From the Bookmark Collection

Well, it’s Saturday, so I’ve got nothing better to do than to expose you to a representative of my well-used bookmark collection. It’s really only a collection because the bookmarks are accumulating in the nightstand drawer, not because I’m actively seeking new and exotic bookmarks. If I were, I’d undoubtedly have better items than the collection of Amazon, used book store, and “here’s a gift, send us money” unsolicited fundraiser bookmarks I’ve got. Still, some of the bookmarks merit comment, including this one:

This bookmark comes to us from 1985, and it’s geared to students. Check out the fellow depicted upon the front of
the bookmark. He’s got a flattop haircut undoubtedly helped out with a liberal dose of gel. By 1985, we were
moving out of the heavily-teased hair styles for the most part and into more natural looks. At least we were in
the middle of America; perhaps the Flock of Seagulls thing persisted in pockets on the coasts (although the
mullet has yet to go out of style in Jefferson County, Missouri). This kid’s wearing a t-shirt with his own
picture on it, the very latest thing available from the malls, and a pair of the oversized shorts they called
jams. Me, I never had a pair of jams, although I liked to call the patterned oversized swimming trunks I
acquired via hand-me-down-from-outside-the-family or parental garage sale purchase “jams” simply because they
had a design upon them. This kid’s also wearing a pair of untied Converse or some other non-Nike brand of
high-tops, all the rage amongst the rural toughies in the area in which I went to high school. Toughies whom
the urban toughs that I spent my early years would have eaten alive (and probably have in prison by now, or so
I hope in the remainder of my adolescent revenge fantasies).

The text of this bookmark reads, “It’s cool to be you!” The irony, of course, lies in that this self-esteem-boosting message
lies on a bookmark. Cool kids, or at least those of the soc or jock or hooter/stoner mentality would not be privy to
this particular boost. The very fact that this message appears on a bookmark implies that the adults-that-be, or
at least the adults-that-were expected that young people with books needed self-esteem boosts to make up for the slights
and the lacks of dates and for all the other various and sundry humiliations levied against those who preferred books
to television and the assorted social and physical vandalism that represents the high school experience…. well,
a simple I’m OK, You’re OK from a bookmark wouldn’t do a thing for a teenager, who would see through its
facetiousness and condescensious consolation. I wouldn’t have taken it seriously as encouragement had I owned
this bookmark in 1985; since I got it sometime as part of a yard sale book purchase, where it was wedged between the
incompletely-read pages of some adult book, it helped me even less than a “It’s cool to be a middle-aged suburban
subdivision dweller” bookmark more geared to my demographic.

Crikey, I hope no teenager has thrown a belt over a rafter as a result of the loss of this security blanket.

The back of this particular bookmark indicates that I’m not lying when I say it’s circa 1985; as a matter of fact,
the text indicates it’s copyright, which I am no doubt violating terribly since you gentle readers could blow up the pictures,
print them on the new-fangled photo-quality color ink jets whose abilities we could only see in movies in 1985 while we listened
to our dot-matrix printers chattering away or the daisy wheels pounding on paper. Please, do not send me a nickel when you do so,
for you’d just be an obvious plant from the copyright holder’s lawyers.

The brand name, Tab-Marks, would indicate that this bookmark was the product of one of the big three book clubs of the era. Come
on, Generation X, you know what I am talking about. The single sheet of full-color (not the Weekly Reader, you pre-addled
baby boomleters) front and back distributed in class that
allowed those of us who needed ego-booster bookmarks to choose from a menu of paperback books for a buck or two each. Arrow, Tab,
and Scholastic fliers made the rounds at my elementary and junior high (although in Missouri, they call them middle school) classes.
Kinda like Columbia House for kids, with nothing required to buy in the future.

It was always a big deal, as our family was rather, um, undercapitalized, to get to order books from these services. I did, on occasion;
after a couple of weeks, I got some books that were mine and not the library’s. Wholesome youth entertainment like Judy Blume and
Beverly Cleary (I consider it a testament to the power of these book clubs, and the library, that I still score 8 of 10 on the
Harry Huggins trivia quiz).

Do kids still get these circulars? We don’t have children yet, so I don’t know whether schools fit them in yet amongst the
year-round fundraisers to which those pimping schools subject their students. Perhaps children of the twenty-first century
don’t need pencils to make checkmarks and ticks on full-color order forms when they can use their cellular phones to order
the books directly from

I hope one or the other is the case; I’d hate to think that no children spend rainy afternoons in overstuffed recliners with
simple paperbacks extolling the adventures of anyone not named Potter. Mainly because my dream is to open a used book store, and
to be honest, the Greatest Generation, who stocked their post WWII homes with New American Library editions of the classics, the few
Baby Boomers not into free love and protests, and the few straggling, under-self-esteemed (apparently) Generation Xers are dying
off faster than I can accummulate the wealth and stock to start the money-losing dream-come-true.

Remarkable, ainna, that bookmarks can jog as many memories and reflections, sometimes, as the books into which we stick them? So many people just jam notes, slips of paper, and bank privacy notices (hem, well, perhaps only for technical, business-related books, you see) into books because reading doesn’t require the pomp and circumstance of true bookmarks.

Although, oddly, perhaps that would merit a better sign of books’ ubiquitousness….

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories