Children led astray by the Bronx Traveling Library, Westchester Square branch, New York.

Here's how the city supplied books to the neighborhood, probably in the 1940's, anyway before the present library opened in 1956.

The leading astray part can be found in comments: "Many of us, I imagine, must have memories about libraries. For me the graceful limestone library that replaced this little wagon was my second home . . . "

  • Wooway1 PRO 4y

    Really good photograph.
  • Robert Barone PRO 4y

    Other Book Wagons in the Bronx. Obviously the borough of scholars.


    1928 Sept., NYPL, Bronx travelling library bookmobile by BenjaminLClark


    Work with schools, Bronx Traveling Library : people using bo... by New York Public Library
  • jake_sylvester 4y

    When I was in elementary school in the 60's, even though our school had its own library, the Board of Education sent a bus library around to each school probably 2x per month to supplement our reading. Odd that Libraries are predicted to be going the way of the dinosaur now, due to our technology. Maybe not really that odd.
  • Suzanne PRO 4y

    The Bookmobile stopped right in front of our house in the 50's. It must have been once or twice a month. What a treat that was!
  • Jim Griffin PRO 4y

    Wonderful photos, Robert.

    I remember the first time I went to the Westchester Square Library, about 1950 -- it was then in Dolen Park by the El station. I was amazed when my mother told me I could take out books for free.
  • Robert Barone PRO 4y

    Many of us, I imagine, must have memories about libraries. For me the graceful limestone library that replaced this little wagon was my second home. I got my library card when I was four years old, just as the library turned one.
    You didn't have to read to get the card, but you had to be able to sign your name. I practiced over and over at home and when my mother lifted me up on that high wood counter, I signed my name with a flourish. Mom and librarian beamed at each other.
    And, yes, I knew how to read. My mother had taken a dictionary and copied most of the words onto flash cards. The two of us lived in a one-room basement apartment in the Bronx. Not many distractions. She kept the stacks of flash cards on our all-purpose kitchen table and she would spend hours drilling me. After I had learned the words, she would place the cards into sentences and then started me on books. It wasn't so bad really. I was happy. There were rewards. The problems began when I got to school.
    The librarian, after a brief false start with children's books, showed me the young adult's section. Most of those were series, lost children, lost animals, and broken-down race horses, but who still had the heart to win one last race for the young and beautiful owner. I read them in the library’s elegant reading room with the high windows facing the street.
    However, I soon went astray. I had a weakness for titles: the more mysterious and grand the better. "Lost Illusions" and "The Joy of Life" fascinated me. I checked them out again and again. Tortured young men were enough to keep me interested, so Dickens was a windfall of sad tales with tragic titles. But I still remember the wonderful women in Balzac and Zola. I didn’t understand much of these books but I read them by looking for all the details about these women. Sometimes I would follow a heroine from novel to novel, only reading the parts about her. Often I would fantasize about kissing them when they said or did something particularly noble.
    School was a nightmare for me. The nuns moved me up grades, moved me down, even expelled me, and then took me back. They were always angry at my freakish reading ability and, understandably perhaps, by my total lack of interest in what they were teaching. I soon drifted away from school and didn’t really come back until college. I couldn’t wait to rush home and get to the stack of library books at the side of my bed. Odd that my great authors had neglected to tell me how a poor boy could be led astray by the New York Public Library.
  • Jim Griffin PRO 4y

    Robert, thanks for sharing a bit of your reading history.
    Books enlarge our world, they let people long gone speak to us.
    Your reminiscence above gives a sense of their power.
  • Robert Barone PRO 4y

    Jim Griffin
    Here’s the somewhat funny conclusion to this story:

    My academic career continued rather pitiously through to the end of high school. My teachers, deeply frustrated, would take to throwing books at me to get my attention. Perhaps they were being ironic. The Japanese chemistry teacher was by far the most excitable: "Mizza Balone," he would say, " I know you smart, what's wrong with you?" Then he too would hurl small objects from his desk at me. He made me feel the most guilty. His question rang with desperation and I wished I had an answer.

    I was always in detention and had to remain standing and holding my hands on my head for long periods. Even though I was anything but a bad kid, I was just impossibly absent, a maddening rebuke to their efforts. My being called on in class was always fun for the other students; how long would it take before I had even the faintest idea that I was in the room. The reactions around me would gradually tear me away from my fantasy world -- Walter Mitty was a grim realist in comparison -- just in time for me to see the teacher coming at me with murder in his eyes.

    So what was I going to do after high school, if I survived? I decided that my only chance at getting a college education was to go to West Point. How detached from reality I must have been. My congressman, very much against his better judgement, said he would sponsor me. I still remember his worried face. These were, of course, the Vietnam years, and I don’t think I struck him as the Marine type. I was already in a kind of pre-ROTC program at the Kingsbridge Armory in order to help my application, and had passed the written test to become some sort of pilot. Once they flew us over New Jersey and the Hudson River in an incredibly rickety little plane. Began to have doubts about my military career.

    Then, surprise, surprise, the newspapers published the list of Merit Scholarship winners and I had one of the highest scores in New York, ditto for the College Entrance tests, and I got a full Merit scholarship! Colleges started contacting me to offer supplementary scholarships. Farewell to West Point!

    The announcement was made over the school’s loudspeaker system. The other winners, honorable mentions or something, were called into the Principal's office to be congratulated. I was told, instead, to go to Fr. McCormack, the dreaded Dean of Discipline, who had terrified generations of Hayesmen. We knew each other well, since I had spent so much time in detention. My one moment of glory seemed very short lived. However, Fr. Cormack was very calm, amused really, and he just explained that he thought it would better to keep me away from the Principal for awhile. Monsignor Pavis was an excitable man and Fr. McCormack, an expert at discipline in excruciatingly-controlled doses, obviously thought a cooling-off period was advisable. I was never congratulated in any official way, except for a handshake from McCormack and the odd smile he gave me as I left.

    Ah, so here’s the funny part. I decide to go to Fordham. A few weeks before classes are to begin they call me down to meet with the heads, all still Jesuits at the time, of the academic departments. They wanted to question me, perhaps because of the odd mismatch between my academic record and my test scores; they interrogated me for a long time and asked to me write an additional report about my readings, thoughts, etc. I handed it in and was called in again to talk to Fr. Joseph P. Fritzpatrick, a wonderful man who I kept in touch with all of his life (as I did with other teachers in this group, since I had had such frequent and personal contact with them during this time). He was head of this sort of “Open Study” experiment and he told me not to attend classes but to continue just as I have been doing. Reading. Can you believe it? I had to keep a journal, write reports and meet periodically with the heads of each department, my tutors essentially, to discuss my studies and to get suggestions. And to stay away from classes!

    Aside from the high price I had to pay in terms of social awkwardness, I was a kid much in need of some normality at that age, I was ecstatic. And where did I spend much of my first two college years? Mainly in the reading room of the 42nd Street Library. So the circle comes round.
  • Robert Barone PRO 4y


    I spend part of my childhood waiting
    for the Sterns County Bookmobile.
    When it comes to town, it makes a
    U-turn in front of the grade school and
    glides into its place under the elms.

    It is a natural wonder of late
    afternoon. I try to imagine Dante,
    William Faulkner, and Emily Dickinson
    traveling down a double lane highway
    together, country-western on the radio.

    Even when it arrives, I have to wait.
    The librarian is busy, getting out
    the inky pad and the lined cards.
    I pace back and forth in the line,
    hungry for the fresh bread of the page,

    because I need something that will tell me
    what I am; I want to catch a book,
    clear as a one-way ticket, to Paris,
    to London, to anywhere.

    - Joyce Sutphen
  • Jim Griffin PRO 4y

    Wonderful reminiscences Robert and a fine selection from Joyce Sutphen. You are a gifted writer and a fine photographer and, by your own admission, a creative cook. Rome's gain is New York's loss.
  • Jim Griffin PRO 4y

    Was that Congressman Paul Fino who was willing to recommend you to West Point?
  • Robert Barone PRO 4y

    No, not Paul Fino, though I still remember his face plastered on electricity poles. I first went to see John Calandra; he was an extremely powerful and omnipresent politician in those years. And remarkably accessible. My idea of going to West Point was not enthusiastically supported by my family, so I had to rely on my own resources. However, I was probably right to go see Calandra; he sent me to see Mario Biaggi, who seemed well-inclined to sponsor me; however, by this time, I didn't need the sponsorship.
    Years later Calandra obtained funding for the Italian-American Institute for Higher Education at Queens College (now called the The John D. Calandra Italian American Institute) and I was hired as their first writer/researcher. I put out a newsletter and other publications for about two years.
    One of the reasons that I now live in Italy -- just one, I have a long list -- is that while I was traveling around Europe (doing research, of course) I was told that the Institute had lost its funding. So I had no job to go back to. Indirectly, then, Calandra ended up stranding me here in Italy.
  • Jim Griffin PRO 4y

    I remember State Senator John Calandra, I met him a couple of times. Calandra has a Bronx school named after him, but what I most remember about him was his bad toupee. I certainly have heard of the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute.

    I had a girl friend in the 1960s who was involved in Bronx politics, once we went to Congressman Paul Fino's office (which was filled with a remarkable collection of GOP elephants) to lobby Fino on behalf of US foreign policy vis-a-vis Africa. Fino's eyes glazed over and apropos of nothing we had said he told us how much he liked John Calandra and hoped Calandra would win his next election.

    Calandra did win and eventually became Bronx Republican Leader.
  • Robert Barone PRO 4y

    Jim Griffin I'm sure that toupee alone would have made him unelectable today. It was incredibly bad.
  • Larry 1y

    Wow; I remember them; Great Photo!
  • Jim Griffin PRO 1y

    great to see these library photos again.
    Son Benjamin and the Glebe Avenue Library
    Son Benjamin at the Glebe Avenue Library, The Bronx, New York City, July 1977 by JFGryphon
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