We’ve all had the experience of picking up a random title at an estate sale or a book fair, and wondering what went into its making. At the Vicinity Blog, my wife Eleanor Tutt relates an odd story from a 1969 children’s textbook to the urban renewal movement in American city planning. I am married to a very smart woman!
Originally posted on Vicinity Blog:
I was at an estate sale with my in-laws. Their curiosity was piqued at the opportunity to view the inside of a house they had driven by hundreds of times. However, I had no such history with the house or the neighborhood. Bored, looking to pass the time, I found an old children’s language arts textbook, How It Is Nowadays, and began idly skimming through.
How It Is Nowadays (edited by Theodore Clymer and Priscilla Holton Neff) is a fantastic artifact, full of cheerful, brightly-colored illustrations. A pink and purple polka-dot cow smiles out at the reader. Stories include “Mr. Flynn’s Crazy Kite” and “Flossie Flamingo.” The textbook is indicated to be at “Level 8″ in publisher Ginn and Company’s “Reading 360″ series. It appears to have been intended for fourth grade students.
Innocuously nestled among the paintings of birds and the rhymes about boats is an arresting image. A black boy. Three white friends. Construction debris. The drawing is part of a story called “Have You Seen Tim’s Surprise?” about a boy, Tim, who creates an artistic playscape from the pipes left over after his home was demolished to make way for a new highway. Guess which child is Tim?