Nancy Drew: A Walk Down Memory Lane
As published in “The Sleuth“… The Nancy Drew Fanzine
When memories were asked for in the “Nancy Drew Book Fans” Facebook group, I wrote a short story… then forgot about it until I recently opened my latest July/August 2018 Sleuth Fanzine.
As a young girl of age nine, I began reading Nancy Drew and begging my mother for the newest book on every shopping trip to K-Mart. I can still see all the books there in the far corner of the store where their book section was… me standing there for the longest in deciding which book would come home with me… and probably still there until Mama dragged me to the checkout. If only I could have seen into the future, I surely would have snapped photos to one day show myself those very books.
I coveted my books… lining them up neatly on the bookshelf in my room on Smoak Avenue in Perry, Georgia; never wanting anyone to borrow. I remember being a little jealous of a cousin we visited often, as she always seemed to have more books than I did… and she didn’t like anyone to touch or borrow her books either. When we spent the weekend with the family, my eyes were always scanning the titles and wishing they were mine… wanting to hold and touch them. I’m sure I begged mama for a new book upon leaving as Nancy Drew was always on my mind.
I’ve always been partial to The Secret of the Old Clock… maybe because there were many antiques in our house and I knew that family heirlooms were treasured. When I discovered a copy again, I couldn’t wait to reread it… but on this read, it was the original version, not the revised of which I had only read as a young girl; I never knew there were two versions. Imagine all the just jacket books I could have gathered in the 60’s… I’m sure they were still hiding in attics at that time.
Most of my reading was done in the summer… school was out and what else was there to do in the summer than to lay on a quilt under the hot afternoon sun; just lying outside on grandmama’s quilt while reading and watching the clouds roll back by! If you’ve never laid out in the summer and watched the clouds… well you have surely missed out on a fun afternoon! But it’s never too late to give it a try!
As I fell back in love with Nancy again… now in retirement, I began wondering when and how did I outgrow Nancy… and where did all my books disappear to? I can only surmise that I let go of Nancy when we moved from Smoak Ave. to Hillcrest Ave. and music flowed into my life; Nancy quickly took a backseat to Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits, Paul Revere and the Raiders and The Beatles. As I don’t remember packing my things to move, I can only surmise that since I wasn’t reading anymore, that “someone” made that decision as to what was coming… and what was going,… sniff, sniff; I can only hope they found a good home!
I’m sure my love of Nancy came from hearing my mother talk of how she had often read her… she was a big Nancy Drew reader in the late 1930’s. Mama grew up with Nancy, literally… as she was born in April of 1930… the very month and year Nancy Drew made her debut into the literary world!
My grandfather either couldn’t or wouldn’t buy her Nancy Drew books, but she had a friend in town who’s grandmother always bought her granddaughter the newest book… and her friend June never refused in letting her borrow them. My grandfather was a hard-working farmer and probably didn’t see those books as worthy when the money could be better spent on food. When I asked mama about the dust jackets, she said… “Oh I always took the jackets off when I borrowed, I didn’t want to damage them.” (She had no memories of paying any attention to the artwork on the dust jackets, she only wanted to read the stories inside.) Mama often read “Nancy” way into the night until finishing… the stories pull her into the teen’s detective life, keeping her intrigued until finishing; often returning it the next day for another one.
The school libraries, mama remembered, weren’t carrying Nancy Drew in their libraries at that time, so unless you were lucky enough to be able to buy them, or have a generous friend like June, you only dreamed about the teen detective! Reading Nancy Drew gave my mother hopes and dreams of what she could be and do… and she wanted to be a detective just like Nancy! She and her best friend, Willie Mae, often talked about becoming detectives who could follow cheating husbands… not sure why or how that was thought of at a young age… maybe she’d read too many glamour detective magazines.
Often times today, I’ll call mama “Nancy Drew” because of all the stories she’s told me of her life on the farm and her daredevil events… and sometimes just because of being too nosey. She was quite the vivacious young girl, never backing down from anyone and inquisitive about anything and everything that came her way. She has been my source for many stories I’ve written on her life and I’ve written all about our conversations HERE.
I tried to encourage my daughter to read Nancy… but I fought a lost cause! Whenever I found the yellow spine books at tag sales, the ones I so loved and remembered… I’d quickly scoop them up, but the stories never grabbed her! I think she read one, The Secret of the Old Clock, as I found her name written inside. She told me later, that she just couldn’t get interested in the stories… but I don’t think she was a reader either… she was a Barbie girl! She eventually packed her books up and for years I often wondered what happened to them… hoping they were still somewhere in the basement. This past year, my husband came upstairs one afternoon with a box marked “Melissa’s books“… my heart skipped a beat and I quickly opened that box to discover them. I was so excited that you’d have thought I just won the lottery! They definitely were a prize to me, and I quickly added them to my collection.
Granddaughter Ella’s bookcase
Last year I began buying Nancy Drew’s for my oldest granddaughter Ella (age 7), who was just beginning to read… me so wanting her to grow up with Nancy Drew! In my searches, I found both the “yellow spines” and the newer “flashlights”… which were new to me, as I hadn’t known about them. I soon decided that the newer flashlight editions were better suited for her, as I was quickly falling back in love with my yellow spines and the art covers I so remembered… and didn’t want to part with them… again!
I quickly began re-building my collection back and adding more volumes than I even remembered; also now adding the artsy dust jacket early editions that I never even knew of… I am now so addicted to the early art covers! Being a blogger, I’ve blogged several posts on Nancy Drew as well as in April (2018) when I blogged daily on an A to Z blog challenge… “All About Nancy Drew.” I’ve also had such fun in joining the many Facebook groups on Nancy Drew (who knew), meeting up with other book fans, just like me, and learning more than I ever knew about our beloved sleuth!
Recently my daughter asked for a collection of Nancy Drew’s for her bookshelves, so I passed all her books to her, and adding in more, except for that very first one with her name written inside; I’ll just hold onto that one for now! She has two daughters, McKinley, and Grace whom I constantly talk to about Nancy Drew… hoping to spark an interest in them reading one day.
I love how they now have books like Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew and Nancy Crew “Clue Book” with a young Nancy solving mysteries at age eight… now engaging the girls to read about Nancy at their age.
In looking at my granddaughter Ella’s book library in her room, Nancy battles with so many authors for book space! At present, she’s interested in magic, and Harry Potter is being talked about… I’ll be sending her my copies. Whether she reads Nancy Drew or not, I know she enjoys the vintage “artsy” covers and maybe one day… she’ll read them and remember me, her crazy grandmother (GiGi) who still reads Nancy Drew!
And always when in a dilemma… think WWNDD!
…And if you don’t know what that stands for… just google it!
© 2018, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved