Saturday, August 18, 2012

The World We Knew...and Know...

Courtesy of a compelling post and image today in a nostalgic Facebook group, which I am a member, I was reminded of The World Book encyclopedia. My parents purchased a set sometime in the late 1960s from a door-to-door salesman. It seems legitimate door-to-door salespersons really existed once upon a time, and that regular folks occasionally even purchased the things they were peddling. People coming to my door nowadays are, foremost, looked upon with great suspicion and completely ignored if possible.

Anyway, back to more pleasant thoughts and The World Book encyclopedia redux, which resurrected countless memories of school reports researched entirely within these thorough sources of information. Since computers and plagiarism software didn’t yet exist, our teachers had to deduce the Holmesian old-fashioned way whether or not little Jimmy and Mary Pat were turning in someone else’s intellectual property and claiming it as their own.

The World Book didn’t end with its A to Z reservoir of facts on everything from history to science to sports. Annually, the company forwarded its customers a special yearbook, updating the major scientific and technical breakthroughs, watershed cultural shifts, big news stories, and more. I don’t know why, but the things that fascinated me most in those yearbooks were their “Death of Notable Persons” sections. As a youth, I recall combing these lists of recently deceased celebrities, politicians, scientists, businesspersons, et al. There’s no substitute for a dead person to spur interest in all that he or she did to be included in a “Death of Notable Persons” roster in The World Book encyclopedia. I am happy to report that The World Book lives on in the digital age. I fear, though, that kids today don’t give too much thought to dead people of note, because for most of them life began yesterday.

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