View from the Carnegie On our way to school
This is the ninth of a multipart series on the Carnegie Library. Note: Lincoln’s Carnegie Library is currently closed, due to budget cuts in the city of Lincoln’s General Fund.
The Carnegie’s windows face all directions. Up the streets, down the streets, up and down the alleys.
For thousands upon thousands of mornings, the Carnegie windows reflected parades of neighborhood kids as we meandered down streets and alleys on our way to school.
From the height of its tall arched windows, it had a clear view of us as we crossed streets and made our way along the sidewalks and alleys.
Stalwart and friendly and true, it seemed as if the Carnegie watched with approval as I passed the library every morning and afternoon for my first eight years of schooling.
As we walked toward school, we liked to balance on the molded cement borders that lined the raised lawns of both the Carnegie and Civic Auditorium.
We picked the puzzle-like pieces of bark from the shady sidewalk sycamores. Certain rocks bordering the curbs had slits in them where clear crystals were exposed.
In spring, with the profusion of front-yard flowers, we might pick a blossom or two for our teachers, making sure the gap made by flower theft would be undetectable.
Closer to school, we passed the house of Alfred Briggs, the Irishman who would sing “Danny Boy” at the drop of a hat.
Once in a while, we took the alley detour. It was our ultimate walk-to-school experience. The Carnegie probably watched us with a frown of concern when we disappeared down the alley past the Veteran’s Hall. After we passed the hall, the alley trip became unpredictable. We were filled with a jumble of fright and excitement.
We were about to walk by the jail.
Lincoln’s city jail squatted square on the alley just past the Veteran’s Hall. The jail still sits there today, a medieval cement cube with an iron door and various high slits to let air in.
We were always quiet as we passed the jail, and almost always, the jail was quiet, too. But once in a while, once in a great while, our soft chatter was heard by a prisoner in solitary confinement.
Suddenly, the quiet morning would erupt in a barrage of shouted curses and blasphemies and words so unfamiliar to us that they almost sounded like a foreign language. The iron door rattled.
Swear words spewed out of the ventilation slits. We would either run, or stand frozen, clinging to each other in fascination and fear.
Other times, voices would call out to us. Voices that cried and begged forgiveness. Voices that pleaded for release. Voices that begged for a response, begged for any kind of communication.
But we never answered.
After school, we headed back toward our homes, down past the Carnegie magnolias, on down F Street with its sycamore trees, down the Carnegie alley, down E Street with its rows of eucalyptus trees.
The Carnegie in mid-afternoon, often looked a little sleepy. The librarian would lower the blinds against the angling sunlight, the arched windows looking as though the library was taking a short nap.
Then, in the early evening, up would go the blinds. Lights would shine out through the neighborhood.
By ones and twos, we would wander back to the Carnegie and settle in for the adventures of our endless searches for something interesting, something new, something familiar, something scary, something puzzling, something funny.
Once again, books in hand, we would head back home, ready for bed, ready to read. We were so secure that we didn’t give a thought to what the next day would bring.
But down the alley, what was happening in the jail? What would the next day bring?
In all the years we passed the jail, we never saw a single inmate. We never saw the inside.
We never went there at night so I don’t even know if there was a light in the jail.
I hope so.
It was just a few steps from the Carnegie. I wonder if they had something to read. I hope so.
At the Twelve Bridges Library
Free Mother Goose on the Loose: 10:30 or 11:30 a.m. Thursdays for kids
Free story time: 3:30 p.m. every Wednesday for kids
Events are sponsored by Friends of the Lincoln Library. The Twelve Bridges Library is at 485 Twelve Bridges Drive.
This column is part of a Friends of the Lincoln Library series. To reach the nonprofit Friends, write to Box 1177, Lincoln CA 95648, contact 434-2404, or friendsofthelincolncalibrary.org. Jane Tahti is the Friends of the Lincoln Library secretary.