The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 82, July 1978 - April, 1979 Page: 144
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
can be understood by even the most unsophisticated reader. They form
a literature of primitive life, and therefore of escape."1
Pulp magazines and Zane Grey novels were worn to frazzles by many
exchanges; muddy fields meant that someone would be looking for
reading material. At one time three different biographies of Jesse James
made the rounds of our neighborhood. We sometimes bought The Sat-
urday Evening Post at the county seat. Here a newsboy sold an unusual
newspaper with a colored cartoon on the front page-W. D. Boyce's
The Saturday Blade-and the Chicago Ledger. At my request one of
our neighbors saved the funnies from the San Antonio Express because
I admired "Maggie and Jiggs," "Mutt and Jeff," and "Boob McNut."
I think it was only the innovation of the crystal radio in a cigar box (with
an aerial that stretched from house to barn) that caused intensive read-
ing to slacken.
A magazine story about a talking rooster, read to me by my mother,
inspired my early desire to read, but ironically my first lessons were
not in a school text. We found a Wrigley gum advertisement which
offered free a Mother Goose book and a stick of spearmint gum.2 I dried
the dishes for one week to repay mother for ordering the bonanza. In
this 1915 colorful book a smiling spearman played a part in familiar
nursery rhymes. On these pages I began to recognize the meaning of
Only one other book gave me a greater thrill during those pre-school
years: Playmates, A Primer. I remember the feel of its hardback cover,
the rich smell of ink and paper, and the delightful drawings of Will and
May and Tom and Kate-and of the dog Fly, on a page with the classic
"This is Fly.
Fly is a dog.
Fly is Will's dog.
How do you do, Fly?"3
Since the state did not furnish free textbooks in those days, you were
lucky not to inherit a hand-me-down from an older brother or sister.
The provision of free textbooks was not adopted in Texas until 1918.4
1Walter Prescott Webb, The Great Plains (Boston, 193 ), 464.
2Between 1913 and 1915 the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company mailed out 31 million copies of
this book. H. L. Webster to C. C. W., Sept. 5, 1956.
3M. W. Haliburton, Playmates, A Primer (Chicago, 1914). 4.
4Texas Almanac and State Industrial Guide, 1974-1975 (Dallas, 1973), 582; Walter Pres-
cott Webb, H. Bailey Carroll, and Eldon S. Branda (eds.), Handbook of Texas (3 vols.;
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 82, July 1978 - April, 1979, periodical, 1978/1979; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101206/m1/180/: accessed March 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.