Tuesday, October 29, 2013

If I Were Going and Singing Wheels



This was first posted in March of '09 and over the years I've continued to get comments from folks who remember these books -- especially SINGING WHEELS. So here it is again for those of you who might have missed it -- and who remember these books...

There is a striking omission in my recent post listing 25 books that influenced my life and my writing. How could I have forgotten If I Were Going and Singing Wheels?

If I Were Going was my third grade 'reader' -- a wonderful horizon expander telling of life in Norway, Lapland, Brittany, Spain, North Africa . . . heady stuff for an eight-year old who could only remember traveling to Troy, Alabama.

I had never imagined that there was such variety in the world, in scenery and in people and their various ways of life. And this continues to fascinate me, even though my travel is mainly on the Internet.

The book's visit to England and its descriptions of English villages, thatched roofs, and country lanes is probably the catalyst for my life-long Anglophilia.


Along with the multiplication table, Singing Wheels was the focus of the fourth grade course of study. This textbook told of the pioneer experience in America, with stagecoaches and oxen and bee trees and spinning and all the daily minutiae of frontier life in the early 1800s.

The book is a real treasure trove of how things were made back then (I'm pretty sure I could follow the instructions for candle-making and end up with candles), of wild animals and their tracks, everyday items in common use, types of trees, Indian arrowheads . . . all illustrated in nice little line drawings.



I think I can trace my first interest in the back-to-the-land life style to this book. ( I certainly didn't grow up on a farm or have relatives with farms to spark my interest. My grandfathers had left their farming/dairying days far behind and my parents were happy that it should stay that way.)

And I can thank the chapter about the spelling bee for helping me always to remember that there's a rat in separate.

(I hadn't realized till just now, but a substantial portion of Singing Wheels was taken from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy and Little House in the Big Woods -- books that I never read till I was an adult.)

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I have no idea how long these books remained in the curriculum. Do any of you remember them?

46 comments:

Liz said...

The impact that our childhood reading has on our lives forever continues to astonish me. I have a friend who has two adorable children who love to read - but their parents don't - will a child read who doesn't see their parents read? What do you think?

Vicki Lane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vicki Lane said...

Jeez, I wish one could edit these things.

What I was trying to say is that I'm sure children are more likely to read if their parents are readers BUT don't overlook the scenario in which the parents discourage or actually forbid reading, thus making it all the more alluring.

willow said...

I don't remember these, but I do have copies of the green Streets and Roads readers my uncles had when I was growing up. Wonderful illustrations. And I also have a copy of Fun with Dick and Jane, the first grade reader I learned to read by. Heartwarming to have these familiar old books, isn't it?

Vicki Lane said...

Absolutely! They are almost like time travel. The tactile quality of old books and the smell -- sometimes even the food stains -- and the notes I or someone else may have written on the blank end pages
make old used books far more interesting to me than a pristine first edition ever could be. (Well, maybe a pristine First Folio could get my attention. . . )

Victoria said...

Vicki, those books sound wonderful. I don't have those, but I do have a lot of books from my childhood, many given to me by my parents. My parents were avid readers. One of my favorite things to do in the summer was to climb up to the top of "my" oak tree with a book and a snack. Happy memories...thanks for bringing them back to me!

Vicki Lane said...

My special place was under a big bush -- with the requisite snack.

Desta Elliott said...

I almost cried, but I am not the crying type.

I, too, remember Singing Wheels. I read it over and over--I believed every time that the mother was making a dress!

I found Singing Wheels on eBay and ordered it. I can't wait to read it again.

If I Were Going was like a trip on a magic carpet to me. Opening it, I felt, let all kinds of interesting things tumble out. I am a decided Anglophile, is this the reason? I am trying to find a copy of it.

Oh, yes. I went on to get an MA in History. Thanks Singing Wheels

Vicki Lane said...

Welcome,Desta! So glad to find another who remembers these fine little books!

Anonymous said...

I remember Singing Wheels and Engine Whistles. One of my teachers told me Hastings Mills was later renamed "Aurora" and the story was based upon fact. Anyone know where Hastings Mills was located?

Vicki Lane said...

Hi, Anonymous, I've always wondered where the real Hastings Mills was -- I thought I remembered it was Illinois or Indiana but your mention of Aurora sent me looking. I found this link

http://www.julies.net/mabel/clipping.htm

which was interesting but didn't name the state. So I Googled Aurora and Fox River ( as mentioned in the article and came up with Illinois. Ta Da!

Thanks for stopping by!

Kenny said...

