Drivers recall experiences

Published 10:55 am Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Staff Writer

As any storybook goes — some with a happy ending, some not so lucky — the “golden girls” of the Beaufort-Hyde-Martin Regional Library Bookmobile remember times shared together in a very special place while helping very special people.
During an interview, they shared laughs about their journeys to and from houses on the far side of Hyde County, the potholes they’ve dodged and the ditches and curbs they didn’t dodge.
“All of it,” Judy Seacrest, a Bookmobile driver, said, “was worth it.”
The women talked about one another’s scary driving, holding on for dear life. The also talked about curb checks that seemed to rattle the books off the shelves in the Bookmobile as the women would occasionally take a wrong turn or drive past houses from “superb” directions such as: “Take a left at the cornfield” — after that field had been harvested.
“We’ve taken out quite a few mailboxes, flowerbeds, all of the lights on the top (of the bus),” Carolyn Burke, Bookmobile coordinator, said as she shared some memories, too.
“And I was the one who always took the Bookmobile in for maintenance, and they (mechanics) always thought I was the one driving it,” she said with a laugh. “And I was just the one bringing it to them. They would say, ‘What in the world? All the lights are gone. Where in the world have you been driving this thing?’ And I would say, ‘I have six ladies who take care of this.’”
“From forgetting to retract the steps and hitting curbs and so much more, we have definitely had some adventures through the years,” she said.
Burke said the women driving the Bookmobile traveled more than 600,000 miles over the years, hitting a curb or two or three or four or more.
The Bookmobile and its women were once featured in Southern Living magazine,
Burke said the Bookmobile’s drivers and passengers have enjoyed the rides and delivering books to the people of the tri-county area. the library serves.
“We do it for them,” she said. “We do it for our patrons.”
According to Seacrest, the Bookmobile’s patrons have called in, voicing their concerns about the Bookmobile not circulating through the counties anymore. A lack of funding is causing the library to drop its Bookmobile service.
“We probably have about 13 patrons that absolutely need us,” Seacrest said. “They get lots of books. My last patron on Friday said they would pay us to come to their house to deliver books. That’s just how much they read and need our services.”
Some of the Bookmobile’s patrons are shut-ins, elderly, youths, nursing-home clients and so forth. Seacrest said the majority of the people she delivers books to are surprised the Bookmobile will no longer be making its rounds. Some patrons have long relied on the Bookmobile because it has been making its stops on a regular basis for about 70 years.
“It is the best job I’ve ever had,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to see the looks on their faces when they receive a book.”
The women they are putting together a proposal to obtain funding for the Bookmobile so they can continue delivering books to patrons.
“A lot of the calls we receive are ‘thank-you’ calls,” Burke said. “They are so happy we come by to deliver books. But we have also received some calls from patrons who are also sad that the program has ended.”
Janice Webb, a Bookmobile team member from Martin County , said it’s all about getting to know the patrons and learning about them and what they like to read.
“That way, we can recommend books to them,” she said. “And they are surprised we take the time to do that. We have some of the best patrons around.”
Burke said, “And when one of them passes away, it really is like losing a family member. It’s tough.”
One patron the women remember fondly is a woman who did not know how to read until they started delivering books to her.
“And now she won’t get her books because she can’t drive,” Seacrest said.
Serving all of Beaufort, Hyde and Martin counties, the Bookmobile staffers said they will definitely miss seeing their patrons every month.
“They’re the reason we do this,” Lois Brooks said.
A sign in the Bookmobile reads, “No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting!”
The Bookmobile drivers are Sophia Jarvis and Lois Brooks (for Hyde County,) Janice Webb and Mary Ayers (for Martin County,) Llewellen Adams and Judy Seacrest (for Beaufort County) and, occasionally, Sydney Peaks (for Martin County).