Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dame Mary Gilmore and Book Week 1947

Illustration for "Dogs" by YLLA. 
Literary legend Dame Mary Gilmore visited Wagga Wagga for book week in 1947. She was the Celebrity guest at many of the events she attended during the week long celebration, including such diverse entertainments as a civic reception, opening a flower show, guest spots on the local radio, listening to recitations from the Shakespeare Club, and visiting schools (including her old school at Brucedale).
Dame Mary visited the Wagga Free Library on Tuesday 21 October 1947, at 10.30am. Partaking in a morning tea, she commented that the library had a "harmoniously dignified appearance" , that "the books are well arranged, and there is a good selection of reading."
Book week was a big community event in the 1940s and 1950s. Competitions included book review essays, poetry, dolls in character costumes, illustrations for nursery rhymes, and bookmarks. Dame Mary distributed the prizes at a gala event held at the Plaza theatre, also attended by the Mayoress, Mrs Barrand, and the City Librarian Miss Jean Hay.
Illustration for "Golden Path Adventure" by Mary Gervase.
All these events and their significance show how valued books and reading were within the community. Dame Mary's presence added importance and literary glamour to the week long festival in a very Australian way- though interestingly most of the essays written by Wagga school children were reviews of English and American books. It was a fun and exciting way of involving the whole community in a celebration of what is really a solitary pursuit, and would have been a welcome diversion so soon after the end of the second world war.
Book Week is still celebrated and this week the Wagga City Library has posters from previous book weeks on display downstairs near the large print. These posters from the fifties and sixties are works of art - come in and relive your childhood love of reading and books !

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