August 11, 2011



You old timers may remember a TV commercial with the jingle-like theme song, "It's the latest, it's the greatest, it's the library (li-berry)." But do you remember Levittown's blue bus-like bookmobile?

In the late 1940s and 1950s, most families in our cozy little part of the world had only one car. Dad took the vehicle to work, leaving mom stuck at home while the kids had to get around by foot or bicycle. Carpools were a thing of the future.

The Barnings had a 1947 Studebaker which one friend described as having the color of vomit. Dad worked six days a week and the Studebaker spent many hours at the Hicksville railroad station.

Getting to the library, unless you lived within walking distance, was a Saturday thing. My family moved to Levittown in late 1954. According to Levittown historian Lynne Matarrese, "The Levittown Public Library opened its doors on June 30, 1951 at the South Village Green with a 3,000-book collection." That was a long haul for those of us who lived on the north side. The current library on Bluegrass Lane opened 12-years later.
Three hundred houses were occupied starting on October 1, 1947, so the town was without a library building for nearly four years.

Fortunately for those of us who enjoyed reading, Levittown had a bookmobile. It had a specific route around town and our family calendar was sure to include a notation of its next stop near our home on Hyacinth Road.

I was wondering when the bookmobile program started, how many vehicles were in the fleet (probably there was only one) and how often did one arrive at the stops on its route? When was this service discontinued?

I emailed a few old friends, asking them to provide information that I did not have and to contribute their bookmobile memories. The response was sparse. Some had no memory at all and two said they didn't read books.

What follows are memories from the few of my contacts who remember the bookmobile:

Rob O'Boyle (brother of Dr. Michael O'Boyle, 1960)
I drove a bookmobile. Helen Clinch was the librarian for the bookmobile when I first worked at Levittown Public Library. Herb Blinder and John Burlingame were the drivers. There were two bookmobiles in the late 1960s and 1970s. Florence Thomas and Mrs. Tremebley were there in the 1970s.

Midge Bollinger Finck, 1960
I remember it coming to the front of Mays on Friday nights. Pat Kraft, Flo Cornell and I used to be waiting there. The gentleman who drove was still driving the bookmobile in the 1980s and he always drove in the Memorial Day parade.

Lillian Smith Handleman, 1962
Whenever the Bookmobile rolled onto our street, my mother would insist I take out a book. It was a special occasion to look forward to--like the ice cream man coming, or the Dugan's pastry truck, or the milkman delivering glass bottles of milk to our doorstep. The first book I ever borrowed from the bookmobile was Pippy Longstockings. I can't believe I remember that.

Jim Urban, 1961
My mother was pretty much bedridden with rheumatoid arthritis. She loved to read. When the bookmobile came to our block, one of us was tasked with taking out as many books as were allowed. Yaaaayyy for the Bookmobile.

Bill Newman, 1963
I remember the bookmobile coming down Carnation Road. I had no thought of ever going into it. Books, school or anything that had to do with learning was not the highest priority for me or the crowd I hung with.

We were more interested in distracting the Good Humor man and stealing ice cream from him. We played poker for cigarettes and when they got so ragged we smoked them or repacked them.


If you have Bookmobile memories, forward them to your blogger.


Bill Fey Class of '68 said...

Just one more reason why growing up in Levittown was so great. I don't remember if it was every week or every other week, but I remember the 1st time I ever heard of it, saw it, and went into one was a month after I moved to Levittown,July 1961. It came down my street (Chickadee Ln.) and was parked right in front of my house. I saw all the kids and some of the parents going in so I figured I would too. Just one more thing to do on a summer day. I couldn't believe it was a traveling library! I became a regular.

Anonymous said...

Your blog is great - with regard to the bookmobile. We lived on Newbridge Road about 8 houses south of Blue Spruce Rd. - it stopped on Fridays at the corner Blue Spruce and Newbridge Roads at 3p.m. in the summer. I would always get as many books as I could, as I loved to read ( and still do). And, you could order a special book and it would be there at its next visit. I don't remember when it started, but everyone in our neighborhood used its services. Thanks, keep up your great work.

Dorothy (Kuppler) Oppelt, class of 1960

Anonymous said...

From Don Davidson, class of 1960

Every Wednesday excitement and joy came to 161 center lane. The bookmobile parked across the street at the center lane village green, and I was allowed, at the age of 8, to cross the street and escape into the world I had no access to. We had no books at home, and few magazines. The bookmobile was my Eden. I could become John Carter, Tarzan, and Captain Hornblower etc. The sights, sounds, and smells of the old and new worlds past and future times would fill my free time. I have never lost sight of the personal joy this simple extension of the library brought me.

bobblog said...

The bookmobile coming around was one of the high points of the week...a library at your cool is that. I'd like to add, one of the cool places to hang out was the new library on Bluegrass, I used to meet friends, read magazines, and yes, there were girls there, and I could always get out on a school night 'cause I was going to the library