JF Ptak Science Books Post 1678
(This post would be incomplete unless you also read the post on The History of School Lunches.)
The best part of browsing books on shelves or in boxes or wherever the physical, non-digital place might be is the surprise, and the best surprise is the truly unexpected surprise. That is the beauty of browsing, to me, and this is what is disappearing as we replace shelved books with a monitor of some variety, whether it is at home or in the library. The glory of serendipity seems not quantifiable yet--the brain does too much stuff when you unconsciously parse a shelf or case or range of books. As you walk down an aisle of books, past hundreds or thousands of titles, you are seeing many of them though not necessarily registering them in your conscious experience; but your brain is working on this impulse of data even when your mind is wondering what you were doing at the library in the first place. When I go to the library, I like to think of it as going to the Serendipity House.
Finding the unexpected--and sometimes the unimaginable--is a pure joy, whether the found thing is monumental or useful or inspiring or informative or not. Sometimes it is the very simple satisfaction that a work exists on some very removed topic.
If you were to open the Atlas of Reading Experience and tried to find this title on school safety patrols, I imagine that the pamphlet would be represented in a part of the sea that seems very blank, but on micro-inspection it is obvious that there is a planktonesque sea of small islands with small islands off their costs of smaller items, and so on and so forth, resolving more minute detail and more islands, in a fractal world of smallness.
And somewhere in there would be School Safety Patrol Pioneers.
I really do love pamphlets like this whose titles make you stop and say "what in the world...?" or some such thing, usually though its just limited to the word "What" followed by a number of exclamation marks. This get s a little and needlessly more complicated when the exclamation points are combined with question marks, thus : "What!!" looks allot different from "What!!?", and seems much more interesting, too. I think that the most sublime pamphlets would resume the full complement of exclamations and questions available for my made-up review, which would be three apiece: "What!!!???" or "What???!!!" or any combination thereof (each of which would hold its on special secret analytical-emotional logic, god help us all), and would be the equivalent of a Perfect 10 or 5-Stars or Four Thumbs Way Way Up. (I think that the way this works is that the more exclamation points there are the louder you way "what" to yourself, and the more question marks there are the higher one would raise your eyebrows when seeing this for the first time. Maybe we're knocking on the door of the Visual Arithmetic of Exclamation Points and Question Marks, which seems like a long way to go to judge the imaginary meritocracy of the painfully mundane.)
In any event, I think that the (completely) unexpected beauty and idea of this pamphlet is just delectable--kind of like experiencing a superb slice of buttered toast.
This masterpiece of the forgotten obvious, The School Safety Patrol Pioneers, printed by the American Automobile Association in 1941 really does pay an homage in shades of white to the great leaders and benefactors of the Crosswalk Warriors. The great leaders though were not children, I'm sorry to report, but grownups whop dedicated their lives to the concept of crossing the street safely
(It sounds like I'm poking fun, but I'm not, really. What an enormous undertaking it was to write this 20-page effort--really. Could you imagine trying to research such a topic today? I can and can't--it would be an enormous heartache to undertake--unless of course you had this pamphlet in hand. My mind reels about trying to figure out where to start such a project. Honestly--it would be tough.
The design of the pamphlet is neat and clean, and very orderly, reporting on some of the leaders of this field, "then" and "now". One then-and-now reads" THEN--Supervisor, Physical and Health Education, Philadelphia; NOW--Supervisor of Safety Patrols, Philadelphia". More often then not though they read like this: "THEN--Principal, John Muir Grade School, Seattle; NOW--Deceased." I wish the writer had gone into a little more detail on the person's life before death took command, but all-in-all, this little pamphlet mobilized great, quiet wonders on its depth and efficiency in reporting on the history of crossing guards, and I'd rate it a "What !!?".
Now if I could only find something on the history of school hall monitors...