Stranger Than Fiction at the Denton Library

I keep getting distracted. As I search for historical tidbits about Denton, I change paths constantly, but I don’t suppose that’s a bad thing. I find articles I would have never thought to seek — for instance, this morning I was looking for information about Acme Brick and then took a slight bend in the path when I found a copy of the Texas Parade from November of 1951. It had an article called “Diversified Denton” by Hugh Williamson. In it, I found another intriguing tidbit about our public library instead.

Texas Parade Magazine

Hugh Williamson. “Diversified Denton” in Texas Parade issue November 1951. Drawer G, Capitol Station, Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed June 2, 2013.

You know the one I mean … the haunted one. The Emily Fowler Public Library. If I heard correctly when I visited the library today, it started life as the City/County Library.

Now, I’ve written a little bit about Emily Fowler, who was a champion of the Denton Library system. Sometimes I tell stories about her haunting of the library on my weekly ghost tours (she liked her job so much she didn’t want to check out). But, I couldn’t believe what I read about the City/County library in that magazine. It is stranger than fiction. I think most librarians that I know would flat out faint to think of how libraries were managed in 1951 and I cannot believe that Emily Fowler put up with this type of behavior in her library!

They showed a picture of the library back then.

Denton city-county library 1951

Hugh Williamson. “Diversified Denton” in Texas Parade issue November 1951. Drawer G, Capitol Station, Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed June 2, 2013.

And, this is what Mr. Williamson wrote:

If you like your entertainment indoors, then you’ll be at home in Denton, too. Readers, for example, will find 400,000 volumes in the college libraries and in the county-city library. The latter is somewhat unusual in that you don’t have to hush. You can talk out loud, smoke, pick up magazines without signing anything and take them home. The management trusts you to bring them back, along with a few more from your home collection. There is a children’s room, where the youngsters are left to their own devices, and if they swipe a few guppies from the goldfish bowl, who cares? There are plenty more guppies.

Do what? You could whip out a Viceroy and light up in the library? Did they have a cigarette vending machine by the checkout counter? Why didn’t they just have a full bar, so you could drink a whiskey sour while you smoked and read the paper? Was there a magazine rack by the toilet?

I’m sure this relaxed atmosphere was simply to draw patrons into the library, and I realize that it was a different world sixty-two years ago. However, this sounds a bit over the top.

What haunts me, however, is that line about the guppies. Why in Thunder would children swipe guppies? What did they do with them? It makes me reluctant to pick up one of the older volumes and open it … in case the kids used the guppies as bookmarks.

And, are those guppies still haunting the library?

  2 comments for “Stranger Than Fiction at the Denton Library

  1. Eddie Hudzina
    June 2, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    wasn’t that about the time the goldfish swallowing fad came about? maybe that’s where the guppies went?

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