Tag Archives: history

The Big Move: Discoveries while Temporarily Relocating Our History Collection

3 Apr

You may have noticed some changes in the local history department this month! If you’ve been up on the second floor, you’ve likely seen that the cages in the Sinatra Room are all empty for the time being. Don’t worry, we’re not getting rid of the history collection – we’re just boxing it all up to keep it safe during some renovations to the building! I couldn’t be more excited about it because I love when historic buildings are restored. It follows along with my field’s mission of historic preservation – I can’t imagine any archivist would be upset about this, even when they have to pack fifty boxes worth of books up to temporarily put them in storage. That admittedly was a lot of work, but it was incredibly important that I did so both to protect the collection and learn more about what we had in that cabinet. I only started working here in May of 2018, so familiarizing myself with the collection has been one of my top priorities, and the best way to do that is to work with it hands-on and see each item myself. This process, naturally, has led to some pretty cool finds, and I’d like to share those with you this month.

We’ll start with some actual library history: before card catalogues existed, how did patrons know what the library’s holdings were? Those holdings were printed in actual catalogue books! A few of those books belonging to our very own Hoboken Public Library have survived in our collection, and once they’re unpacked again you’ll be able to view them here. The especially interesting part is that they’re not just in English – due to Hoboken’s large German-speaking population around the turn of the century, we have a German-language catalogue of the library’s holdings as well!

Or maybe you’re more like me and you have an overly-specific, undergraduate degree in a four-year period in American history. If that’s the case – or if you’re just into the American Civil War – we have a two-volume set of books that provides a complete listing of every New Jersey soldier who served during the conflict by unit. I immediately utilized these upon finding them to look up the records of the individual soldier who had been the subject of my undergraduate thesis at Gettysburg College, where I minored in Civil War Era Studies.  This is a particularly amazing research resource and I fully intend to digitize it completely once the collection is resettled.

Civil War NJ

Baseball history? Yeah, we’ve got plenty of that!

BookofBaseball

New Jersey history? Check!

Houses NJ

You name it, we might just have it if it is relevant to Hoboken or New Jersey history!

When I packed everything up, I made a full inventory of exactly what we have in the book collection, which you’ll hopefully be able to find on our website within the next few months as I reorganize everything after we’re done with the second floor renovations. There’ll hopefully be something on that list that piques your interest – and as long as you make an appointment to view it, you can take a look at it in person! In the meantime, thanks for being patient with us as we temporarily store everything to keep it safe! (I apologize for any noise I made in the reading room as I was packing boxes.) We’ll be back to normal soon, so stay tuned for more history!   And of course even if some of our physical items are in storage, you can still access some of our collection online.

Written by:
Steph Diorio
Local History Librarian/Archivist at the Hoboken Public Library

A Librarian Takes on the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: Read A Book About Sports, Task 2

29 Mar

I am excited to report that I am still following the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge! Here I will document the second task I have completed. You can read about what I read for the first task here.

The task at the top of the Read Harder Challenge list is “Read a book about sports.” I was excited to take that one on, as I love good sports writing. I’ve written about the World Champion 1986 New York Mets, and my love for the team, on this blog.

(Yes, I prophesied in that post the Mets would win the World Series in 2016, which didn’t happen. There’s always next year! Baseball season starts again Sunday April 2.)

I planned to read a book about soccer for this particular task. Then I came across Dust Bowl Girls: The Inspiring Story of the Team that Barnstormed Its Way to Basketball Glory by Lydia Reeder. The jacket copy describes this book as “The Boys in the Boat meets A League of Their Own…”, one of my all-time favorite movies, and the soccer book fell out of favor.

Dust Bowl Girls: The Inspiring Story of the Team That Barnstormed Its Way to Basketball Glory, by Lydia Reeder

dust-bowl-girls

 

Dust Bowl Girls is about the Oklahoma Presbyterian College Cardinals girl’s basketball team and their Cinderella 1931-1932 season. The author of the book, Lydia Reeder, is the grandniece of the team’s coach, Sam Babb, and committed the team’s fascinating story to print using interviews with the surviving Cardinals or their descendants and friends, the athletes’ personal scrapbooks where they kept newspaper clippings and other souvenirs, and other sources.

Coach Babb recruited high school girls, many from farms in rural Oklahoma, to play for the OPC Cardinals basketball team with offers of full scholarships. These were amazing opportunities for the girls, as Oklahoma farmers were hit hard by the Great Depression and their families couldn’t afford to send them to college. It was also a tough choice for some of the girls, whose lives were centered around the farm and hadn’t spent much time away from their families.

The stories of the individual Cardinals were interesting to read. Lucille Thurman was 16 when she joined the team and often felt out of her league. Doll Harris was the team captain and a talented basketball player despite her five feet four inch stature. Lera and Vera Dunford were six feet tall, red-haired identical twins and always together. Juanita Park, who went by “Bo-Peep”, served the team as a guard and a driver–her father taught her to drive at age 11.

Dust Bowl Girls is enriched by the history of Oklahoma; depictions of life on a farm; the Great Depression and its impact on the state; and the Native American populations that live in Oklahoma. Durant, where the team was based, is the capital of the Choctaw nation.

I learned a lot about the evolution of basketball, which was a young game in 1931. The matchups were six-on-six, the ball could only be dribbled once and below the knees, and players were fixed to certain sections of the court. It was so different from how I learned to play basketball at the Bayonne PAL, and how basketball is played now.

The book documents the outrage about girls playing basketball, which was seen as a less feminine sport at the time. Some believed that a woman’s uterus would simply fall out of her body as a result of too much jumping. La Homa Lassiter, a member of the Cardinals, asked Coach Babb if playing basketball will make her less of a lady.

The chapters depicting the Cardinals at play are riveting to read, although it can be a little confusing to visualize the game play as the 1930s basketball rules are so different. Reeder captures the tension on the court when the Cardinals are down, and the joy when they win. The Cardinals faced a team that included Babe Didrickson, the most famous female athlete of that time, which were exciting games.

I enjoyed following the Cardinals season, its ups and downs, and learning about these amazing athletes. Seeing how basketball has evolved was fascinating, too. Baseball still has my heart, but I learned so much about basketball in this book.

This completes the second task of my Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. My post about he third task will be up soon.

What is your favorite book about sports? Let me know in the comments.

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

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