14 Aug Valley City and Hometown Surprises
Last week I drove to Valley City, the town I grew up in, to look for an old newspaper article from when I was a kid. I’d recently reconnected with a friend on Facebook and we’d reminded each other of when our picture had been in the Valley City Times Record. I was intrigued. I had to find it.
First stop: the Valley City Times Record. They didn’t have archives in their building. Archives were at the university. While we were talking, I mentioned that I was an author. All ears perked up. “Of course,” I thought. “These are writers, too!” We talked about my book and they wanted to do a story on it since I was a Valley City girl. Cool!!
Second stop: Valley City State University. The librarian looked SO familiar! Incredibly, tracing our steps back, we’d been in college one year together. That’s life in a small town! The reference librarian gave me access to the microfiche archives. I said, “The picture was taken on Valentines Day between 1960 and 1967.” He said, “Okay. Here you go.” And he pulled ten rolls of microfiche out of the drawer.
He set me up on the microfiche machine and I began browsing the rolls of film. Hoping, praying, to find the one picture. I went through five films, the time was running out. And Bingo! There is was. February 14, 1966.
The caption reads, “King & Queen of Hearts. Mrs. Gladys Sjostrom’s fifth graders at Jefferson School had a Valentine Party this morning. Selected King and Queen of Hearts were David Oie and Jill Jensen, center. Prince and Princess were James MacArthur and Lori Noles.”
In that one caption I was reminded of my teacher’s name, my school’s name, and the names of three young friends. Over the years, I lost track of James and Lori. And David? King of the Day? He’s the one I met on FB. David left Valley City after sixth grade and I always wondered where he went. Now I know. And for some odd reason, it is comforting to me. I can’t explain it. It fills a gap that was only a question. And I like that.
THIRD STOP: Valley City Barnes County Public Library Okay. I know I’m being completly nostolgic. But this is the library that changed my life. That made me a reader. That I rejoiced in every week as I walked past those two stone lions and up the cement steps and into the adult section. Turn right. Go down the steps. There, through that magic door, is the children’s library room. Walk past the case of stuffed birds. (It’s still there!) Walk past the coat hangers that I don’t ever remember using. Walk inside and breathe the air of adventure and intrigue. Breathe in the books.
The new library director, Steve Hammel, graciously gave me a complete tour of the old Carnegie Library and I marveled at the updates which were so architecturally sound and blended with the original building. It brought back memories of a little girl who said she was going to read every book in the children’s room. She started one summer with A. She read all of the books (in alphabetical order by author name) through the Bs. She read the Cs. And then school started. And then she decided she’d rather just read, in any order, in any category. And so she read. And read. And read.
At the end of the tour, I found myself pledging $20,000 to restore the old ceiling of the dome … IF ever I had the money. Oh, I wish.
At the end of the tour, the librarian and I spoke about my writing. And he said he’d like to buy some of my books for the library. “Sure,” I said. “I have a few in the car.” He wanted ten. I had eight. He bought them all.
So, yes, Valley City. The old hometown come back to me. My book in circulation at the library I used to dream in. Sweet Dreams they were. And have become.
The Times Record story came out this past week. I made the front page. It’s not online. The paper has gone from black and white to color. It looks great. Thank you to Heidi Harris for a great job of writing.
Kudus to all things Valley City. To hometowns. To people who remember and reconnect. And yes, even to FB who helped connect me with my past. And of course, thank you to David, first King of Hearts in my life, who found me out after all these years.
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