By Joe Rector

My dear wife Amy bought me a Kindle Fire so that I would have something from which to read books on the beach when we take our vacation. I like this new one because its battery lasts a long time, and the device can hold bunches of books without weighing a ton. That new “wonder” led me to think about some of the reading materials we had at home when I was young.

Mother and Daddy were keen on education and planned for their three sons to earn college degrees. I remember the man coming to the house to give a presentation about an encyclopedia set. Our parents bought the books and made payments for them. We boys sat down and looked at each of the volumes. Almost anything our minds could think of was covered in those books. The photos in the encyclopedias were better than any taken by our cameras. Even better, we got a year-end volume and could look at the events of the past 365 days.

Magazines were favorites in our household. Look and Life magazines were special. Back then, they were large and had super pictures, especially for the cover stories. Writers excelled in stories such as the Kennedy assassination, and the photos told the tragedy without having to read a single word. In those days, I thumbed through magazines to look at the pictures, not necessarily to read stories.

Catalogs were our only means of perusing things we wanted for Christmas. We’d look at toys and dream about unwrapping them on Christmas morning. Additionally, we’d flip through the Spiegel catalog and peek at the women’s lingerie, an act that was a combination of curiosity and hormones.

Mother liked the S&H stamp catalog. She saved those books of stamps until a big item was needed. We boys hoped she would use some of the stamps for something for us, but she designated them for important things for the household.

We boys went to school at a time when students were assigned textbooks for their classes in elementary school. I liked the spelling book and worked hard to always make a 100 on every test. The math book was a different story. The basics of math I learned—things like multiplication tables, long division and fractions were easy. Anything else left me lost. Every night I’d pull out those books to complete homework. That activity ended in high school where I flunked algebra, made Ds in geometry, and earned Cs in English.

I miss the telephone book. That sounds silly in today’s technological age. What I liked was that people’s numbers and addresses were listed in that book. Its thickness gave an indication of how much Knoxville was growing. Unless a person paid more for a private number, something most folks didn’t spend hard-earned money on, his or her number was made public. These days, few people have a landline. Their cell phones serve as that now, but no book is available to discover a person’s or business’s number. That leaves many of us unable to contact individuals or make appointments with professionals. Yes, I know that the Internet is here, but finding the right “John Smith” is impossible when every one of them in the universe is listed.

The feel of paper is something special when a person reads any material. These days, however, reading newspapers or books or magazines is much easier to do with an iPad or Kindle. In a few generations, children might never experience holding a book. That’s sad, but let’s just hope that children will still read as opposed to having technology insert stories and facts into their brains. The satisfaction from reading is like nothing else.