Question: I enjoy your
pictures of Centerboro, but one place I really want to see is the Centerboro library.
Do you have a picture?
Answer: Yes, I do. By the way, many of the Centerboro-related pictures
I've recently published here are from the late Jason Brewer's
famous postcard collection which I purchased a couple of years ago at the estate
sale following his heart attack. Here is a card depicting the Centerboro Free
Library. It's officially the Centerboro Public Library now, but we old
timers still commonly call it the "free" library. This card is part
of the very collectible (and exceedingly valuable) "Scenic Oteseraga County" series.
Rather nice, isn't it? Our library is one of the few old Centerboro edifices
that wasn't reduced to rubble by the disgraceful zealotry of urban renewal
imbeciles, although it was on their original schedule for demolition. But
such a tremendous hullabaloo was raised by the L.L.S.C. and other intellectual
associations from around Oteseraga County that the Urban Renewal Agency was shamed
into backing off. In 1983, a hideous, yet functional shoebox-like annex was added
to the back of the library. It serves as a repository for the inane, unimaginative
children's--ahem!--"literature" published today, the periodicals, the odious videotape
rack and CD bin, and four prehistoric computers without Internet access. If I
did not have to rely upon the library as my means of reading magazines
and the New York and Washington newspapers, I would never set foot in the annex.
Question: I know you
have a complete set of Freddy books for, as you put it, "research purposes," but
do you have any really valuable Freddy books?
Answer: Not that it matters at all to me, but, yes, I do have some
"valuable" Freddy books. Over the years I have acquired a number of first
editions and dust-jacketed volumes--all at dirt cheap prices before the
series became such a hot item among collectors. My most "valuable
" edition?--well, I reveal it for the first time today, August 4, 1999!
I keep this item in a very safe place, a place much safer than Tut's tomb--and
certainly not in my home, for fear that some desperate soul might murder
me in my sleep for it. There is a small story behind this volume. I happened
to be browsing in Slater's bookstore the very day they put this book out on the
shelves. I thought that it was simply another oddly-titled Freddy book,
like To and Again or Freddy and the Popinjay. Leafing through it,
though, I soon discovered that Brooks had based the "Eha" character on me--and
not in a way that could be construed as complimentary. My very next stop
was my cousin Dougal's office! I won't bore you with all the legal details, but
the upshot of it all was that the title was changed, all unsold copies of the
book were pulled from bookstore shelves, libraries were requested to return the
copies they had purchased, and the book was reissued about six months later as
Freddy Goes Camping. In the deal Dougal worked out with the publisher,
the contents of the book were slightly altered ("Mr. Eha" became a slightly more
sympathetic character), and I received a cash settlement. To this day I wonder
if Dougal could have done better had he blustered and bullied more, but there's
no use and certainly no solace in such speculations, is there? I found out subsequently
that no more than about twenty copies of the original edition had not been returned
to the publisher for destruction, five of them having been purchased by me. Dougal
kept the one copy we used during our legal discussions. The other four are in
my possession. The fifteen or so missing copies--well, who knows where they are.
Perhaps you have one. I suppose you'd like to see a picture one of the
originals, so here it is. If you compare it side-by-side with the Freddy
Goes Camping volume shown at Ms. Morgan's site, you will see that
they are identical in every respect except the title and the condition. My copies
are in mint unread condition and no doubt worth a great deal to the average
Question: Do you have
any pictures of your family you could show us?
Answer: Here is my favorite--a photo of my parents and some of their friends
on October 31, 1925, according to the scribblings on the back. They were dressed
for a big Hallowe'en bash down at the Centerboro Hotel. My poor mother (the exhausted-looking
woman on the far right, bottom row) must have just put me to bed after my birthday
party. My father is the second in from the right in the back row. The person on
the far right next to Dad is actually a woman. Her name escapes me, but I remember
she used to get her hair cut in the barber shop, not at a beauty salon, and that
she worked for Gormley, the plumber. The man in the pointy cap is my Uncle Frank,
Dougal's father, and the woman directly below him is Aunt Ethel, his first wife
and Dougal's mother. I don't know the others.
Short Answers to Infrequently
- There will not
be a Contest 7 until Contest 6 has been solved; and, yes, even book dealers may
enter as the prize is not a book.
- I don't know if Miss Belette
has seen Drop Dead Gorgeous. Why don't you call her up and ask?
- Jacob is called both a
wasp and a hornet in the Freddy series. Jacob is described as having
black and yellow stripes. The only insect of this sort around Centerboro
would be the yellowjacket, and it's not the male, but the female
of this nasty branch of the Hymenoptera that inflicts a very painful
- I believe that William
smoked "Pride of the Farm" pipe tobacco. It was very popular among the farmers
- I, too, find it odd that
Leo says he ate a couple of owls and a woodchuck in Pied Piper. There is
a degree of improbability in a lion's catching an owl to begin with, and then
there's the jarring incongruity of Brooks's having the lion eat a type of
character that he has developed so sympathetically in Old Whibley, Solomon,
and Vera. Go figure. The woodchuck is less that sort of a problem, though
woodchucks (such as Raymond, the Bean farm "head woodchuck") are usually
"good guys" in the series.
- There was no Centerboro
attorney named "Mr. Jerks." That is a Brooksian fabrication.
- Dear M.G.: Judge Willey's
"police dog" Olga was, as you speculate, a German shepherd. An "Alsatian"
is what they generally call them in the U.K.
- Dear J.T.: Yes, the character
Minx could have appeared in a movie with Gregory Peck as she claims
in Magician. The only possibilities are:
Gentleman's Agreement (1947)
I leave it to you to watch
them all to see if in any of them a cat sits on Mr. Peck's lap. If such a
scene exists, then I would say that Mr. Brooks did indeed base Minx's claim on
something he had seen in one of the movies listed above. Get back to us on
The Macomber Affair (1947)
The Paradine Case (1947)
Duel in the Sun (1946)
The Yearling (1946)
The Valley of Decision (1945)
The Keys of the Kingdom (1944)
Days of Glory (1944)