Like most everyone else, I am certainly happy about the Neosho-Newton County Library's recent renovation and 9,500 square feet expansion. I see only positives for the community. A public library enhances the quality of life of a place. So many of us call Neosho and Newton County home for one reason or another. HOME. Sounds nice, doesn't it?

Like most everyone else, I am certainly happy about the Neosho-Newton County Library's recent renovation and 9,500 square feet expansion. I see only positives for the community. A public library enhances the quality of life of a place. So many of us call Neosho and Newton County home for one reason or another. HOME. Sounds nice, doesn't it?
For most of my childhood the county library was located at the southeast corner of Jefferson and McKinney Street, in the same yellow brick building that is now a church, which is also what it was before it became the public library in 1967. Prior to that, since 1953, the library was located in the basement of the Newton County Health Department Building, now the Neosho Police Station, at the corner of College and McCord Streets. Better remembered, perhaps, a book mobile also traveled across the county, making stops in all the communities.
But that was mostly before my time. Although the book mobile technically ran until 1987, I never visited or even saw it, to my recollection. That may have been due to the fact I was raised in McDonald County, not Newton County, so I probably wouldn't have had occasion to see the book mobile, unless it served McDonald County as well. In any case, I must have missed it. The Neosho-Newton County Library I remember was the 1967 location, at Jefferson and McKinney.
I well remember the invigorating musty smell of that old place. It smelled of books (go figure) and wood, and age – age of the kind that seeps with character and sense of longstanding. It was the smell that gives one a certain sense of ease and tranquility and belonging, knowing that there was somewhere one could immediately find refuge from a fast paced world that seemed to always be changing for better or for worse. It was a haven from the outside world. Even as a kid I felt that, if I didn't really understand it at the time. I love the current library, but the same feelings have never been replicated there for me, which may have more to do with a sense of personal nostalgia about my own childhood than anything else.
We always visited the children's department first, which was located on the first floor and had a McKinney Street entrance. At the time there were green shrubs planted in front, but those are gone now. After spending maybe an hour there reading and selecting books (I must have checked out a certain children's Civil War soldier's life book a dozen times and still remember the smell of the pages), we would go up the narrow, winding, creaking, wooden staircase to the main adult section upstairs to select some books for my dad, who also had a passionate interest in the War Between the States, as well as the Vietnam War. It was that main section upstairs that held most of the smell I described before. The main part of the library had a Jefferson Street entrance, up a flight of concrete steps, but we always used the interior wooden staircase from the children's section in the basement.
Usually, in the late 1980s anyhow, we would afterward visit Granny's ice cream shop down the street at the northeast corner of Jefferson and Main Streets, which was owned by Dave Watson. As I learned many years later, from Mr. Watson, Granny's only served Haagen-Dazs ice cream. I would typically get a strawberry ice cream cone, my sister vanilla, and my mom pistachio, which I thought looked disgusting because it was green. My brother wasn't born yet. Granny's only lasted a few years, as I later found out, and is long gone now, though the building is still there.
I don't recall the last time I visited that old 1967 library at Jefferson and McKinney, but it moved to its present location, at the former Jeffers Motor Company building at Jefferson and Spring, in 1995. I turned 13 that same year. Several years ago the pastor of the present church that is located at the old library of my adolescence let me go inside and take a look around. Amazingly, though the books were gone, the smell that I remember so well still faintly lingered, like the last wisps from an extinguished fire. I was instantly transported back to my childhood, and simpler times. And let me tell you, that is a darn good feeling. I would have remained there if I only could. If I have a happy place in my mind, the old library is definitely one of them. Today I take my two young boys to the “new” library, which has just been so magnificently remodeled. I earnestly hope that one day they will think back on these times and experience the same warm feelings I do when I allow myself to indulge in childhood nostalgia.










Wes Franklin writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.