Sometimes my family life was a bit tumultuous and frightening. When things were dark, I would start walking in one direction: uptown to the Greenville County Library that used to sit at the head of Main Street. I would get lost there for hours. Most Saturdays, for most of my life, my Dad would take me there, too, if the mills weren’t running and he didn’t have to work. Looking back, I see that this is most of what I gained from my father: the love of reading. And that is a big gift, which has seen me through many hard times since then.
I couldn’t find a photo of that old library. If anyone has one, I’d love to see it. I remember red brick and dark wood and the heavenly smell of the card catalogue.
Years later, in the 1960s, when Jesse Jackson, Jr, sued the Library District for not letting him and other Black people into the stacks––he had come home from the University of Illinois Library and needed to finish a paper––I remember thinking, how could anyone deny anyone a library? I was privileged to be allowed there, and I’m glad everyone is allowed, now.
As a teenager, when my Dad was often working and I had to walk there myself––yes, all the way from the Welcome community––maybe five miles?––When I had a few cents I would stop––you know what? I’ll tell you Saturday.
For now, admire the new Hughes Main Library and tell me about your own early reader experiences. See you!