Monday, April 11, 2016

A Tale of Two Traveling Books, Mystery Monday

Two books. One is off traveling and the other is safe in my genealogy office.

Dad’s book:
Earl Johnson, about 1944
Sometime in the early 90’s, I was digging through a box of old books that had just been purged from the library of the school in which I taught. As a book lover I was distressed by the quantity of books that had been slated for removal and destruction, in order to make room for more current reading material. I understand the need for updating school libraries but still felt the need to rummage through the outcasts. 

Among my finds was an old gray book about the US Merchant Marines. It was in my stack because my dad had been in the Merchant Marines during WWII. My thought was that it might make a nice gift for him as it had some nice old pictures of ships and men doing their jobs aboard them.

Around Father’s Day that year, I visited my parents in Missouri and casually presented the book to Dad. What I thought might be something interesting for him to look through on a rainy day got a greater response from him than I had expected. 

Inside, were pictures of the actual ship, off the coast of New York City, that he had trained on as a young man. He held on to that book for the rest of his life and once in a while, I overheard him showing it to someone or telling about that book and how I had found it.

About 2014, the book was lost during the clean out and selling of Dad’s condo a few months before he died. Likely, it was donated along with many of his other books.
I like to think someone has since picked it up at a used book store and it has continued its life somewhere else. Who knows? Maybe someday it will come back to me!

Mom’s book:
A few months ago, my dad’s sister, Helen, left a message asking me to call her when I had a minute. She sounded excited and said she had something interesting to share.

Vera Johnson, about 1951
When I returned her call, she told me about a Wichita neighbor who was moving and had given her some old books she couldn’t take with her. As Aunt Helen looked through them, she noticed something remarkable.

Opening the cover of author Helen MacInnes’ book, Rest and Be Thankful, she found the name of a previous owner, Miss Vera Dibbens, dated August 27, 1949. The name had been crossed out and updated with Mrs. Vera Johnson. This book had belonged to my mother when she was living in Kansas and before she married my dad!

I have no way of knowing how long ago the book left my mother’s possession. My parents moved away from Kansas for good in 1989 and she died in Branson, Missouri in 2004. 

Needless to say, the book is in my custody for now.


  1. Such wonderful anecdotes! It pays to be a reader and a great listener also.