Looking Back


What was on Your Bookshelf!

The shelves of the Reading Room in Onoway Museum are filled with books on every topic. Many of the older ones are heavy tomes that would not be that common in the average rural home. But as more and more people were able to attend school longer, reading and books became sources of pleasure.


Books also became more affordable.


The printing industry had changed radically by the 1900s. The pages of books could now be made of cheap "pulp" paper and, rather than hard board and later cardboard for covers, low quality paper could be used. This meant that the cover could be brightly coloured with eye-catching illustrations of glamorous women, rough and tough heroes, or mysterious villains.


The much reduced cost meant that the book market was huge; newsstands were flooded with paperbacks of every genre. You didn't need to be "rich" to afford to buy a book.


Murder mysteries and crime thrillers were best-sellers then as they are today. Who doesn't remember Erle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason? David Hume and Christopher Hale were pen names of writers who wrote other genres of paperback fiction under their real names. Some of these writers churned out books almost monthly.

Murder Mysteries
Murder mysteries: Too Dangerous To Live by David Hume (1946)
and Midsummer Nightmare by Christopher Hale (1947)

Westerns were big sellers. Max Brand's Destry Rides Again was published as a paperback in 1930 (and was in print for another 70 years). Max Brand, too, was a pseudonym. He wrote a completely different series under his real name featuring the character Dr. Kildare these were adapted into movies and a television series.


Canadian journalist Ralph Allen made it big in the paperback market after his novel Peace River Country was published by Harlequin in 1962. The hardcover version was published in 1958 by Doubleday.


How proud we were to see all those paperbacks lined up on the shelf in the living room!


                                  Rides Again (1944)
Peace River
Destry Rides Again (1944)
A page at the end of the book brings the reader back to WWII reality:
HELP WIN THE WAR! Don't waste anything. You can help by saving useful waste and scrap. Save all old paper, rubber, metal and rags. Give it to a charitable organization, such as the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, the Salvation Army, or the Police Departments in some cities or sell it to a junk dealer.

Peace River Country by Ralph Allen (1962)
follows a woman and her children as they flee a drunken husband.


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Last updated: January 26, 2019