The McGregor Library-A Highland Park Treasure

The McGregor Library as I remember it.  (Postcard provided by Pat Wion Hammond)

The McGregor Library as I remember it. (Postcard provided by Pat Wion Hammond)

Before there were computers, smart phones, video games, I Pads, and DVDs, there were books. Growing up, my mother tried her best to instill a love for reading in her children. Before going to bed, she would often read from a book.  I remember her reading a biography of Albert Schweitzer, the Great Locomotive Chase, and my favorite, a biography of Lord Nelson!

Because of Mom’s love of books, I became very familiar with the McGregor Library at an early age.  As a child, the first thing I noticed was the building itself.  It was the most beautiful building in Highland Park.  There was nothing in Highland Park that compared with the grandeur of the McGregor Library.  Even when the library was closed, the golden doors with the two figures on it were very impressive.

The Outer Doors of the McGregor Library: Photo by Courtesy of Anthony Lockhart

The Outer Doors of the McGregor Library: Photo by Courtesy of Anthony Lockhart

Once we would enter the library, I would be awestruck by the size of the library.  I would look left and see the periodical section and the adult section. Straight ahead was the checkout desk, with shelves of books behind the desk. As we entered the library, Mom would remind me that I was to be very quiet in the library. Mom didn’t have to tell me because the building itself communicated that this is a place of quietness, study and reflection.

The interior of the library (in the 1920's) Source unknown

The interior of the library (in the 1920’s) Source unknown

My section of the library was to the right of the entrance.  Mom would direct me to the bookshelves for children.  I would dig right into the books.  The first books that I would check out of the library were by Dr. Seuss.  I just couldn’t get enough of his strange type of humor and bizarre illustrations.

My favorite part of the visit was to look through the stereoscope that was in the children’s department.  The old black and white photos seen through the stereoscope appeared in 3D.  Not only was the 3D effect exciting, but the old photos gave me a glimpse of life in the past.  I would imagine going back into time and visiting the people and the places in the photos.

A stereoscope (Photo from Wikipedia)

A stereoscope (Photo from Wikipedia)

Also, in the children’s section was the famous doll house.  I didn’t spend a lot of time there, so I have this description by another former Highland Parker. “The doll house was absolutely fabulous! It was just to the right in the lobby as you entered the library. The house was a cut-away so that you could look straight ahead at all the floors. I believe it was a tri-level house (but it may have only been two). All of the rooms were furnished; bedrooms with beds; a living room with a sofa and chairs. The house had all the fixtures including miniature people and pets. The house was inhabited by what appeared to be a nuclear family.” (Pamela Galloway)

As I grew older, I left Dr. Seuss behind and the other children’s books.  As a result, my visits to the McGregor Library became very infrequent.  It shouldn’t have happened, but I became interested in sports and other activities.  Mom must have understood this because our visits to the library had stopped.

In the eighth grade, I became reacquainted with the McGregor Library.  Mrs. Smart, my eighth grade English teacher assigned us a research paper.  She mentioned that we needed eight to ten references.  The subject that I choose was the All-America Football Conference.  This football league competed with the NFL during 1946-1949.  However, I had the problem of where am I going to find these references

football4

In 1969, there was no Google; so I had to become acquainted with the adult area of the McGregor library.  The librarian was kind enough to explain the “Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature”.  This was a handy book that catalogued all the articles each year that were written on a certain subject.  I would write down the name and date of the magazine that I needed.  The librarian would take the slip. Soon, she would return with a satisfied smile and the desired magazine.  I spent several days studying dusty, old magazines with articles on the All-America Football Conference.  I was quite happy with my time in the library, but Mrs. Smart wasn’t very impressed by evidence of the grade I received.

Readers Guide of Periodical Literature (From the City College of San Francisco)

Readers Guide of Periodical Literature (From the City College of San Francisco)

This would be my last major foray into the McGregor library.  In high school, I would study at the Highland Park High School library or at home.  I also enjoyed looking through the dusty old books in the used book store across from McGregor Library.  Yes, I would drive past the library, but the wonder of Dr. Seuss, the stereoscope and the Readers’ Guide to Periodicals was gone.

Looking back, I realize how fortunate I was to have lived in a community with a library such as the McGregor Library.  It still is my favorite building in Highland Park.  The modern libraries lack the grandeur of the McGregor Library both on the outside and the inside of the building.  Perhaps, one day, people will again frequent this treasure that many Highland Parkers once enjoyed.

