What Are You Looking At?

I wasn’t looking *at* anything, I was looking *for* a book. A children’s book that I had vague, but warm memories from owning back in my ancient youth. Weird how as you age, memories of childhood pop up randomly. If they pop up a great deal, and your short term memory is gone, man, that is bad news. So far, fingers crossed, it’s been confined to remembering kid’s toys and books I used to own. And being a Baby Boomer–I want to own again. For example. In the back of comic books were ads for “tiny dolls” or something else falsely descriptive. What you got in fact when you sent away for them, were little pink plastic figures of people in all sorts of dress. Cowboy. Ballerina. Nurse. And a favorite, gypsy. I am the proud owner of a collapsed box full of the assorted personages, and no ad was needed. (ebay) Years ago, I located a Lampchop hand puppet. I remember watching Sheri Lewis on TV make that possible dinner come to life. As a really little kid, I’d create shows using my Lambchop .  My love of puppets began. The See and Spell metal toy, that resembled a cash register if made in Las Vegas sat in an antique mall, calling out for me, even though the metal piece shielding the answers was missing. Had to have it. I’ve owned a replica of Mr. Bubbles, the soft green plastic pipe smoking turtle for decades. And I started restocking my holiday figural candles almost as soon as I hit adulthood. Nothing says Thanksgiving more than two little pilgrims–one wearing a pinafore the other with shotgun in hand– in wax. If I mention Barbie, I’ll start weeping. Not because I don’t have my original dolls or practically every single early outfit created, but because I sold them all for the Junior Prom that I was never asked to attend. And they would be worth a couple of thousand today, sob. I did find a few outfits that were not budget breaking, but have no doll as of yet, to dress.

The most elusive of all things childhood for me, was a early reader I was certain was published as a Golden Book, back in the late 50s. I remembered it was like my other books from that time–the Disney fairy tales, the untainted fairy tales too, Nurse Nancy, Doctor Dan, etc. The title–who knew? The author–now that’s laughable for a Golden Book–no kid would even bother knowing that, they just read, looked, and liked. The style or subject of illustrations? Nope, no ideas poured forth. What I did know–it dealt with professions–different possible people to become when you grew up. And one of my most solid memories was–there were limited outlets for girls. Other than Nurse, Teacher, and Mother, girls were darn out of luck. Sometimes books like these threw in Airline Stewardess, as a glamorous life, and my most desirable vision of a grownup–a Bride. I guess I saw Bride as an end, rather than a beginning, because the dress was what I really wanted, and when old enough to realize that after the dress came a lifetime with some guy, I balked. Until 40. I did get the gown though, right down to the princess shoes.

And the very very most important clue–a MIRROR at the back reflected who you could become!

Before the series of connecting tubes known as the internet was invented by Al Gore, I searched for my boomer book at used bookstores, collectibles barns and malls, street fairs, garage sales, any place that looked like it had some Golden Book stock. In the beginning of my search, I thought it would be a simple request–I mean, how many books had a mirror? Apparently none. Or none anyone had heard of  in their stock. After a few years, I sat in B&N for hours, reading through a reference listing of every Golden Book title that was ever published, ever, ever. And not one of them struck a bell. Without a synopsis, I could only guess by title, and just a handful sounded like possibilities. No mirror was mentioned. When I did get online, I began questioning google, bookfinder, any search engine that may point me towards my goal. I typed in Golden Book, mirror. Kid’s book, mirror. 50s book, mirror. Book, mirror.  Nada. Without a title, my search was hopeless. On flickr, I posed the question in groups such as Golden Books, Vintage Children’s Books, any place that reeked of Boomer content. Still, nothing. No one found the small synopsis I presented vaguely recognizable. Or more inexplicable, no one remembered a book with a mirror! And they were collectors! I began doubting myself. Did I make this book up? Is there really such a thing out there I’ve not yet unearthed? It was looking like it was a figment of an overwrought budding feminist’s imagination.

Then, light! A flickr friend suggested a website of a collector whose knowledge of these type of books was vast. I didn’t think anything would come from it, so ignored the advice, for a year or so. Finally, it penetrated perhaps taking a shot wasn’t a waste of time, so I sent an e-mail, the content I knew by rote, querying about the vague book. Eureka! He not only recognized the storyline, he knew name, publisher, author, And, beat beat beat–he had one for sale???? Maybe??? It was leaning that way, or so it seemed. Dashed hopes, he HAD one, but sold it. Up and down my excitement went, like my stainless steal deadly see-saw and swing play-set  in my  youth’s backyard. (Described as ‘deadly’ because metal play-sets are sooooo dangerous now, every parent knows only plastic pieces will do–and wow, you really can fly down a plastic slide, can’t you?)

Back up to the surface, my hope bubble bobbed–he sent me to someone who did have one, and I was gobsmacked! There before me on the computer screen was the cover, and as soon as I saw it, all manner of memories came rushing back. I quickly made sure I could remember what I ate for lunch an hour ago, just as a precaution, and then let loose my enthusiasm. I cut it short, worried that the time it took for my little celebratory dance, someone else would buy it. I did what you do to buy a book online, and then remembered the most important question–did it still have the mirror intact? The expert had warned me there were copies out there, but sans mirror. Well, that just would not do, not for me, so a pointed question filled e-mail was sent. Yes, mirror intact, it’s a go! Repeat, it’s a go!

The wait period was tough, but the reward was splendiferous. The story was as familiar as if  just read, the illustrations sooooo retro ‘mid-century’,  the professions right on the money–except–instead of three life choices for girls, there were NONE. I pondered–was this published with only boys in mind? No, right on the cover are several girls. So, what’s the deal with this? These thoughts only lasted as long as to think them, before I was doing a baby boomer book jive around the house. I proudly called the husband, my fellow warrior in the search for the golden prize. Funny thing–it wasn’t published by Golden Books-this may be a smidgen reason I couldn’t locate it for so long. It was published by something called Treasure Books in 1954. Before penning this article, I decided to check out how many copies are out there now for sale on bookfinder. Around 4 without mirror, one with–needs re-silvering. Well, so does mine, but I don’t care, I have it!

Turns out, it isn’t exactly about what professions a kid could pursue but more of a look at what professions there were–half of which do not exist today.  Do I care? Not a whit. So, I’m reproducing it here for those who enjoy a dusty memory from the past, or only wants to know–what are you looking at?




2 thoughts on “What Are You Looking At?”

  1. What a cool book! I never saw it before. Such simple lines. And they tell a complete story. Thanks for sharing this!

Comments are closed.