Object Lesson II

There was a gratifying response to my column last week on objects representing the history of the Book Fair. MOST of these came from people whose first name was Nike, and the rest were from people whose last name was Jeans. It’s nice to see that people are reading this blog as a family activity. But I am so naturally shy and modest that I deleted all those comments.

Anyway, I thought I would continue through the list of iconic artifacts, since I covered only four last time, and it would make sense to think of 30 objects for 30 Book Fairs.

Could we possibly neglect the canvas Book Fair Bags? It has been 18 years since we last produced these, but people still remember them fondly (and occasionally donate books in one. This is possibly the only time I do not grumble when people ask for their bag back.) The first bag was issued in 1993, but the classic bag, apparently exactly the right size and shape, came out in 1994, 1995, and 1996, in red, blue, and green respectively, if I remember correctly. I have no idea what these are going for on the collectibles market, but you’ll want to own a complete set someday.

Different items are iconic for different folks. At one end of the building, the Volunteer Form, which has also been different colors for different years, is a sure sign of an impending Fair. On this, volunteers specify the kind of work they want to do, and the days they want to do it, and anything else they feel like sharing with the office. I wish I hd thought to collect the annual essay one volunteer wrote about her need for a small chair to sit on while she unpacked boxes. With the right handwriting, you can compress three hundred words into the margins of the form. (We also have an ancient relic–dating back to the 80s–which makes people shake their heads in wonder. It is a graph on one piece of posterboard listing the names of every volunteer and the shift each is working. Pity we don’t do that nowadays; we could use the poster as a roof over the parking lot in the off season.)

Even the humblest object can carry a load of memories. Those little metal Bookends have clattered to the floor every year, proving that people still aren’t quite sure where their elbows are as they prowl the aisles. In the beginning, we had to borrow these from the library shelves: they were snatched up first thing every Monday after the Fair and carried away to safety. Finally, a Book Fair Committee member went out and bought us our own. He bought the standard variety, which are closely related to the wire coat hanger, and show it in their ability to multiply, and to get tangled together. The two phenomena may not be unrelated, but I have only so much time to study the matter.

I know several people who have tried to assemble complete collections of the Book Fair Bookmark, which had its beginning around 1987, and includes in its history the nifty metal one (absolutely death on pages but very pretty) given out by one of our sponsors around 1993. The paper ones have varied in length and width: this year’s is a little wider than the previous ones, and is pretty spiffy, if I do say so. Be sure to pick up as many as you can and hand them out to friends and relatives to start their own collections. It is not well-known, but every year the person who gives away the most bookmarks wins a limited edition papercut.

Again, we’ve run out of space before we could deal at any length with the heritage of the banana box. Maybe when the Jeans family writes in to ask for it, we can write a whole blog on the subject.

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