Tuesday, April 15, 2014


My five blog postings this week will be in honor of National Library Week

The Center of Putney Village, looking north towards the General Store and Mellen's Store.These buildings still stand, but the beautiful elm trees were all lost to Dutch Elm Disease 

When my parents married, they left behind their New York City/Ho-Ho-Kus New Jersey roots, and opted for a rural, more self-sufficient kind of lifestyle. So I grew up on a farm a mile or two outside the small town of Putney, Vermont. Small town truly meant small town...around 350 inhabitants, in the 1940's. Nevertheless the town already had a history of non-conformity amongst its citizenry, and it was still a hotbed of radical thinking when we lived there---radical thinking that often clashed with the conservative agricultural background of the area.  
Putney, Vermont railway station
My illustrator father travelled back and forth on the train to keep up his New York publishing contacts, and editors and art directors travelled up on the same train to stay with us while they conducted business. Other train travellers were involved with The Putney School, The Experiment In International Living, Windham College, and Marlboro College with its summer Marlboro Music Festival---and the comings and goings of these folk from all sorts of backgrounds kept things bubbling.  As a child, I didn't know that I was growing up in an atmosphere of intellectual, social, and artistic ferment.  But I was very aware of The Putney Public Library---a regular destination for our family.
The Town Hall, Putney, Vermont
The library was housed in the Town Hall, a truly multi-purpose building that still stands.  When you climbed the front steps and entered the building, you had choices. You could walk straight ahead, where the U. S. Postal Service had two old-fashioned grilled windows for customers.  You could take the stairs to the second floor auditorium, where raucous Town Meetings and other large events were held. Or you could opt for the door on the left, and enter The Putney Public Library. It was a small room, and a small library, but a paradise for me. Eleanor Carey was the librarian there---though for children she was "Mrs. Carey"---and she filled that position for many, many years. When I was living in New York City as a young getting-started professional, I received a phone call one day from Eleanor.  She was in the city for an ALA convention, and she and a group of fellow-librarians wanted to come visit me. I was surprised that she was attending the ALA. I was especially surprised to learn that she admired my work, and that she wanted to bring her friends to my studio home. They came. I served them tea and home-made cookies. And I learned a new respect for this small-town librarian.  Eleanor was so interested in the rest of the world, and she devoted her entire adult life to bringing some of that world, through books, to her community.

Check out this link for a brief overview of Putney's amazing history:

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