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180806 August 6, 2018


Back in My Days: Readin’
(Part One)
Tommy Towery
LHS ‘64

    Our generation learned to read thanks to Dick and Jane and Sally and Spot and Puff. I think the "Fun With Dick and Jane" series we used was much simpler than the books used by later generations. They were textbooks, but they were full of adventure and simple words. They also taught us the basics of reading which later led to my  early interest in magazines.

    As the idea of printed magazines continue to lose ground to digital ones and thus maintain their death spiral of popularity, I take time to reflect on some of my favorite publications back in my days.

    I suppose the first magazine to really attract my interest was one with which I became aware of when I was attending East Clinton Elementary School. I first started school at Farley and then we moved and I switched to Rison for the last half of the first grade. I lived through two more moves before I entered the second grade at East Clinton. I loved to write, but I never was much of a reader in school. The one piece of literature I looked forward to was the arrival of My Weekly Reader. In researching the history of the small publication, it appears to have been called many things including Weekly Reader, My Weekly Reader, and Your Weekly Reader, but it was always the same format for as long as I read it.

    Weekly Reader for generations has been summarizing current events, tailored to the specific grade level of its student readers. Depending on how you view it, the effort could be seen as talking down to students, or as holding their hands as they are introduced to the complexities of the adult world they soon will be joining.
“It was Andy Griffith-ish — a safe thing, no advertising, no selling, just about teaching kids to read, teaching kids about the world,” said Mia Toschi, who was senior managing editor at Weekly Reader from 2003 to 2008. “A lot of teachers used it on Friday afternoon; just a wonderful end of the week.”

    The current-events magazine Weekly Reader, a classroom fixture since 1928, ceased operation in 2012 when it was merged into Scolastic, a rival publication.
I suppose the first non-educational magazine to catch my attention was the cult-favorite writings of Alfred E. “What Me Worry?” Neuman. It was a lot of fun for only $.25 and even today I still remember the words to some of the song parodies I learned from those early issues. 

    Mad is an American humor magazine founded in 1952 by editor Harvey Kurtzman and publisher William Gaines, launched as a comic book before it became a magazine. It was widely imitated and influential, affecting satirical media, as well as the cultural landscape of the 20th century, with editor Al Feldstein increasing readership to more than two million during its 1974 circulation peak. Mad is known for many regular and semi-regular recurring features in its pages, including "Spy vs. Spy", the "Mad Fold-in.

    I also remember a rival called “Cracked” which never found the same fame as Mad did.

    When I turned 11 and became a Boy Scout I could hardly wait each month for my issue of Boy’s Life to appear in our mailbox. Not only did I love to read about the Scouting adventures and skills, but I loved the ads in the back of the magazine. This one magazine would be my favorite reading until I was a senior at Lee.

    Boys' Life is the monthly magazine of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Its target readers are between the ages of 6 and 18. The more widely accepted first edition is the version published on March 1, 1911. With this issue, the magazine was expanded from eight to 48 pages, the page size was reduced, and a two-color cover was added. In 1912, the Boy Scouts of America purchased the magazine, making it an official BSA magazine. Content includes Special Features, Adventure Stories, Bank Street Classics, Entertainment, Environmental Issues, History, Sports, and Codemaster.

    Comics have included Bible Stories, Pedro, Pee Wee Harris, Scouts in Action, Rupert the Invincible, The Tracy Twins (created by Dik Browne), Dink & Duff, Tiger Cubs, Webelos Woody, Norby, and John Christopher's The Tripods trilogy. Boys' Life contracted with the Johnstone and Cushing art agency to produce much of its early cartooning content.

    Feature columns include Electronics, Entertainment, Fast Facts, History, Hitchin' Rack With Pedro the Mailburro, Think and Grin (jokes page), Science, Scouting Around, and Sports.

    Noteworthy artists and photographers who have contributed over the years include Ansel Adams, Salvador Dalí, and Norman Rockwell. Donald Keith's "Time Machine" series of stories appeared between 1959 and 1989. 

Continued Next Week

        Memphis, TN -  I was a little surprised I received no responses to my Birthday Cake memories. I was sure some of you must have had some special cakes or traditions to share with us. Am I the only one who still has these types of memories? Sometimes I think so.


From Our Mailbox 


Subject:    Happy Trails

Spencer Thompson, Fire Department Chaplain 

LHS '64

    God bless you for what you do my ole friend. Thanks for the Roy Rogers Dale Evans song I still watch them.

Happy Trails to You



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