Reed Books: The Museum of Fond Memories in downtown Birmingham, Alabama is a destination no bibliophile, antiquer, or ephemera collector should miss. Jim Reed, proprieter, is usually behind the counter, a wall of stuff where he has carved out a place to perch, and ring up sales. Sue and I stopped in again while I was in the Magic City for Y’all Connect, a blogging and social media conference. Reed Books is a wonder. Don’t look for anything, is my advice. Let an item find you as wind, meander, and wend your way through a sarcophaguas of paper entrails.
“Did you ever read this?”
I glanced at the cover, it didn’t look familiar.
“No, I don’t think so.”
As one of Sue’s favorite books as a child, her eyes lit up recalling the adventures of the main character and how much she knew I was going to love the book. She handed it to me to look at, but I refused, saying, “Just buy it.”
The Hat, written and illustrated by Tomi Ungerer, was published in 1970 and quickly fell out of print, but it continues to be a highly rated and sought after children’s picture book.
It wasn’t until Saturday night, back home in Fairhope, that we finally got around to reading the book.
“Read the The Hat to me,” I said to Sue as we sat together on the love seat in our living room.
The book cover doesn’t show you much, it’s just a bunch of colorful heads looking up at a hat, but when you turn to the cover page there is man in a weathered soldier’s uniform with chin whiskers, crutches, wearing a peg leg and a charming hat. Okay, so I’m totally intrigued as Sue starts reading.
“A tall black top hat, shiny as satin
and belted with a magenta silk sash.”
The hat comes alive on the head of our main character, Benito Badoglio, a down on his luck veteran. The Hat begins doing good deeds and saving people from physical harm, and Benito is the benificiary of their generosity.
With his rewards Benito Badoglio bought clothing to match his hat.
Sue turned the page. Benito was transformed!
He had his peg leg fitted with a silver wheel.
Badoglio’s kicking up dust in his practically preposterous wheeled prosthesis. The crutches are gone, replaced by a highfalutin, yet functional cane. I wish I knew of this book when I was a child because I was fascinated with wheels. Matchboxes, Hot Wheels, Big Wheels, training wheels, bicycles, and especially skateboards, which is a subject I’ve written about here. We did not have many books in our home. We went to the library occasionally, but we were not a family of book readers. When I played with cars, lying leg free in the dirt beside the driveway, I was in a world of my own. I can only wonder what what my imagination would have done with Benito Badoglio’s silver wheel.
A couple of months ago, I bought a slightly used set of wheels for myself. I’ve got mixed feelings about the Drive DV8 Steerable Knee Walker. Instead of getting out of bed and using my crutches to get around the house I’m trying to use the knee walker. It’s not as practical, or as manuerable to me as my crutches, or “sticks”. It’s got the nice channeled knee pad for my stump, and I can sit down on it. The knee walker is safer, and sturdier than my crutches, and it’s good to have alternative forms of transportation available. It takes some getting used to, and I’ve nicknamed it Luke, because whenever I think knee walker, I say Skywalker.
After an hour and thirty minutes and $35 at Reed’s, here’s a list of what came home with us.
- TV Guide. March, 1977 Quincy cover featuring Jack Klugman, who Sue adores.
- Lectures Delivered in New York at the New School for Social Research by Thomas Mann on Freud, Goethe, and Wagner in April, 1937.
- Practical Zoölogy
- The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects, by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore. Massage, not message is the actual title.
- A Still from Jaws. Michael lying on the beach after a scrape with the shark. Just before this scene was when the sailing coach’s leg sinks.
- Four totally overpriced ($1 each) retro postcards that I had to have for my collection. Electra, Five Points, Greetings from Birmingham and Rickwood Field
- The Hat, by Tomi Ungerer
While in Birmingham, we walked around Railroad Park and Regions Field, home of the Birmingham Barons minor league baseball team. It is a wonderful downtown redevelopment. Right across the street from the main entrance to the baseball field was a place for skateboarders that was blended seamlessly into the park’s urban landscape.
As we were walking along the side I saw these bowls in the middle of the sidewalk in various sizes. Then I saw the liabilty warnings about skateparks.
“I would so drop in if someone came by with a skateboard right now,” I told Sue, who immediately looked toward heaven, probably saying thanks for letting skateboarders sleep in during the summer. I’m not completely irrational, but I can be impulsive. In hindsight, it was probably better there were no skateboarders around that day because in all likelihood, I would have broken something.
Benito Badoglio is now part of my amputee catalog, and his silver wheel has given me an idea. Age shouldn’t be a limitation to amputee mobility, even when you’re not wearing a prosthesis.
If I go to the Y’all Connect conference next year, I’m going back to Railroad Park. I might just doff the leg and drop in on my knee walker.