Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Once Upon a Time in Placerville #4: A. S. Fox House, El Dorado County Free Library

Good morning. This is Tina, and I am going to share some memories of one of my favorite places in Placerville, California, the El Dorado County Free Library, which was located in the now lost A. S. Fox House. The Fox house was located on Sacramento Street, in the general location where the Placerville Post Office now stands. I haven't found any information on A. S. Fox, but there was a Fox Brothers Pharmacy in business in Placerville beginning in 1894, so possibly the home belonged to one of the owners.

The home became a library in 1947, and was torn down in the mid-sixties when the federal government purchased the home. Inside the home the rooms became the library, the kitchen was the area where you checked your books out, the front right side was the periodical room, the front left the children's area, the middle left was the "teen" section, and most other books were in the back in the bedroom area.

I learned to read at a very young age, and remember being in kindergarten when I took a tap dancing class. We were learning to tap to "Baby Elephant Walk", and I had a record which I could take home to practice. It was a standard vinyl record, and on the label it said "Unbreakable". I thought that was really cool. So I put it on the couch and aimed my bum at it and sat down on it hard. Guess what? It wasn't unbreakable. I am unclear in my memory what happened with the tap lessons, but I don't know how to tap... however, I still love reading.

Over a year later, after we moved to Placerville, my mom took me to summer reading group at the El Dorado County Free Library in Placerville. What a wonderful place. The group had a little poster board list of our names and when we read a book we got a star. The reading area was in what must have been the parlor or living room, with a nice fireplace and mantel, and creaky wood floors. I remember it being fairly cool and slightly dark. I don't remember the teacher, it could have been the librarian Edith Gantt. I went to the summer program for several summers, and read many great children's books. I remember meeting a little girl named Marcheta in my group, later we went to all four years of high school together.

Much later, in my high school years, I worked at the library. I remember proudly filing my first tax return (with the help of my father) and receiving a check for over $4. I purchased a record album with the money. (What goes around comes around... remember the elephant walk?)

After school I would walk down into town and wait in my dad's 1950 Ford pickup parked in the alley between the hotel and Dillinger's Furniture (where he worked) until it was time to start work at the library, which was just a few steps up the street. Once at work I shelved books, mostly in the back rooms, former bedrooms, where it was cool and again slightly dark. Sometimes I would check out my favorites and take them home with me. It was also my job to repair the books, loose bindings, covers, carefully gluing. When I was finished with my workday I would walk back to the alley and meet my dad around 6 p.m. and he would take me home. The librarian at the time I worked in the library was Ms. Vera Fitch. I also worked with a gentleman I only remember as Kent.
One last picture of the A. S. Fox House. Notice the two palm trees in the front, and the rock wall which was topped with many crystal filled quartz rocks which may have been unearthed when the home was built.
We have a lovely library now, built to hold books, and opened in 1978 on a hillside above the fairgrounds. An old childhood friend has been a librarian there for about 30 years. I am sure there are a lot of former children here in Placerville who reminisce about that building, but I am sticking with my fond memories of a lovely old home which ended its days as a library, and provided me with hours of reading enjoyment and one of my first jobs as well.


yosemite faith said...

as i have said before - you have a way with words and pictures to bring moments alive. thanks for sharing.

Lorlore said...

I, too, remember the summer reading program there. I was especially found of the building and loved that it was our Library.
Great post, as usual, Sis!!

Heidi Ann said...

Yes, I also have very fond memories of, especially, the reading room with the fireplace, and the rooms inside that great old house that, to a little girl, seemed like it had endless meandering hallways and rooms lined floor to ceiling with books. I am so glad that I remember it; it was such a neat old library with volumes that held a world of wonder. My love for books has never waned - and what a huge difference from back then with few books of our own at home - to now- with not enough room to store all of the books we buy!
Thank you for writing about it. I only wish we had more pictures.