The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Mike Sunderland
Thoughts from a Grey-haired Point of View 

A Four-Eyes is Born


December 15, 2021

My first newspaper route was acquired in 1962.

I had it for about 2 years and it was a major reason why I ended up needing eyeglasses. My route began and ended at the Fairbanks Public Library. There I discovered the wonderful world of books that were within the walls of the public library (not the Internet). It became my habit to check out a book and read it while I was delivering my papers whenever the weather permitted, especially during the summer.

By the time I was finished with my route I was usually finished with the book. I was, and am still, a voracious fast reader. After checking that one in, I would check out another, read it overnight and return it the next day. This habit continued for the time I had that route.

By then I was well known by the librarians and they were letting me check out as many as five books at a time to read over the weekend. Normally they didn’t allow more than two or three books at a time to be checked out by an individual.

Alaska is known as the Land of the Midnight Sun. By mid summer the sun does not set until very late at night and twilight is not all that dark. In June and July the sun barely dips below the horizon. Even at midnight and the early morning hours it was light enough to read.

My parents wanted me to go to bed no later than 10:00 p.m. and I would obediently head for bed. They were usually sound asleep by 11:00 p.m. Once I was sure they were asleep I would ease back the blackout curtains enough to allow light in so I could read. Since I didn’t have to go to school and could sleep in, I would often read until 3 or 4 in the morning. The next day I would read another book or two. In this manner I managed to read a lot of the books in the youth section of the Library. I passionately consumed every science, sci-fi, and history book they had. Before the end of my seventh grade year I was out the youth section and reading books from the grownup section.

One time the librarian on duty couldn’t believe that I was really reading the books I was taking home over the weekend, especially since some of them were 200 or more pages long. She quizzed me about a couple of the books I had checked out and I was able to convince her that yes, I had read them.

It did not take me very long to read most of the books in the children’s and juvenile section, and then I started in on the grownup side. There I discovered a myriad of worlds of wonder and discovery. I read about faraway places I would never see... the Orient, the Himalayas, India, Israel, Rome and the Antarctic.

The movers and shakers of history, both in war and peace, were waiting to tell their stories to me. The fantastic worlds of science, every thing from the invisible worlds of atoms and microbes to the wonders and beauties of God’s great universe opened to me through the pages of the books I read. I was like a sponge that could never be saturated. I wanted to learn every thing I could learn about every thing there was in existence.

Before the end of the summer of 1966 I had read a large portion of the books in the Fairbanks Public Library. I know this sounds pretty fantastic, but consider that I was reading an average of 2 to 3 books a day during the week, and another 6 to 8 books over the weekend from 1962 through September, 1966. At a conservative estimate and using my renewed knowledge of algebra that comes to over 6,000 books in a little under a five year period.

All that reading in the light of the midnight sun took its toll. It became obvious that I needed glasses after the first couple of weeks of high school starting. I was having trouble seeing the black board and was getting headaches. From that year on, I have worn glasses but have never regretted the way I earned them. I consider my glasses as a badge of honor earned by hard work and dedication.

Again T.A.N.S.T.A.A.F.L. proved to be real. To gain the knowledge and entertainment I had acquired, I paid a price, but one well worth paying. My thirst for knowledge was adequately quenched, and through the following decades that knowledge paid back dividends monetarily and helped to establish my sense of self worth.

Young ones (that’s anyone under the age of 60) get off social media and into the numerous online libraries, as well as the hard copy library right here in Sidney. You won’t regret it. It will add permanent value to your life.


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