"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island...and best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life." -- Walt Disney
February is Black History Month, Heart Health Awareness Month, and Library Lovers Month. I love public libraries. I visit my local library at least twice a month and sometimes visit several times within a week. When I travel one of my favorite things to do is visit the public library to see what they have in their collection that my own library does not include. If my wife, Carole, and I had to purchase all the books we check out of the public library it would cost us thousands of dollars each year.
Sometimes a public library book turns out to be such a useful reference that I decide to purchase it for my own personal library at home because I know I will use it often. For example, I originally checked out Mixed Nuts: America's Love Affair with Comedy Teams From Burns and Allen to Belushi and Aykroyd by Lawrence J. Epstein from the public library. I now own my own copy which I have referred to several times in answering questions I have received as World Clown Association Historian.
Sometimes reading a book from a library once is enough. For example, The Man Behind the Nose, by Larry "Bozo" Harmon is poorly produced and does not have much useful information. For the most part it is illustrated with stock photos not related to the text. Many of Harmon's claims aren't creditable, for example that Fred Astaire secretly asked him to help him figure out a dance routine. Also, Harmon does not refer to Vance "Pinto" Colvig, the original Bozo, and he exaggerates his own contributions to the development of the character. I am glad that I did not pay money to read Harmon's book.
One of the joys of reading a wide variety of books from the public library is you never know what you will discover. For example, I can imagine a clown act based on this passage from In The Company of Others, a novel by Jan Karon. She wrote, "Uncle Billy Watson was one of my best friends... I remember the day he called me at the church office and said, Preacher, I done fell off a twelve-foot ladder."
"Good Lord, I said, did you hurt yourself."
"No, sir, he said, not a dent. I only fell off th' bottom rung."
Here is an example of how something I read in a novel was useful in my own life. Several novelists write mysteries where the main character is a cook. The stories include recipes and cooking tips. I remember reading in one of them that if you spray a measuring cup with non-stick cooking spray before measuring molasses the sticky substance will slide right out. Recently a recipe I was making called for a quarter cup of honey. I sprayed the cup first, and the honey easily poured out of the measuring cup into the bowl of other ingredients.
Reading non-fiction about other entertainers can be inspirational and instructional. I discovered in Wally Boag: Clown Prince of Disneyland, by Wally Boag and Gene Sands, that in 1948 Wally performed his balloon sculpture act in Cirque Medrano, the famous permanent one-ring circus in Paris. Wally told jokes and danced while twisting his balloons. He had his jokes translated into French, which he memorized. He discovered that he had to make changes to his act due to cultural differences. For example, he had several mother-in-law jokes which were common in American comedy of the era. His French audience was shocked because a mother-in-law was held in great respect in their culture, so he had to remove those jokes.
Go to a public library this week. Check out some books to read. What treasures do you find hidden in them?