14 May 2015

My Bermuda Triangle

While the real Bermuda Triangle is a place in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean where aircraft and ships supposedly have disappeared under mysterious circumstances, my own triangle was not one where such disasters took place, but rather one where I could disappear for hours — or most of a day, especially on Saturdays.

Muskogee Public Library 1914-1972

This triangle started from the back of my dad’s garage at the alley. Exiting via the big heavy doors there, I headed east to a Classic Revival-style building across the street.

It stood there on the corner of D Street and East Broadway in Muskogee, Oklahoma — a Carnegie library that looked like hundreds of others. However, past its entrance and the glass floors of the mezzanine, it was a treasure chest overflowing with books, old newspapers, and stereoscopes. Up on the second floor was the incredible mural artwork by Acee Blue Eagle, a Creek/Pawnee artist who had taught at Bacone College, not far from my grandparents’ farm, north of Muskogee. It was here I became a full-blown bookworm, re-ceived my introduction to art, gazed at old images on a stereoscope, and explored events of the past in newspapers.

Completing the triangle was a long, low red and white building — miles long in my child’s mind and innate ability to judge distances. It contained hundreds, perhaps thousands, of giant cartons of ice cream — with more varieties than I could count or ever eat, though I tried.

A day in my Bermuda Triangle was about as close to heaven as one could get in my opinion.

Some Saturdays there were book readings or story telling at the library, and then afterward I browsed the bookshelves, even though I had learned to use the card catalog. Browsing was more fun I thought because that is how I found many books I would never have chosen by their titles or description in the catalog.

Finally, after deciding on the books to “check out,” which was usually a difficult decision since there was a limit to the number one could have per visit, I headed for the third leg of the triangle.

Out the front door of the library and down the well-worn areas, which we kids had created from years of sliding down the sides of the stone staircase instead of using the steps, I would go. In the heat of an Oklahoma summer, a girl could get a bit of a butt burn doing the slide because we had to wear dresses in those days. However, I don’t remember any serious injury.

Juggling my newly borrowed books, I’d race across the street to the Carnation Dairy — that long low building which set across the alley from dad’s auto repair shop. First, I would do an inventory of all the flavors to see if anything new was available and then began the difficult part — deciding on which flavor I wanted. Cherry vanilla was always a favorite, but I loved sherbet too. If I had enough money for a triple cone, I often wound up with three different sherbets — usually pineapple, orange and lime. With a big cone and books in hand, it was back to my dad’s garage to find a spot to eat the ice cream and read a book until time for us to go home.

Recently I found a picture online of a boarded-up Carnation Dairy, which also shows the back of what was once my dad’s garage. It all looks so small and dilapidated. I prefer to keep the images from my childhood memory. The ones of when the dairy was huge, brightly painted and packed with ice cream cartons and customers — back when dad’s garage was bustling with activity, filled with the sounds of revving motors and the smells of gasoline and oil. The Renoir impressionist image of me curled up in a chair in dad’s office in the midst of my Bermuda Triangle, licking a triple-deck sherbet cone, reading a Laura Ingalls “Little House” book is how it really was — to me.