I just wanted to give my thanks to you. For years I have been trying to remember the great book I read as a child. I tried countless times using google to find it.

Tom the Hunter
Came to Town
Riding on a Pony
Had two Turkey's
By His Side
Killed With One Shot Only.

I got Nothing. However luck on my side, I've gotten better and using google search and a few nights ago my search of...
-- spelling bee +remembered "a rat in separate" --
has brought your post as the second result. Your pictures you've shared threw me into a moment of silence as my victory and the memories flooded over me. I was lucky enough to win a copy of the book off e-bay and I as well will once again enjoy a piece of my childhood almost 25 years later!

I am very grateful for your help! Singing Wheels would have remained a distant memory for the rest of my life if it wasn't for the digital age providing us the internet and folks such as yourself sharing their memories. So do you see why I had to come back and give you my thanks?

Vicki Lane said...

Another SINGING WHEELS fan! It was the BEST book, wasn't it? I'm so happy I helped you find it!

brave girl said...

If I Were Going is so dear to my heart! The travels were magical to me as a third grader. In fact, tomorrow I am speaking at the memorial service for my third grade teacher, Mrs. Alspach, who was also a dear family friend. I am going to read a passage from If I Were Going. I have collected almost all of the Alice and Jerry books! Thank you for writing about them.

Robert Wayne said...

And all this time I thought I was the only Singing Wheels fan around!!! LOL I still have the book. It's somewhere in my old bedroom at my parents' house. It's impossible to forget about stories like Jim breaking the clock and then Shoemaker Dan finds a tinkerer to fix it just in time for Christmas. One of the best children's books ever written.

Vicki Lane said...

Hi, Robert,

Yes it is, indeed, one of the best children's books ever, combining so much of everyday life back then with really charming characters. Glad to meet another fan!

Anonymous said...

I tutor elementary children at a library, and I am always BORED with the books they are required to read. That set me thinking to my childhood and the wonderful series about Hastings Mills. A little Googling, and I found your site and all the names of the books. Thank you !! I'm not sure which book talks about the blue cloak the mother made, but that's the one I want. I may just request the whole series for my birthday! When I tell the kids that a certain book is my favorite, I find that they want to read it and get it back ASAP. Why did they ever get rid of these classics?

-Laurie in Indiana

Vicki Lane said...

Hey, Laurie, The blue cloak is in Spinning Wheels. Such a great book!

Roberta said...

I read this book and reread this book and then read it some more.

We were told of a lady that had either closed a bookstore or something had happened and she had all these books she wanted to get rid of. This was one of the many books my mom bought for me and my sisters.

Now my sister, second in age to me, has the book. I have asked her this question, but she is so busy with my nephew who has spina bifida, his two younger siblings, 4-H, teaching Sunday School, and 80-acre farm with livestock and no computer or internet at home, that she has never been able to find the time.

So, here is my question: In Singing Wheels is a mathematical equation that I told myself when I got older that I would figure out the answer. Would someone please send me this equation?

Many thanks!

Vicki Lane said...

Roberta - I think that the equation you're talking about is the following word problem - which it will take an equation to solve:

A man added three more sheep to those already in his barn. He then had seven times as many as he would have had if he had sold three instead of buying three. I demand to know how many sheep this man had in the beginning.

Good luck!

Sally said...

My first grade reader was "Alice and Jerry"...dates back to 1940.

Sounds like the same series, maybe!

Vicki Lane said...

Yes it is! The third and fourth grade readers, I think.

Robert Wayne said...

Hi Vicki,
I recently found my old copy of Singing Wheels in a closet at my mom's house. Here I am 51 years old now and I'm still touched by the story of Jim, Shoemaker Dan and the Christmas clock. Also, when I was in school my two best subjects were spelling and wiggling my ears (LOL), so I got a kick out of rereading about Sam, the blacksmith's son and his talent for the same two things. I'm just glad I never got the hickory switch for wiggling my ears in class when I was a kid...ha ha.

Anonymous said...

I recently bought Singing Wheels. I live in a small Mexican mountain village in the state of Puebla. Once in a while I am asked to teach English. They learn to read much faster than to speak it. So, I want to get the entire Alice and Jerry set so the most ambitious ones can advance as far as they want.

I just ordered Friendly Village and Singing Wheels a few weeks ago. My wife brought them back with her on last trip. I am re-reading it now. They had interesting books back in the 40's when I started that one room school house.

Here I am, 69, all excited reading a 4th grade reader. I wonder how many 4th grade kids today can read it.

Anonymous age 69 (my usual blog commment id.)

