine the smell of C.B. Colby books being incinerated by schools in the post-Columbine era. I don’t own a gun, despise the stain on American history left by J. Edgar Hoover, am a champion of civil rights for all and have shot very few people despite having read the violent manifestos of C.B. Colby. I must have turned out alright because Marilyn Manson and the web didn’t exist when I was a child. Or perhaps it was because I had adults around who I could talk to?
© 2001 Gary S. Stager
Originally published in the June, 2001 issue of Curriculum Administrator Magazine
Veteran educator Gary Stager, Ph.D. is co-author of Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, publisher at Constructing Modern Knowledge Press, and the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. He led professional development in the world’s first 1:1 laptop schools thirty years ago and designed one of the oldest online graduate school programs. Gary is also the curator of The Seymour Papert archives at DailyPapert.com. Learn more about Gary here.