Bill Brown 5-28

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 1, 2004

One of the rewards from writing a column such as this is the letters from readers who share their own observations and experiences.

In a recent column I acknowledged that I am a packrat and recalled that on my grandparents’ farm few things were thrown away. That brought notes from many readers who said they also have difficulty discarding things.

From a native Alabamian who now lives in Montana came this recollection:

Email newsletter signup

“Folks who’ve lived through depressed economies – or, to put it bluntly, hard times – tend to save everything. One of my favorite memories, now that it is a memory, is straightening twice-crooked and rusty nails, pulled out of boards and fence posts and saved in a rusted-out lard bucket.

I can still recall the pinched ends of fingers, gritting my teeth and cursing my fate, as my dad intoned, ‘We won’t have to drive to town to get a 10-penny nail.’ ”

A reader in Dothan visited a farm in Goshen not long ago. “The barn is over 100 years old and really a sight in itself, but at one end is a canning – or summer – kitchen.

I was in heaven!

I walked thru the screen door and back into childhood.

All the smells and sounds of “puttin’ up vegetables” came sweetly back from my childhood.


air conditioning – my grandmother’s hair stuck to her head, wet and curly with sweat, the musky smell of Avon mixing with tomatoes and blanched peas and butter beans.

Fans blowing hot air, Don McNeil and The Breakfast Club on the radio.

What precious times – and we didn’t even know it.

“So thank you for remembering and sharing.

Our challenge is to live fully in this time and this place – we can’t go back.

But these lovely memories help make the way easier for some of us.

I guess having that foundation, that ‘good rearin’,’ helps us navigate a world that no longer makes much sense sometimes.”

A column about finally learning that it’s okay to stop reading a boring book brought this note from a reader in Anniston:

“I remember during graduate school in the mid-’60s reading Jeannette Veatch, an authority on teaching reading decades ago.

She called her program Individualized Reading, and one part of it was

to insist that students didn’t have to stay with a book they didn’t like.


contended that to do so would cause many to develop a distaste for reading.

“At the time I was a sixth grade teacher, so when I returned in the fall, I

put that idea into practice. The only problem was that by that age, some

students had already internalized the idea that they must finish.


however, they broke the habit.

In their reading record, I asked them to list every

book they began; then if they didn’t like one, they were to list the page on

which they stopped, and on the next line, state why they didn’t like it if they

knew why, realizing sometimes we can’t verbalize the reason.

We just don’t

like it!

“Another part of Prof. Veatch’s program was to refrain from insisting that

students read a book that was too hard.

She had a little test they could give a

book before reading it.

Her idea was that readers were more apt to progress

gradually to higher reading levels if they weren’t required to read something

too difficult.

I also put that in place.

It worked, though that was another

internalized idea some had to discard.

“I have become wordy, but you caused me to remember a “sermon” I “preached” to college classes of students planning to become teachers.

With all the

emphasis now on test scores, though, my voice was like a cry in the wilderness.


public insists on quick success, though short lived.

Therefore, in the end

it isn’t success. Prof. Veatch’s plan is long range but more effective and its

results move young readers into adult readers.”

Bill Brown can be contacted at 377 Quail Hollow Drive, Dadeville AL 36853 or by e-mail at