Vicki Lane said...

Hello, Anonymous age 69! Isn't it wonderful how many of us remember these books so fondly! Good for you for volunteering to teach -- I wish you all success!

Anonymous said...

I went to a two room Catholic schoolhouse in the early 1950's. Singing Wheels was just a book in the bookcase in the back of the room. We had catholic themed readers for textbooks. I read Singing Wheels and loved it. I was able to keep that copy for myself eventually. I was a good speller and never forgot about the rat in separate either. I have read this book a few times over in my adult life, I am 66 now. I went on ebay and bought 3 more copies, 2 in excellent condition, my original book was a little ragged. I guess I went a little nuts. I also bought Engine Whistles recently, I was surprised to see the continuation of Tom Hastings for a total of five Toms I believe. Dan in Wisconsin.

Vicki Lane said...

Hi Dan, I'll have to have a look for ENGINE WHISTLES -- you say there are five Tom Hastings? I'll hie me to eBay and have a look! such fun how many of us there are who loved these books!~Vicki

Anonymous said...

Vicki, The founder of Hastings Mills was Tom Hastings, but I could only find that he was called Pa in Singing Wheels. And there was Tom that rode in on the stage coach and was the main charachter in Singing Wheels in the early 1840's. Engine Whistles starts out in 1879 with a new young Tom Hastings the Third as stated on pages 29 and 30. Then in 1910 another young Tom Hastings called Pinkie is the charachter. And last in the 1940's another boy Tom Hastings flies in a commercial airplane. So the last one was Tom Hastings the fifth. I had a hard time remembering who the grandfathers they were talking about were which charachter. Dan

Vicki Lane said...

Wow! Thank you, Dan! I have to read/acquire these other books!

Vicki Lane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Yes, Dan is right. I read all 5 Tom's
and I still remember my delight when I figured out that they were all one family. Singing Wheels was my favourite and I'm sure contributed to my living so happily in a log cabin with no power or running water for 20 years. A wonderful series of books.

Rob.

Alana said...

Hello and greetings from New Zealand

I was very grateful to see your post of the Singing Wheels book and a scan of a few pages from the book. I've thought about it so much through my life.
I grew up in southern Illinois and one of our assignments to learn to write a proper letter was for the entire class to write to the Chamber of Commerce in Aurora, Illinois, to ask questions about the history of the town. Each of us received a very polite reply from them and I can only imagine in retrospect that our teacher had contacted the Chamber to be prepared for 30 handwritten letters from school kids. Or I hope she did!

Alana said...

Hello - I'd just written a message - did it go through?

Vicki Lane said...

Hello Alana!

My older posts have comment moderation -- otherwise I'd get too much spam.. I'm delighted you found this post -- you can see from the comments how many of us have fond memories...

Anonymous said...

Singing Wheels was one of my all time favorites (along with Boxcar Children). Had no idea so many others loved it. At age 69, I ,too, still remember the trick for spelling 'separate. And I also became a History major. As an adult I've often thought about going on a wagon train ride for a vacation adventure. Am now looking to buy a copy to read to my young grandchildren at our family reunion. Great memories.

Vicki Lane said...

Hello, Anonymous! So glad to welcome another Singing Wheels fan. Hope you find a copy!

Jacquelyn Davis said...

Hi Vicki...
I'm so glad I found your site, and I hope you or your followers might be able to help me out. My dad remembers a book he read in school (he can almost tell you the whole story, he remembers it vividly). He knows I do a lot of book trading and I'm an avid reader as he is - so he has asked me to help him find this book. The only problem is that he doesn't remember the name of the book. Here is some of the scenarios he has told me about: It's about a boy named Tom. He has a sister named Sally, and the mom and dad. Tom took a train from the east to Ohio. The family owned a sawmill called Hasting's Mill. They trapped wild hogs and put them in log pens to fatten up on corn to be butchered. I can't remember what my dad said, but I think he said Tom went to live with his grandparents on their farm in Ohio. If you, or anyone, can help me to find this book so I can give it to him as a special gift it would be much appreciated. He has been telling me about this book for years, and he is getting up in his years so I would love to get this book to him while he can still enjoy it. Keeping my fingers crossed that someone can help me find this treasure!

Jacquelyn Davis said...