P.S. Here is a link of an interview that Al Jazeera did with Danny Glover inside the McGregor Library in 2009.  They give a twenty second view of the inside of the library at 1:20 minute mark of the video. http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/faultlines/2010/06/20106277219669770.html

P.P.S. Please visit my other blog: http://www.markjemilbooth.com.  I write about spiritual topics such as: “When I am Afraid” and God’s Waiting Room”.

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Thoughts about My Dad (Arthur T. Booth) 1906-1993

Dad and me

Dad and me

January 5th is a day that I never forget. It is my Dad’s birthday. Twenty years ago, I was leaving with my family to return to Portugal. Dad and Mom were at the door of their house waving goodbye. Little did we know that this would be the last time, we would see Dad.  He would die later that year at eighty-seven years of age.

We don’t choose our Dad, but I am thankful for the Dad that God gave to me, because Dad was a very unique person. His uniqueness was seen in many different ways.  Those who knew my Dad would say something to the effect: “There is only one Art Booth.”

Dad worked two jobs for most of his life and he didn’t really retire until he was eighty-four years old (three years before his death.)  He made sure that we as a family had everything we needed including a mother who could stay at home with the children. Through all those years, I never heard Dad complain about working and taking care of us.

Dad may have been busy with work, but he had time to take me to all of my Highland Park Chargers Little League Football games. He also would take me to Ford Field and hit baseballs to me.  I can never forget the many times we went to see the Detroit Tigers play.  He especially liked to take us to the giveaway days, like Free Bat Day or Free Ball Day.

Dad also was never too busy to make us his “famous” pancakes on Sunday morning. I still  remember the taste of his pancakes with Log Cabin syrup poured over them. Dad also on occasion would make popcorn. He didn’t believe in Jiffy Pop or a popcorn popper.  He made his popcorn in a saucepan. After finishing one batch, he would pour the contents on the kitchen table and we would fill our bowls. This was a real treat.

Dad specialized in doing the little things that made others happy. One year for Christmas, Dad looked all over Detroit for a football game that I wanted. Later in life, when Sharon and I would come to the house, he always made sure there was Dr. Pepper in the fridge for Sharon. Our daughter loved strawberries. Dad made sure that there were fresh strawberries in the fridge. He showed his love with deeds of kindness.

When I was studying in Seminary, Dad went to the trouble of buying me a 1970 Plymouth Fury III.  He drove it all the way down to Chattanooga, TN and then flew back to Detroit.   When the car was totaled (no fault of my own), he once again came down to Chattanooga with another big car. This time it was a baby blue 1972 Chrysler Newport with a white vinyl top. As you can tell, Dad loved big cars.

Our yearly family vacation with Dad was a great adventure. Dad treated our vacations like “The Amazing Race.” Dad would choose a destination and we would drive long distances each day to get to our destination. After seeing what we came to see, Dad would say “It’s time to go.” I think we might have spent two hours at the Grand Canyon. For Dad, it wasn’t the destination, it was the driving to get there. Dad loved to drive. Because of all those trips, Dad gave Wayne (my brother) and me a love for travel to this day.

Dad never was one to talk a lot about himself. He was a man of action who kept moving and kept busy. If he wasn’t busy, he was napping or watching Big Time Wrestling. I did learn a few things about him. He ran track in high school, and he almost made the 1924 Olympic track team.  He managed an A&P for awhile. He also knew and worked for Garwood of the racing boat fame. However, I never really knew my Dad. I should have asked questions about his life, instead of living in my own world. I missed out in learning some important family history as well as the history of the early days of Highland Park.  Dad spent about sixty years in Highland Park (1916?-1977), but I wasn’t interested to hear about this history until recently. Now, it is too late.

Dad never sat me down and had a deep conversation, but I did learn a lot of lessons by watching him. He taught me the importance of never getting into debt, as well as the need to work hard. I also learned generosity towards others.  He also taught me that if something needs to be fixed, duct tape is the answer.

Was my Dad a perfect dad? Of course not, but he loved his family. He provided everything
we needed. He also would go out of his way to meet many of our wants. He also encouraged me to go out and fulfill my goals. The Bible says: “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Psalm 139:14)  God’s plan for my life was to make Arthur Booth my father. I thank God for the Dad that he gave me. Dad is greatly by all those who knew him.  He was one of kind!

Dad and Mom
Dad and Mom