I've been such a wanderer most of my life - from Livermore and Pleasanton to Los Angeles to Hawaii, back to Los Angeles then to Massachusetts, back to Livermore, the to Stockton, and then back to Los Angeles in 2005. And although I've lived in Los Angeles for a good portion of the last twenty years, I still consider Livermore my home town. Which makes my visit to the Livermore library to talk about Pulp Writer this Wednesday night even that more special.
I've been thinking a lot about my ties to Livermore lately. First on the list is my bond to the library itself - it was one of the most important town institutions for me whenever I lived there.
When I was a little girl, every Tuesday night my mother would drive us down to the library when it was housed in the Carnegie building on Fourth Street. I was always so excited to get there - the fountain outside held a certain fascination for me, and I would always lean over the cement seat and peer down into the water, looking for the gold fish that were there then, before they chlorinated the water. I'd then race up the stairs and into the building, up to the second floor, run through the shelves that held the adult nonfiction - way back to the back corner that was the children's section. I cared only for one type of book - books about horses. Books by Walter Farley in particular - The Black Stallion and all its sequels, and his book about Man O War.
Some landmarks in Livermore are still here, thankfully, but for how long? The Donut Wheel is still here. I remember walking all the way from our house on Olivina to the Donut Wheel on Saturday morning. That was quite a hike. When I got there, I ordered a sugar donut and a coke from my sister Patty, who was working the counter. I was fully prepared to pay for them, but Patty pushed back my money and winked at me. Forget it, she whispered, and turned away to help someone else. She would have gotten in trouble. It was one of the first moments of spontaneous generosity that I remember in my life, and it was very characteristic of Patty.
We walked a lot in Livermore on Saturdays - to the Woolworths, which was on second street, another major excursion for my sister Becky, who was four years older, and I. I remember it took some cajoling to get our mother to let us do it. We always walked to the Quart House not far from our house with our dimes and quarters to buy candy. A few times we walked to the railroad tracks near Boot Hill near Granada High to bury one of our pets or one of our neighbor's cats. We walked solemnly to underneath the railroad overpass, cat body draped in a blanket in a red wagon. And of course we walked to May Nissen Park on Rincon, to the pools there in the summer, to Marilyn Avenue School during the school year. We walked by ourselves, to and back from school. It was a different time then.
We moved away from Livermore in 1967, and I didn't return until 1976, after I had graduated from high school. I stayed for a few years, going through some major personal upheavals. All the while, the Livermore library was there, where I could escape. by then, it was in its new building on the corner of south Livermore and Pacific. It was large and airy, and quickly filled up with books. I spent many nights there when I needed to have an anchor of some sort.
When I graduated from Smith College in 2000, I moved back to Livermore to work at the Lawrence Livermore Lab. At the same time, I was continuing my research in the history of pulp fiction magazines and my grandfather's role as a pulp writer. And while I didn't have the resources that I had back at Smith, when I could rely on five major libraries, Livermore still held its own. In my opinion, they had, and still do, one of the most amazing book collections I have ever experienced.And if they didn't have the book, they could order it for me.
By the time the new library was built a few years ago, I had already moved to Stockton and was commuting from the Lab to Stockton every day. I didn't have a lot of time to visit the new, gorgeous building that housed the Livermore Library. Maybe by giving this presentation, though, I hope I can express some of my gratitude for what this place has meant to me.
Back in the 1960s, my grandfather came out to visit us a few times. He was living in Oakland at the time, working at a bookstore on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. Apparently he wasn't pleased with Livermore because there were no bookstores here. It must have been a cultural desert for him. We didn't mind - we had the library.
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