Carmen of the Gold Coast, by Chris Culp
Updated: May 7
Children's librarian Miss Chris Culp reminiscences about the love of reading instilled in her by her father. This post is part of 805’s “My Home Library” blog series that features posts by writers and artists enjoying their home libraries during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since 805 is published by the Manatee County Public Library System, and since most libraries have closed due to the pandemic, we hope this blog series will help people show off their home libraries, find comfort in books, and feel a connection to the library during this difficult time.
As with many fellow librarians, I have a wonderful collection of antique books, some gathered from flea market finds or book sales. But the most coveted ones are from my childhood. Each book holds glowing memories, like being curled up in my grandpa’s leather chair immersed in a book from his ample book shelves, or my Dad taking me to the library bookmobile, which came to our fire station parking lot each week, so I could pick out my treasures. Those were my some of my favorite childhood days.
Carmen of the Gold Coast holds one of my best memories. I was very sick with the mumps when I was a child. My dad came every evening before bedtime to read me a chapter or two from this book. It forged a special bond between us and began my passion for reading and love of books.
This book by Madeline Brande was published in 1935. Mine is an original edition. She published a series of books based on childhood adventures set in different countries. It is the story of a girl named Carmen whose father lost his job and the family had to move from California to Seattle, WA to start a new life. They would now be living with a great aunt, Tia who Carmen hardly knows. She feels her life is ruined, as young girls often do when being asked to leave the secure world they know. Her father gives her a book that Aunt Tia kept as a journal of her journey as a young girl, who also had to leave a beloved ranch to start a new life and face a hard journey north. The chapters alternate between the story of Carmen of today and the journey of her aunt and namesake, Carmencita from 1850.
I don’t know if it was the story or the fact that my father took the time to read it with me every night, but it remains one of my dearest books. Now my dad, who has always been my mentor, teacher and life’s compass, is lost to me in a world of Alzheimer’s disease. He has no interest in the things he once held dear, such as reading, the arts, fine wines, and movies. He can still pick out the rare old tune on the piano and still smiles when he sees me. And now I read to him.
Christine Culp is going on her 11th year with Manatee County Libraries. Her passion is working with youth, developing programs, inspiring imagination, and instilling a love of reading. She has worn many hats on her journey to librarianship, including a designer for Hallmark Cards, a free lance illustrator and sculptor, an art teacher, a storyteller, and a mom.
Florida is her third home base, having been raised in Pittsburgh, Pa., then working and raising a family in Kansas City. Both spots are still dear to her heart. "Mr. Rogers was a big inspiration to me growing up. If I can bring smiles to the face of a child, I have done my best."