Armoral Tuttle was a dear friend of mine from the 30s on. I last saw her, when she was 92, in 1994. I had known her entire family all my life. One of her sons married a classmate of mine. Her husband owned the local blacksmith shop, where I spent lots of time in my early years. I knew Armoral from her being the town librarian in a 400 sq ft tiny library – before I left home 1951. The library was open only for a few hours Tues and Thurs afternoons. My mom was an avid reader and I often went with her to the library.
Somehow, beginning in 2nd grade, I became a speed reader. We all begin reading by learning the alphabet, then putting letters together to learn small words and then bigger words. Doesn’t matter how big the word – so it can be cat or supercalifragilisticextraallodocious – but for some inexplicable reason we stop at single words. It takes little effort to learn an entire line.
Instead of stopping at single words, I simply put words together just as we put letters together. So I could read an entire sentence or even a paragraph as if it were one word. I was never tested, nor had any interest in being tested, for speed, but an average size novel took 20-40 minutes. They average ~70,000 words. A very large or complicated book like the book “Hawaii” took under an hour. This was with very high retention. I understand the world speed record is 3,000/min, but I have no idea how I compare. Winston Churchill could do 2500.
When I was eight, I went to Ms Tuttle, to the library. I told her I wanted to check out books. She said I’d have to wait until I was 16 when I would be eligible for a library card. But, I was so intent and persuasive (and she knew my mom was very avid reader) that she said she would try me on one book. If I read it inside a month, then she would re-consider. She picked out “Swiss Family Robinson” (SFR) a fairly large book – but suited to an eight year old. This book is priceless to me – there are a number of versions – some dumbed way down now for children. The one I read was a long version, and had a small summary at each chapter heading – so Ms Tuttle could check me on it and how well I had read the book. That was on a Tues, the following Tues I took the book back telling her I had read the whole book. She was simply blown away by this. She checked the paragraph summaries asking me questions – I answered them all. That was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.
She gave me the card. She called my teachers and got me excused from school in order to come to the library to check out books because she would normally be closed when school let out. And, she eventually let me check out as many at a time as I wanted (the normal limit was two). I would usually get thirteen – which was the number I could hold under one arm supported by my thigh as I rode my bike. She would always check my library number which she would stamp on the inside cover when checking out a books. Some favorites like SFR I read over 13 times thru the years. She would comment when checking it in or out, “well you are up to 13 on this one” with a big smile. Every librarian has a special place in their heart for avid readers! As you can expect school, including grad school, was simply a snap!
The NP library was tiny – it took no time at all for me to read everything she had. I read every single book in it excepting “Mein Kampf” since it was WWII at the time. I read the dictionary even – literally dozens of times. She even let me go into the basement/cellar where old books coming apart, or with lost sections, were kept. I read all those, plus the high school library, the drugstore traveling library, neighboring town libraries. Mom loved historical novels and love stories – she would checkout a number weekly – I read those too. In high school I probably averaged five/day – my teachers (contrary to usual custom) would let me read in class – after all the classwork was a breeze — but it never took an entire class to read any book. There is no better way to impress a literature teacher than to demonstrate that you have read every classic! At noon I would walk downtown to the Drake drugstore that had a large paperback selection. While standing at that collection I would read one – but felt it only fair to buy another. From this I had a huge collection of paperbacks, took a number of boxes to hold them. When I left for the military I gave them all to Armoral, who filled a whole bookcase in the library, – but being paperbacks (25 cents then) they would only last thru several readers. I’m sure that they must have been a hassle for her, more trouble than they were worth. However, she encouraged me.
As you can see, Armoral Tuttle was one of my most favorite people. I told her that should I write the book I intended on New Plymouth, that I would dedicate it to her. So all the contributions I make with these memories are hereby dedicated to her!
When I last saw Armoral she was 92. A beautiful lady with totally white hair — that majestic looking white that we sometimes see. Age never was hard on her, until after I saw her. She was active in taking care of the elderly — there being a big HUD village plan for New Plymouth’s ancient built over our old fairgrounds. Individual apts, 4 plex style, served by a centralized nursing staff. Apparently they had community lunches and could bring guests, so Armoral took me as her guest, and I met some of the ancient New Plymouth settlers from down along the Payette River — all in their 80s/90s so probably no longer amongst us now.