Reminiscences by ‘our’ Judith.

A little while ago a Pioneer Books publication was released to the smallest of fanfare. I believe the shop cat got extra cream that day. My father loved to plan book launches. Indeed, as a rule, the finest details of the catering for the launch might be determined before the book was even written. A date would be set. Invitations issued. Now. Let’s write that book. Without him, things have changed.

Our latest publication is a very modest book of personal recollections of her life with books by Judith.

Crabb, Judith
Common: A Life Among Secondhand Books
(Oaklands Park SA: Pioneer Books: 2011) Hermit Press Pamphlet number 3. Wrappers pp. 64 $15.00

Here is an extract:

I grew up within a mile of my birthplace, in a narrow inner suburban street which had a hotel at its western end. My father cycled in that direction every week-day morning and it was some years before I learnt that it was not his place of work. He was, in fact, spending his working life at the GPO, first as a messenger boy, then a postie and then a mail sorter, until a government initiative enabled returned soldiers to be educated beyond primary school so that they could enter offices. I cannot blame my father for my career in books. Perhaps my mother, who subscribed to The Australian Women’s Weekly and The New Idea and read to me from an early age, is the culprit. Two books remain in my memory from these early years: The Polka Dot Tots and McDuff. I used the latter to astound the neighbours with my advanced reading skills. I was very good at this, provided I was careful to turn over only one page at a time and synchronise my recitations with the pictures.

I did not begin to read until I started school, and I didn’t find it a push-over. I remember the primers of which I greatly approved. I wasn’t the only one. A friend of mine was relieved to find that there were families that didn’t get into fights and threaten to kill one another. I had no traumas in my back-ground but I do remember a pet dog that the boy in the primer owned; I never did get a dog. I’m not sure if my primers were secondhand. As I have two slightly older cousins, they may well have been. Certainly I am not conscious of new books entering my life until I began to get pocket-money. At the infant school I remember lining up at the teacher’s desk before the morning bell, a real bell on a tall stand. The idea was to read a page and get it stamped; the catch was that if you made a mistake you went to the end of the line to practise for the next try. I got stuck on the word ‘that’. I went to the end of the line, worked my way up again and got stuck again; back to the end of the line and nowhere near the desk when the bell went and all bets were off.

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