This is the book of my childhood. It was published in 1955. I loved it beyond measure because it was about families and neighborhoods. I've always been a domestic girl, caring most about my home and family. Amazing how we can see the roots of our adult selves in our child selves.
Each day of the year has a page long entry, and the book follows all the families on What-a-Jolly Street throughout the year. From January 2:
The name of the street was really Trufflescootems Boulevard. Nobody called it that, though, because the street wasn't long. It was very short, and twenty-two children lived on it. Twenty-two, imagine that!
Where twenty-two children live and play and yell and shout and ride their tricycles and wagons and bikes and play with their dogs and cats and rabbits and turtles and monkeys and parrots - well, you just can't call a street like that Trufflescootems Boulevard, can you?
So nobody did. When they came to that block, they always smiled and said, "My what a jolly street!" And pretty soon that was the name of it - "What-a-Jolly Street."
The kindly looking woman on the cover is Mrs. Apricot. I remember thinking this was a delightful name. Living in nineteen-fifties New England, I had never seen a real apricot.
At the end of What-a-Jolly Street lived old Mrs. Apricot. Yes, that was really her name - Mrs. Apricot, and she looked like one, too, soft and rosy and plump.
She is the woman who teaches the girls how to knit. The girls help her cut squares for a quilt and help her bake cookies. The book is full of stories Mrs. Apricot tells to all the neighborhood children. One entry might be about her early life out west where there was real fire danger when it didn't rain in the summer. From her, I learned what tumbleweed was and that Abraham Lincoln was 'the man who loved books.'
This is a book where families are primary. The parents feature prominently, and the children learn from them as they set the table or eat supper together. It sounds all too good to be true in these times where 'problem' books are everywhere, but as I wrote another time, this really was the life we all lived. Let's see, on my section of the street there were fourteen kids I can think of right off the bat. We really did eat supper with our families, and most of our playtime was in the neighborhood. I didn't venture too far away until I was older (and even now am only a few miles from my childhood home).
The book has a map showing the houses and where everyone lives. I was so taken with it. You may see that it wasn't enough for me to have the little code on the bottom - I had to fill in the names of who lived where.
Here is an early attempt at cursive, telling me I was reading this in the third grade, a year after the book came out.
The May Day entry.
I'm quite sure I made a basket one year, and put it on my own parent's door, but honestly I could be remembering the book instead of real life. :<) May Day to all of us in our little town meant the May Ball. It was put on by the Lions Club, and everyone went. The place was swarming with pre-teen children. We all wore fancy clothes, and in fact I spoke of my dress, as my 'May Ball dress.' We did dances like the Bunny Hop and the Hokey Pokey, and had the most wonderful time. There was always a queen, and one year that honor went to my friend Anne, the same Anne as in the April Love post. Sometimes at school we would dance a Maypole which I loved.
On this May Day, we are heading down to Michael's college for a 'Battle of the Bands' in which he and his band are featured. Not quite the stuff of What-a-Jolly Street and childhood memories, but still family-centered, and looked forward to with love.
Addendum: I just read in my local paper that the May Ball is still going strong after 60 years!