Features

My Christmas story

Paul Reynolds and his family: wife Sue and their two children.
Photo by Oscar Roloff/Woodinville Weekly.

Roloff's column by Oscar Roloff
Recently, I began discarding much material from my old rolltop desk's pigeon holes.
   One was a stack of letters that brought back memories of when I was a teacher on Mercer Island.
   I thought readers might see how I instilled in my pupils the need to learn to give of themselves to those less fortunate.
   I had heard about Ernest Seaman, publisher, and his wife Elizabeth, an author, and a project they undertook.
   At retirement age, the Chicago couple had learned of the poor people in the Appalachian Mountains of Arkansas and Tennessee, who were uneducated and had never attended schools.
   Having accumulated considerable wealth, they made plans to go up in the area's mountains and establish a library for young and old to use.
   This they did. They had their house built, then a large library structure. They now needed books.
   For years, I knew about the poverty-stricken area. My first wife's mother and her siblings had come from the hills of Arkansas, and I used to hear about the area. It was terribly fascinating. I told her I would some day sit down to interview her and produce a small book for distribution to her descendants. She died before I got around to it. Too bad. My fault.

Told the kids
   I mentioned the story of the library in the hills to my pupils and asked if they would like to contribute toward stocking the library, for the benefit of those who had to travel miles to the Tumblin' Creek Cabin Library on the hills above Erwin, Tenn.
   Wholeheartedly they went for it. If at frequent intervals they could bring in books, I would put them into boxes and ship them.
   The project got underway and the shipping cost was high, but I did not mind it a bit. It was my way of giving, too.
   Shortly after each shipment, we would receive a letter from the aged couple, thanking us. I would read each letter to the pupils. Tall they stood, proud they were to give of themselves.
   This, I figured, was something most important.
   They listened intently as the letters told of the barefooted oldsters of ninety on down to toddlers coming into the library seeking to learn how to read.
   The couple spent countless hours giving of themselves.
   I must give credit to five pupils who helped me. Today they are grown up. Nonetheless, they are still my pupils: Jenny Morgan, Becky Ward, Hugh Miller, David Hamre, and Paul Reynolds. Some now live on the Eastside and read the Woodinville Weekly.
   In fact, one (Paul Reynolds) I recently met for the first time in years. One of the first things we talked about was the Tumblin' Creek Cabin Library project, whereupon he said, "I want to thank you for teaching me how to give of myself."