Remember when: We read Little Golden Books

Published 1:02 am Saturday, April 1, 2017

“Goodnight, sweetheart, ‘til we meet tomorrow…” was crooned by Bing Crosby and “Goodnight, my someone, goodnight, my love…” from the Broadway musical, “The Music Man,” made into a movie was sung by Shirley Jones. These are a few of the tunes that were heard on the home radios aired on the local radio station, WCTA, in the 1950s each evening as mothers and fathers were reading night time stories to their children.

“Nite, nite, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite!” Many of you remember that old adage!

When I was a young child as I was getting ready to drift off to dreamland, my mother often read a Golden Book to me. The Little Golden Books is a series of children’s books. Many of the books deal with nature, science, nursery rhymes, fairy tales, holidays, and Bible stories. They originated in 1942 and their popularity continues on to this date of 2017. They have maintained a distinctive appearance. In the inside front cover are these words, “This book belongs to _______.” Although the series originated with Simon & Schuster, ownership and control has changed several times with the books being currently published by Penguin Random House.

The eighth book in the first series, The Poky Little Puppy, is the top-selling children’s book of all time. Many others have become bestsellers including Tootle, Scuffy, the Tugboat, and The Little Red Hen.

At the time of the series’ golden anniversary in 1992, Little Golden Books claimed that a billion and a half LGBs had been sold. That many old titles remain in print shows the strong nostalgia appeal of the series.

The Little Golden Books circular logo found on the back cover is a collage of characters from many of the books – a lion, a train, an elephant, a rabbit, a puppy, and a tugboat.

Christmas titles are published every year such as Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty, the Snowman, Santa’s Toy Shop, and the ever popular The Night Before Christmas.

Over the years Hopalong Cassidy, Cheyenne, Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Captain Kangaroo, Mister Rogers, and even Donny and Marie Osmond have appeared in the Little Golden Books.

Little Golden Books was the brainchild of George Duplaix who in 1940 was head of Artists and Writers Guild, Inc. Duplaix had the idea to produce a colorful, more durable and affordable children’s book than those being published at that time which sold for $2 to $3. It was decided that the original price of the little books would be 25 cents since the group calculated that if the print run for each title was 50,000 copies instead of 25,000, a lower price would be possible. Within five months of publication in 1942, 1.5 million books sold out. Wartime shortages delayed the launch of the new series until 1946.

Many popular authors and illustrators have worked on Little Golden Books including author, Margaret Wise Brown, and illustrator, Eloise Wilkin. Several of the illustrators for the LGB series later became staples within the picture book industry.

From the 1948 LGB “Come Play House,” let me quote a few lines.

Visiting – Knock! Knock! Somebody is at my door. I wonder who can it be? Mrs. Smith! How nice of you! Come right in and have some tea!”

Playing School – I love to play school. I am the teacher. My dollie is ‘Me.’ My teddy is the boy next door. And all my toys are many more children in the class. Sometimes I stand in front of them and make them all be good. Sometimes I work and talk with them just as a teacher should.”

The Doctor – My dollie fell and hurt her head. The doctor bandaged it and said: She must be very still, because she’s very ill. Tomorrow night she will be all right.”

Wedding – Let’s play wedding today! I am the bride. You are the groom. We dress up and walk through the room. First, I must put on a veil. My dress must be long and it must trail. You must wear a flower in your suit. Then we walk side by side, because you are the groom and I am the bride.”

“Moving In – This had been a funny day. All our furniture moved away. Out of the old house into the new house where we will stay. I didn’t know where I would sleep tonight, but when my bed came in, I was all right!

One of my favorite Golden Books, and maybe yours too, was “Doctor Dan, the Bandage Man.” I remember that it had a real Band-Aid attached that a child could take out of the book and apply to his finger.

Another memorable story was “The New Baby.” Aunt Pat came on the train to stay with Mike while Mummy and Daddy went to the hospital to get the new baby.

“Will it have red hair like Susie next door? Will it be a little girl? Will it be a boy? When is it coming here? Will it sleep in the little bed? Or will it sleep in my big bed?…Mummy kissed Mike. ‘Sleep tight. Soon you’ll be able to see our baby. When you get up tomorrow, be a big helper to Aunt Pat. Show her where we keep the breakfast food. Bring in the milk.’…The telephone rang. It was Daddy. Daddy told him, ‘Mikie, you have a fine baby sister….Shall we call the baby Patricia, because we love Aunt Pat?…Patty is a nice nickname.’”

Other favorites include “Tawny, Scrawny Lion,” “The Saggy Baggy Elephant,” “Bug’s Bunny’s Birthday,” “Little Engine That Could,” “Once Upon a Wintertime,” “I Can Fly,” and “Train to Timbuctoo.”

Last week when I was at the beach sitting on the deck of a condo looking out at the Gulf of Mexico, I spied some children having fun playing in the sand on the shoreline and running back and forth from the foamy waves. My thoughts instantly went back to a Golden Book story, “Day at the Beach.”

My mother must have read and re-read those stories over and over to me and later to my siblings. The repetitive routine never got old. When I look at our family photographs from back then, there I am at about three or four years old holding a Golden Book. Millions of children in the English language must have benefited from having read the LGBs. And they still do!

From a 1942 Golden Book, “Prayers for Children,” are several precious prayers with illustrations in addition to “The Doxology,” “Twenty-Third Psalm,” and “The Lord’s Prayer.”

“The Bedtime Prayer” was taught to many children at an early age like many of you readers who may be in the “baby-boomer” generation and beyond – “Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to take.”

“A Child’s Grace” is the blessing that was taught to little boys and girls in the same time frame – “Thank you for the world so sweet, Thank you for the food we eat, Thank you for the birds that sing, Thank you, God, for everything.”

Opening up an advertisement flyer in The Andalusia Star News just this week, there it was – an ad for some Golden Books with an Easter theme. It was a local business where Easter candy and other memorabilia is sold. In my upstairs toy room where my Golden Book collection is housed, I did not have those particular Easter LGB stories, but now I do! It is my hope that you have enjoyed REMEMBERING WHEN.