Do you remember having to put covers on your textbooks?

Old textbook cover

Given the rather impressive ink spill, I guess it is just as well that this old textbook (The Canadian Speller, Book Two, Forms IV and V, published by W.J. Gage & Co.) had a student-installed cover. Note the ad for the Stirling Creamery, still producing astoundingly good butter all these years later!

The other night I wrote about the magical sensation of hearing the cry of a whippoorwill again after well over 30 years. In that post I mentioned that the occasion on which I heard that wonderful sound was a quiet evening at the Manse when Raymond and I were examining some books he’d bought at a local auction. Well, I must tell you that the occasion brought around not one but two pieces of nostalgia for me: the first, of course, the whippoorwill’s song; the second, the schooldays when we students had to put covers on all of our textbooks.

Do you remember that?

The textbooks were used year after year after year, which was always evidenced by the fact that inside their front covers you would find, pencilled in in schoolchildren’s handwriting or printing, several names. Because of this necessary (for economic reasons) re-use, the schools tried to keep the books in as good nick as possible. Which meant that we students were handed the responsibility of putting covers on them, to keep them from getting more beaten up than absolutely necessary.

(The main thing I remember about all that was what an ordeal it was for me. Folding a sheet of paper into something that would fit over the cover of a book was, despite the instructions provided, way too close to arts and crafts for my taste; arts and crafts will invariably make me run screaming from the building. Gift wrapping? Eeeek! That grade-school glue-pot and the perma-dull rounded scissors? The stuff of nightmares.)

Anyway, back to textbook covers. Generally the ones provided did double duty as vehicles for advertising; I seem to recall the Neilson’s chocolate-bar company being behind a lot of them in my era (along with the big roll-up maps of Canada that were always at the front of the classroom at Madoc Township Public School). But the ones I came across in the boxes of books Raymond had bought at the auction in Madoc were far more local than that. They have ads on them for businesses (of the 1940s and ’50s, I would guess) from the villages of Madoc, Tweed and Marmora. Businesses such as:

  • The inside of the old textbook cover

    “This School Book Cover Is Given To You With The Compliments of the Advertisers,” it says inside the cover, adding: “Support Home Industries.” Still a good sentiment!

    Hannah’s Dairy: Pure Pasteurized MILK and CREAM. “Drink More Milk for Health” “TRY OUR CHOCOLATE DAIRY DRINK” Forsyth Street – Marmora.

  • Spry’s Lunch Bar: Lunches – Fish and Chips. Ice Cream. Candies. Cigarettes. [On a Grade 7 textbook!] Regent Gas Station. For the Finest Gas – Oil. Phone 283 Madoc.
  • Royal Hotel: Marmora – Ontario. Comfortable Rooms. Excellent Meals Served. H.J. Neath, Prop.
  • And perhaps my favourite (because it is an old family business that is still going strong, though very recently sold), Johnston the Druggist: Prescriptions – Stock Remedies – Drugs – Stationery – Cosmetics – School Supplies. Phone 38 – Madoc.

People, this is (perhaps excluding the mention of the cigarette sales) seriously good stuff. Such nostalgia!

I am happy to report that the young man who installed the covers on his books (and who many years later would have an auction sale, at which Raymond would buy those books) did a very fine job indeed. Way better than I ever could have. And so I applaud him for that; and I thank him for inadvertently reminding me of a bit of lore from my own long-ago school days that I would otherwise probably have forgotten. And, dear reader, that perhaps you would have also.

4 thoughts on “Do you remember having to put covers on your textbooks?

  1. And I note that the West family still owns the creamery! According to my mother we are related as my mother’s gg grandmother was a West

    • Oh, that’s interesting, gng – I didn’t realize that the same family still owns the Stirling Creamery all these years later. Their butter is soooo good – we always buy the unsalted.

  2. What a find! It’s a real keeper, that’s for sure. And notice the old telephone numbers, back when people still used the operator for calls. I’m sure I’m not the only one who remembers the old switchboard office just south of where the Madoc Hotel was.

    I rather liked making the covers for the textbooks. It was about the only thing “artsy” that I could do!

    • Well, that just goes to show that you are way more talented than I am when it comes to arts and crafts, Sash – but (I hate to tell you this) the bar is kind of low. I knew you’d remember the book covers, though! I confess the switchboard office in Madoc is before my time; I will have to look for a photo of that.

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