Downtown Wichita Falls, Texas, in the mid 1940’s was a bustling metropolis for a boy of 7 just away from the farm and ranch community where he was born. My father, a cook and cowboy by trade, had just started as one of the first cooks for the Casa Manana restaurant in 1947. He moved us to an apartment on Ohio Street, right across from the Gem Theater, between 7th and 8th Streets. It’s here that we would stay for the next three years. The Gem Theater became a magic palace for a young mind. But it had to share that distinction with the rest of the magic that was Wichita Falls. I attended San Jacinto and Carrigan elementary schools, as well as Reagan Junior High, and belonged to the Boys Club on 6th Street. Please join, and share your stories and pictures through a Guest Blog, of early Wichita Falls - or your home town. Contact me at or leave a comment. We could use old pictures of movie houses, drive-in theaters, and other nostalgic pictures related to our youths.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Kemp Public Library

It was probably my third grade teacher who caught me with a comic book, and gave me “Dr. Hudson’s Secret Journal” by Lloyd C. Douglas to read, which greatly influenced my reading from that day onward. The idea of stories in books thrilled me, and I wanted more to read. A family friend saw me reading the novel, and the next night brought me a box of classic literature to read. I found Tom Sawyer, Call of The Wild, White Fang, Heidi, and so many more great books in that box.
Sometime around 1953 I discovered Kemp Public Library. Two interests had led me to the public library. At 13, I had discovered science fiction novels, and had a deep interest in bugs, spiders, and snakes. I found that the library had books on every subject I was interested in.
Not having money to spend, the library was a godsend. I was already a voracious reader, and since discovering books could take me to Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and beyond, I think I started in the “A” section and read through the “Z” section. Hmm, thinking about it, maybe there wasn’t any in the “Z” section at that time, but certainly from Asimov to Wellman, and everyone between.
I used the library from 1953 to 1956, before we moved from Wichita Falls, and must have read every book on spiders, insects, and snakes they had on the shelf.
While going to Reagan, Jr. High in 1954 & 1955, I saved my lunch money and put the three-book collection, “The Animal Kingdom” on layaway at Lovelace Bookstore in downtown Wichita Falls. I may have gone hungry until those books were paid for, but I still have the set. Even though they are out dated with the Internet, they hold a special place in my heart.
The Kemp Public Library was a gold mine for kids who loved to read. When I retired from the military I put in an application for a job there, as I loved books, but was not hired. I went to work for IHR instead. Today, I have my own library of thousands of books for my personal pleasure. I even owned a used bookstore for thirty years.
My life has always revolved around books. My favorite quote is:  "It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish." (S. I. Hayakawa)

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