WILKES-BARRE, Pa. - It’s easy to forget when you borrow a library book and it’s overdue. These days, a borrower might receive a telephone call or an email, gently reminding them to return that late book or tape.
Just imagine if you’re more than 75 years overdue — think of the fines.
Robert Lockman Sr. was 9 years old when he borrowed the children’s book, “Val Rides the Oregon Trail” from Osterhout Free Library in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in late 1941. The book was due Dec. 2, 1941, but Lockman never returned it. But 75 years, 2 months and 13 days later, his son, Robert Lockman Jr., brought the book back into the Osterhout Library.
“I thought it would be the right thing to do,” he told the Scranton Times-Tribune on Wednesday. “My dad was an honest guy. That’s what he would have done.”
But what about those late fees? The library estimated that at the 1941 rate of 2 cents for each day overdue, the fine would be about $554. But the librarians waived the fee.
“We just laughed about it,” Jeannette Karaska, the circulation clerk on duty at the time, told the Times-Tribune.
Lockman Jr. found the book in the basement of his Shavertown, Pennsylvania, home. It was written and illustrated by Sanford Tousey, a well-known children’s book author of the 1930s and 1940s. Lockman Jr. said he found the book after his father died at the age of 81 on July 31, 2013.
Considering its age, the book is in good condition, but Karaska said it’s unlikely it will be returned to circulation. That would require binding the book and scanning it into the library’s computer system, Karaska told the Times-Tribune.
“It’s a children’s book, it had the usual scribbles in it,” she said.
“Val Rides the Oregon Trail” tells the story of a boy who has many adventures as he travels with his family from St. Louis to Oregon in the 1800s. It’s based on the story of Tousey’s grandfather, Dr. Valentine Adamson, who traveled the Oregon Trail with his family while riding his mule, Jinny.
The book traveled with Lockman Sr. from coast to coast. According to his obituary, he was born on a kitchen table in Wilkes-Barre on Jan. 6, 1932, and graduated locally from Elmer J. Meyers High School in 1949. He served in the Army during the Korean War and met his future wife, Kathy Kidd, while on leave for his brother’s wedding. They were married in Wilkes-Barre but traveled to Ft. Lewis Washington, where Lockman was stationed. He was a master draftsman in the Army and later earned a degree from the University of Hartford. He worked for Pratt and Whitney, American Cyanamid and C.N. Flagg, was an avid artist and woodworker. And, he loved to read.
“My dad always encouraged me to read,” Lockman Jr. told the Times-Tribune. “I really wish that more kids would go to the library.”
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