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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Hardy Boys

Today's foray into nostalgia takes me back to my early days of reading. I've been a big reader ever since I can remember--my mother taught me to read before I went to kindergarten--but perhaps my favorite books to read in those days of prepubescence were The Hardy Boys books.

The series, about a pair of sleuthing teenage brothers, Frank and Joe Hardy, was created by Edward Stratemeyer, who was a book packager. Along with Nancy Drew, The Bobbsey Twins, and Tom Swift, these books were written by a team of ghostwriters, but the Hardy Boys were all attributed to Franklin W. Dixon, who I admired very much when I was about nine years old. I didn't know then that he didn't exist.

From about seven to twelve I loved these books. Of the forty or so books in the first series (I see there are dozens more now) I probably had about a dozen. I vividly remember the cerulean covers, and the list of books on the back, and how I wanted to collect them all. Receiving one as a gift (for I had no money of my own to buy them) was a special day, and I would almost caress the book before reading it, usually in one sitting. The books in those days were hardcovers, and a perfect size. Everything about them was pleasing to the eye.

The stories were full of daring-do, with some violence but I don't think anyone was murdered, but I might be remembering wrong. Mostly they had to with crimes like smuggling (but not drugs). The books were first written back in the 20s, but the ones I read were extensively rewritten to update them, removing offense stereotypes. Still, they weren't exactly brimming with contemporary references. Cars were called jalopies and the boys liked nothing better than apple sauce.

I distinctly remember the first Hardy Boys book I read. It was the second in the series, called The House on the Cliff. I had received it as a gift, and the first time I tried to read it it was still a little beyond my ability. But when I was seven I broke my leg, and I couldn't do much else but read. I tried it again and was immediately hooked. I remember the story had something to do with the boys' father, detective Fenton Hardy, being kidnapped, and that I was so perilized with fright over the whole situation I could hardly read much more. But I did, and it was worth it!

My copies are long gone--I have no idea what became of them. About twenty-five years ago I indulged in a little nostalgia and checked out the first book, The Tower Treasure, from the local library. It certainly didn't enthrall me the way it did the first time I read it--I was on to books like Portnoy's Complaint and Catch-22--but I found it endearing, and I hope that kids still read books like this. I know kids today are far more grown up than I was at the same age, but it's nice to think they still have room for innocent things like the Hardy Boys.

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