News from the past brings back memories

By: 
Chuck Kajer, The New Prague Times

Normally, I look at the Times Capsules on this page before the paper goes to press, but didn’t have time last week, and ended up looking at them on Thursday, after the paper came back from press…. You know, like a normal person.

As I looked through them, I stopped on an item from 75 years ago:

A letter expressing a soldier’s thanks for the book which he received through the Girl Scout organization, was received recently by Miss Helen Kes, of this city. Helen donated the book about a year ago, when the local scout group gathered books for the armed forces. Part of the letter read, “You can be sure the book will be read by many people before it will finally be worn out.”

Something clicked in my head. In the course of just a few seconds, I thought “That name is familiar… that was my grandma’s name… Wait, it was also my mom’s name.” The story was about my mom and a project she took part of in high school. She would have been a sophomore in high school at this time, which meant the book had been donated when she was either an eighth grader or freshman.

A few tears started to fall. My mother died almost a year ago. I had to share. I emailed my sister and showed her and I also called Jan Wann, who puts the Times Capsules together. I asked, and she said she did not know that was my mom. I posted the clip on my Facebook page and commented that my mom, who worked 25 years as a librarian, was helping people read even back then.

I owe a lot to my mother for many reasons, but probably the thing that influenced me most was her love of reading. I myself turned into a big bookworm. A lot of times, on the two or three days a week when she was working, I’d make the one block walk from St. Wenceslaus School to the library when school was out and lose myself in the books, looking at encyclopedias, magazines and checking out the latest books… usually about sports or history. There is little doubt that this love of reading influenced me to be a writer, and helped me with a job that I’ve loved for more than 30 years.

Funny thing is, back in high school and college, I hated writing. I looked forward to multiple choice, fill in the blank and true/false tests. When it came time for an essay question, I dreaded them. And term papers… ugh.

It wasn’t until my second or third year in college that I realized that I seemed to get my better grades on essay tests and started to put a little more work into them and term papers. I was a social studies major in college with the goal of becoming a teacher. After two years as a substitute teacher, I decided I needed to make myself more marketable as a teacher by adding a minor. I took English classes and earned enough credits to be licensed to teach English as well as social studies. It was during these classes that I really learned to express myself in writing and, after a few years working as a teacher, I changed careers.

All the while, my love of reading remained. I still enjoy reading. Though I seldom have time for books, I read newspapers, magazines and short stories on websites.

And I have one person to thank, above all, for this love of reading.

Thanks, Mom. Miss you.

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