Thursday, July 05, 2007

Nancy Revisited

I've been reading a book on the history of the Nancy Drew mystery series. It has dredged up memories from a long, long time ago. I'm not sure when I read my first Nancy Drew book, but I seem to remember that it was when we lived in Victoria. So I would have been 9 years old and in the third grade. I have dim memories of visiting the public library in Victoria and for some reason when I think of that library I also think of Nancy Drew. I can also recall that the summer before our move to Smiley I was in possession of a teen-aged fashion doll and a Ken doll and had renamed them Nancy Drew and Ned Nickerson, which means I must have read a good number of them by then.

I know for sure that I was reading them avidly in Smiley. The tiny Smiley library had a surprisingly well-stocked children's section and I'm betting they had every Nancy Drew book then available in both the original blue covers with the orange silhouette of Nancy on the cover and in the "newer" blue tweed editions. I probably checked out every one of them more than once.

In the 1960s, the books were reissued with picture covers and the familiar yellow spines. The first Nancy Drew I personally owned was The Mystery of the Brass Bound Trunk, given to me for a birthday present. One Christmas I added three of the yellow bindings to my personal library - The Secret of the Wooden Lady, The Moonstone Castle Mystery, and The Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes. That last one involved genealogy, as I recall, and I've always had a fondness for moonstones that can be traced directly back to Moonstone Castle. Though I wanted to own more of the series, money was tight in those days and I was quickly outgrowing them. So my collection sat at 4 volumes for many years.

At some point, and I have no memory of the occasion, I picked up about a dozen volumes at either a flea market or antique store for $2 per book. An impulse buy that got packed away in a box. But I had the satisfaction of knowing they were there. I still didn't own a copy of my very favorite Nancy Drew, The Secret in the Old Attic. That was remedied years later when I located a copy on EBAY. It's the only one of the bunch that sits on my active bookcase today.

I never forgot my love of Nancy Drew and there's a lot of folks out there like me. Over the years I've purchased various books written about the Nancy Drew phenomenon. It's one of those that I'm enjoying this week. The story of Edward Stratemeyer and his daughter Harriett, who together created and breathed life into not only Nancy Drew, but the Bobbsey Twins, the Happy Hollisters, the Dana Girls, the Hardy Boys, and many other series, is a fascinating one. Nancy Drew was the star of the syndicate, but the others made piles and piles of money for the family, too.

I'm one of the old-timers who thinks the series ended at book #56, but a more modern Nancy emerged at that point, and new books continue to be published. To me, Nancy Drew will always be the titian-haired sleuth who drove around River Heights in her little blue roadster. How I wished I could be her.

The EBAY collectible market is strong for all things relating to Nancy Drew and there are numerous websites devoted to analyzing her appeal and documenting the stories. One of the best can be found here.

Today's generation has Harry Potter. Ours had Nancy Drew.


P.S. My next favorite youth series was Trixie Belden. We'll remember her another day.

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