Yesterday I read that the parent company of Reader's Digest filed for bankruptcy protection again. It brought back a bunch of nostalgic memories.
It would be a curious thing to see a brain scan that could show where knowledge was acquired. If such a process existed, I think I would be safe to say that one of the main learning sources during my adolescent years would have been from voraciously reading the Reader's Digest every month. I am quite confident in saying that I learned more from that magazine that I did from Junior High or High School.
When I was a wee lad, I honestly thought the Reader's Digest was a Church publication for adults, like the Children's Friend was for the kids. Why? Because we had a faithful Home Teacher who would trudge up the road to our house every month, rain or shine, with his Reader's Digest in hand. He would sit on the couch and visit, mostly with my parents, and then pull out the magazine and read an article or story. I usually enjoyed them.
The variety of the Reader's Digest kept it interesting, and I really loved how certain "departments" were there every month. Especially the jokes. There were jokes and funny anecdotes strewn throughout, but there were topical collections, such as "Campus Comedy," "Humor in Uniform," "All in a Day's Work," and of course, "Laughter the Best Medicine." I remember my mom reading articles by Erma Bombeck and laughing herself silly.
There is nothing a boy enjoys more than a fresh batch of jokes every month - and you have to admit, guys, that the jokes in the back of the Boy's Life were pretty terrible.
There was a regular feature called "Drama in Real Life," where the story was told of some poor guy who was stranded on a mountaintop, lost at sea, trapped in a burning building, or some other hopeless situation. It was always exciting, and life affirming. I remember one particular story where a man had a month long ordeal at sea, floating on a life raft after the ship he was on sank. I was reminded of this recently when I read the book "Unbroken." At the time, I was so fascinated by that survival tale, that I went to the library and checked out every book I could find that was about people being lost at sea. Ahh, the library...that is another wistful post for another time.
Perhaps I have always been a geek, but I always liked the Word Power game. It was basically a vocabulary quiz. I know that I learned words from this that I incorporated into my own vocabulary.
There were always articles that didn't mean much to me at the time, about finances, politics, etc. But I read a lot of them, and I think it helped make an impact on my desire to read a large variety of materials.
So here is the sad part. As I have been typing this, it occurred to me that I have written everything in the past tense. Why? Because I can't even remember the last time I picked up a copy of the Reader's Digest that wasn't sitting in a doctor's waiting room.
When did I stop reading it? I know we subscribed early in our marriage. Maybe we quit because of money, or because the internet provided enough stuff to read without paying for it. I don't remember. Either way, it has probably been a mistake to not have it around the house - and a disservice for my kids.
(I just took 3 minutes and subscribed. $15 a year - I can handle that.) (After I subscribed, I found a better deal here)
Anyway, it is sad to see things that mattered to us become lost to us, and I hope the Reader's Digest can right its financial ship and recover. It would break my heart to lose another important piece of my personal nostalgia so closely on the heels of the death of yellow Zingers..