Officials discuss favorite childhood books

April 4, 2013 10:23:42 AM

Nathan Gregory - [email protected]


When Lowndes County Chancery Clerk Lisa Younger Neese was a child, her mother read selections from "The Christmas Messenger," a collection of poems and short stories, to her and her siblings every Christmas before they were allowed to open presents. 


Those memories of her mother reading from the 1941 anthology made it her favorite childhood book, Neese said Wednesday during a Table Talk lecture with other city and county officials at the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library.  


Neese held a copy of the book, noting that though it was not the original copy her grandfather had given to her mother, the copy she owned had its own special significance. 


"When Mother decided it was time to pass (the original copy) on, she passed it on to my little sister," she said. "This was this past Christmas and it just really ticked (the rest of) us off." 


The week after Christmas, she was in town Christmas shopping when her brother called and asked to meet her.  


"He got out of his truck and gave me this book," she said. "It made my Christmas." 


Lowndes County District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks said his favorite childhood read was a Nancy Drew mystery, "The Haunted Showboat."  


When his 9-year-old granddaughter recently asked how he got to read 'those girl books,' he told her his mother worked for a family in Columbus that had the entire collection of the Nancy Drew series. 


"I developed a knack for reading and I guess as a kid I had an inquisitive mind, so once I got to reading the first Nancy Drew books, I read the whole series," Brooks said. "Then I went on to the Hardy Boys (mystery series) and I think it helped shape my thinking later on. I wanted to get into law enforcement, which I eventually did, and (later) the military. I attribute it to reading all these mystery books." 


District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders selected the folktale of Br'er Rabbit and the Tar-Baby in Joel Chandler Harris' "Nights With Uncle Remus." 


Sanders said he chose the book for two reasons: It has a clear moral -- the more one struggles against a problem, the worse the problem gets -- and he has fond memories of his mother reading the Uncle Remus stories to him and of spending time with his grandfather, who was blind, listening to performances of them on radio shows.  


"I remember very vividly sitting in that bedroom with him, he in the rocking chair and me sitting in the bed listening to Uncle Remus," Sanders said. "He would laugh and laugh at some of those stories, and those are some of the most enjoyable memories in my life. Every one of those stories has a life experience that teaches people things. 


"I get upset today because all the nursery rhymes that I grew up listening to always had some sort of lesson learned. Today, I don't know that they've got a lesson that you learn. In the Uncle Remus stories, there's a lesson in every one of them." 


Mayor Robert Smith selected Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham," saying it reminded him of his childhood and he enjoyed reading it and other Dr. Seuss books to elementary school students.  


Next Wednesday, the noon-time Table Talk series will continue exploring children's literature. Author Catherine Pierce will read from "The Girls of Peculiar," her latest collection of poems. 


Table Talk is sponsored by Friends of the Library.

Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.