Hi Vicki...
I'm so glad I found your site, and I hope you or your followers might be able to help me out. My dad remembers a book he read in school (he can almost tell you the whole story, he remembers it vividly). He knows I do a lot of book trading and I'm an avid reader as he is - so he has asked me to help him find this book. The only problem is that he doesn't remember the name of the book. Here is some of the scenarios he has told me about: It's about a boy named Tom. He has a sister named Sally, and the mom and dad. Tom took a train from the east to Ohio. The family owned a sawmill called Hasting's Mill. They trapped wild hogs and put them in log pens to fatten up on corn to be butchered. I can't remember what my dad said, but I think he said Tom went to live with his grandparents on their farm in Ohio. If you, or anyone, can help me to find this book so I can give it to him as a special gift it would be much appreciated. He has been telling me about this book for years, and he is getting up in his years so I would love to get this book to him while he can still enjoy it. Keeping my fingers crossed that someone can help me find this treasure!

Vicki Lane said...

Hi Jacquelyn,

I'm pretty sure that the book your father remembers is Singing Wheels. It was a grade school textbook (4th grade) and I expect that there are copies around on used book sites. As you can see from the comments, i's dear to many of us. Hope you find one!

Jean Baardsen said...

I think I can do the sheep problem. (A man added three more sheep to those already in his barn. He then had seven times as many as he would have had if he had sold three instead of buying three. I demand to know how many sheep this man had in the beginning.) The man had 4 sheep to start. He added 3 sheep, and that gave him 7 sheep. Had he sold 3 sheep instead, it would have been 4-3, leaving him with one sheep. And 7 times 1 is 7. I'm pretty sure that would be the only solution. No equation needed. :o)

B. Rogers, Living in Black Mountain said...

Hi Vicki: Strange to be reading comments from the old posting that are merged with today...but that might be a nice way to look at our lives these days, merging of the comments through the years. Nope, don't have a memory of the school books at all. My loss.

NCmountainwoman said...

Oh what memories you bring back to me. I loved Alice and Jerry and Jip. We never owned any of them since they were school books. You are lucky to have them.

mountainspring said...

I loved all the Alice and Jerry books!! Even though the children in town had the Dick and Jane books, I learned to read from the Alice and Jerry books at my little 4-room country school (grades 1-8). My mother taught me to read from the little red and then blue pre-primers before I started school and then happily there they were again in first grade. I have the second, third, and fourth readers The Friendly Village, Through the Green Gate, and Singing Wheels, as well as a set of large water color teaching prints from the pre-primers. Can you tell I loved them? Thanks for the wonderful reminder of lovely childhood memories!

Vicki Lane said...

Welcome, Mountain Spring! I'm sure I read those earlier ones -- now I'm going to have to hunt them down.

Jean -- I'm impressed. I'm one of those people whose brain freezes when faced with a math type problem.

Anonymous said...

I can tell Jacquelyn that it is definitely Singing Wheels by Mabel O'Donnell she is looking for. There are 4 on ebay for sale today. Singing Wheels and Engine Whistles tell the story of 5 generations of Tom Hastings.

Singing Wheels starts in about 1850 with Tom Hastings II, a boy of about 12 or so riding in a stagecoach from out east. He had been staying with his grandparents out there going to school. His father, Tom I, and his mother and brother Jim 7, and sister Sally 9, were pioneers moving out and establishing Hastings Mills about a little over a year previously in a covered wagon. Hastings Mills was located where Aurora, Illinois is today. Singing Wheels describes Tom the II's life that summer until the following spring. It is the more enjoyable book to read because it is more like a story. It tells of his gathering wood, hunting, school, and life in the rural, wild area of the country mid 19th century.

The book, Engine Whistles, starts out with Tom III in the summer of 1879. This book tells more of the progress of Hastings with a population of 12,000 as the town fathers develop water lines, gas lines, roads, gas lamps etc. It says Tom I is then the Mayor and Tom II is 40 years old and is the bank president. This part of the book takes you to the summer of 1880.

Engine Whistles then jumps ahead to 1910 with Tom IV. He has the nickname of "Pinkie". It says Tom I is deceased then. Tom II is 72 years old and is retired from the bank. Tom III is the chief engineer for the railroad. The author causes some confusion on page 235 where she says Tom II came in the stage coach almost 70 years ago. Then on page 252 she says Tom II is 72 years old. He would have been only 1 or 2 years old then. I think she meant to say it was almost 60 years ago when he came in the stagecoach.

Then Engine Whistles jumps ahead once again to 194?, I don't know why they used a question mark for the year. Tom V is riding in a plane from New York to Hastings. Hastings is now 100 years old with a population of 200,000.

I know that I know too much about these children's books , but they are great.

Dan in Wisconsin

Vicki Lane said...

Hey, Dan -- I love how excited many of us are about these books!