Ear­li­er this week, Craig Darch wrote about how he became inter­est­ed in writ­ing the Mel Rosen biog­ra­phy. He is the author of From Brook­lyn to the Olympics: The Hall of Fame Career of Auburn Uni­ver­si­ty Track Coach Mel Rosen  and has been blog­ging here all week for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s Vis­it­ing Scribe series.

I grad­u­at­ed from high school in 1967 and got a gift from my moth­er and father for the accom­plish­ment. It was Zal­man Shazar’s book, Morn­ing Stars, pub­lished by the Jew­ish Pub­li­ca­tion Soci­ety. Shaz­er, born in the Beloruss­ian town of Mir in 1889, was even­tu­al­ly elect­ed Israel’s third Pres­i­dent. I didn’t read Morn­ing Stars, how­ev­er. I just put it with my oth­er books. I think back then my per­son­al library had maybe twen­ty or thir­ty 30 books, most­ly sports and Jew­ish books. 

In 1982 I com­plet­ed a doc­tor­ate in spe­cial edu­ca­tion from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ore­gon. My wife Gabi, our son Eric, and I drove across the coun­try to my par­ents’ house in Wis­con­sin. Once there I picked up some of my belong­ings to bring to our rent­ed house in Auburn, Alaba­ma, includ­ing books that I stored in their base­ment. Among those books was the still unread Morn­ing Stars. Once I got to Auburn for my first uni­ver­si­ty teach­ing posi­tion, I put my books neat­ly on my book­shelf. And there they sat. 

One night I hap­pened to pick up Zalman’s book of rem­i­nis­cences about his child­hood in Steibtz and began read­ing them. It had been 15 years since my par­ents had giv­en me the book as a high school grad­u­a­tion gift. All the sto­ries were good, but one stood out: Father’s Library.” In this sto­ry Shaz­ar lov­ing­ly tells of his father’s books and how each spring he would help him take the books and put them in the yard for a dust­ing off and an air­ing. It is a won­der­ful sto­ry about how books played such an impor­tant role in his life.

When I was writ­ing From Brook­lyn to the Olympics: The Hall of Fame Career of Auburn Uni­ver­si­ty Track Coach Mel Rosen I start­ed my research by read­ing books from my per­son­al library. I have a two thou­sand Jew­ish book col­lec­tion. It is always a treat to use my library for research. I have often thought of Shazar’s sto­ry about his father’s library, and each time I use my library Shazar’s sto­ry comes to mind, and I think of how I devel­oped a love for books and reading. 

Like Shaz­ar, my inter­est in books came from watch­ing my father and moth­er read­ing Jew­ish books. I remem­ber my father read­ing Harold Ribalow’s The Jew in Amer­i­can Sports. In fact, it is my father’s copy that sits on a shelf in my library. The famous Jew­ish box­er Bar­ney Ross wrote the pref­ace to the book. Anoth­er of my father’s books that can be found in my library is Robert Slater’s com­pre­hen­sive vol­ume, Great Jews in Sports. This book was a great help to me writ­ing the Rosen biog­ra­phy as well and con­tin­ues to sit on a shelf in my library. The for­ward to this vol­ume was writ­ten by for­mer Boston Celtics bas­ket­ball coach Red Auer­bach. Both of these clas­sics are must-read­ing for any­one inter­est­ed in Jews and sports.

I also remem­ber see­ing both my moth­er and father read­ing Irv­ing Howe’s book, World of Our Fathers. They shared the vol­ume. One night it would be my father with the vol­ume, and the next night the book would be in the hands of my moth­er. The image of them shar­ing the book has nev­er fad­ed from my usu­al­ly porous mem­o­ry. Their book also sits on a shelf in my library. When I took it from its place to use as a resource for writ­ing the Rosen biog­ra­phy, I opened the cov­er of the book and imme­di­ate­ly noticed an inscrip­tion I had not seen before. In my mother’s beau­ti­ful hand­writ­ing the sim­ple inscrip­tion read: Dorothy and Will.” Yes that is how I always think of them, their love of books and the love they shared; Dorothy and Will. 

Craig Darch is the Humana-Sher­man-Ger­many Dis­tin­guished Pro­fes­sor of Spe­cial Edu­ca­tion at Auburn University.

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