More than the twisting spiral slide at Frazier Park; more than Eagles dime store with its glass-fronted candy case, where I could get a paper bag filled with my favorite
More than the twisting spiral slide at Frazier Park; more than Eagles dime store with its glass-fronted candy case, where I could get a paper bag filled with my favorite chocolate stars; more than the giraffe and ostrich habitat at the North Carolina Zoo, the absolute greatest place I knew growing up in Asheboro was the Randolph County Public Library.
The side entrance was across the street from my grandmother’s house, and she and I walked through those doors together every Saturday, the shiny waxed floors in the corridor widening out in front of us, gleaming like the path to Oz.
I’d make my way to the children’s room, where the tables were kid-size and the bookshelves were low, the spines of the Dr. Seusses and the Childcraft encyclopedias, the Amelia Bedelias and the Frog and Toads all at eye level.
In here, I traveled along with Jess and Leslie as they explored the magical land of Terabithia, and with orphan Anne Shirley, who got sent to live on a farm called Green Gables. I listened as Jesse Tuck implored Winnie not to drink from the fountain of youth. I watched Charlotte spin a web and remind Wilbur that he had always been her friend. The discovery of one book led me down other paths: Henry Huggins introduced me to Ramona the Pest; a dive into the world of Narnia led me to the hobbits of Middle Earth.
Libraries do this: They open up rabbit holes; they drop bread crumbs; they blaze trails through forests.
Not all those who wander are lost.
At the circulation desk, the librarian — a tall woman with white hair named Miss Fox — had me print my name on the cards in the pockets of my books. I remember her red jacket, the towering way she stood over the desk, how her shoulders rounded as she stooped to show me a new book.
At 7 years old, I couldn’t have known the path that led Charlesanna Fox to my library. That she graduated from the North Carolina College for Women — UNCG, my alma mater, too! — in the ’30s, or that, during World War II, she’d been called to the Navy Library in Washington D.C., where she chose all the books for U.S. Navy ships.
I couldn’t have known that when she was sent to Camp Lejeune in 1942 to become the first base librarian, she was the sole woman there, or that she served as the librarian at Pearl Harbor before returning to her hometown of Asheboro — my hometown, too! — to run the library for the next 30 years, where she showed young readers like me where to find new stories, how to follow new paths. Four years before she died in 2012, Miss Charlesanna Fox received the Order of the Longleaf Pine, one of only a handful of librarians in the state to receive such an honor.
I think she would’ve been proud to know that I learned all this through an oral history interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project, a special collection housed at the UNCG library. I’d been combing through their archives, researching a project that led me elsewhere, reacquainting me with a woman I remembered but didn’t really know.
Libraries do this, too: They hold on to the stories we never want to forget, preserving them for the next discovery.
Editor in Chief