Friday, June 2, 2023

Cruising at the Bookmobile

Rock Island, July 1969

Other kids spent the summer waiting anxiously for the ice cream truck.  I spent the summer waiting anxiously for the bookmobile.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, there were hundreds of bookmobiles, vans carrying an assortment of books for those underprivileged readers who couldn't get to the public library.  Such as kids.

 You could check out up to 3 books at a time, and keep them for two weeks. If you read 10 during the summer, you got a prize.

I don't remember any of the prizes, but I remember the books.  Some of my top childhood favorites came from the bookmobile, like  My Village Books of Sonia and Tim Gidal,  The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom PlanetTom Sawyer, and the boys' adventure books of Robert Louis Stevenson.

The bookmobile pulled into the parking lot of Denkmann Elementary School every Tuesday morning at about 10:00 am. Other neighborhood bookworms had to wait on the blacktop.  I could hear it coming from inside the house, and then run over.

But soon I discovered a reason to wait with the others: the bookmobile was a good place for cruising.

I met a lot of cute guys while cruising at the bookmobile. Like Greg, the Boy Vampire who gave me my first kiss.  Joel, the curly-haired soccer player who came with me to A Little Bit O'Heaven.

And Robbie, a dark-haired boy wearing a red muscle shirt.

I was only about 10 years old, but I already knew the rules of gay cruising:

1. Select a venue with mostly guys.  Check.  The early birds were usually boys; girls came later.

2. Cruise early. Check. The bookmobile came in the morning.

3. Cruise with a buddy.  No, I went by myself.

4. Do not drink while cruising.  Check. I hadn't had any soda or candy all day, in case a cute boy invited me to Dewey's Candy Store.

5. Gather information. Check.  Robbie was waiting to check out a book on caves, because he was going to Mammoth Caves in Kentucky with his parents later that summer.  He was a Cute Young Thing, a year younger than me.  He liked Star Trek, and his favorite subject was math.

6. Don't discuss sizes or acts.  Nope.  I definitely asked about his size: "You have really big muscles.  How strong are you?"

7. Word the invitation carefully.  If you invite him to do something specific in the future, it's a romance. Something vague in the future, it's a friendship.  Something vague right now, it's a hookup.

After we checked out our books, I asked, "Wanna play?"


8. Invite him to your place.  Check.

9. Take your own cars.  Well, we were walking.

10. Make sure someone knows where you are. Check. My Mom was upstairs.

11. Clean your house in advance.  Mom always had the house clean.

12. Hide your valuables.  I was a kid.  I didn't have any valuables.

13. Bring condoms.  Um...I was a kid.  We sat on my bed to look at our books, then we played space explorers in the back yard. I did get to feel his biceps.

14. Don't kick him out afterwards.  Check. Robbie stayed for lunch.  Mom made us hot dogs and potato chips.

15. Don't pretend you want a relationship.  Check. I didn't give him my phone number.

I saw him at the bookmobile a few times after that.  We talked politely, but I didn't ask him over again.

Not a friendship.  Not a relationship.  Just play.


  1. When I was a kid, if you read so many pages, you'd get a free personal pan pizza. Of course, in those days, Pizza Hut had an all-pizza (and breadsticks) buffet, so the free pizza was mostly to get kids in the door.

  2. …was mostly to get kids PARENTS in the door…



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