The Books Find Me!

Last weekend was spent working at the Friends of the Carbondale Public Library Book Sale. Through our book sales, the “largest in southern Illinois,” according to our claims, we are able to help the Library fund projects and events. Our stock of books depends, as I like to say, on “who moves, retires, or dies.”

As I was straightening up the books, I came across this student directory from Tulane University, circa 1958-59.

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Never mind that someone has been carting this around and giving it room in their home since then, and never mind that none of the phone numbers will connect you to the person who had the number in 1958, or that few of the businesses which advertised are still there (my educated guess) – just look at the back cover of this booklet! What a surprise to see the words “Pi Beta Phi”!


My anthropologist friend and I have headed the sorting/logistics part of the book sale for more than a decade. For years, she had been nattering about alphabetizing the books. I kept telling her it was too overwhelming to even contemplate. One day I told her that if she felt strongly about it, she should just do it. And she must have known that she had practically worn me down since she had already loosely alphabetized the “Mystery Room.” The patrons who loved mysteries thought the concept was wonderful and we’ve been putting all “A” authors together, all “B” authors together, etc. ever since. We also do the same to the fiction section and we loosely alphabetize the biographies by subject. The latter is my job because bio is one of my favorite subjects. I came across this book as I was doing this job. I shirked my responsibilities and started to read it on the spot. After a chapter, I knew I had to purchase it, because I needed to get back to work.

photo 2 (8)Joyce Carol Oates is also an alumna of Syracuse University. She was initiated into the Phi Mu chapter. When she was in the chapter, the Phi Mu house was next to the Pi Phi house on Walnut Place. When I was there, the house next door to Pi Phi was home to the Beta Theta Pi chapter. Another member of the Pi Phi chapter wrote this in a facebook post, “one of the Beta brothers had a mother who had been a Phi Mu at SU in the ’60s and she was so horrified at the state of the house when she saw it they said she almost cried!”

Later that day, I had to drop some items off at the Church Women United Thrift Shop. The shop does wonderful things for the community and my husband is on the Board (I keep asking him what exactly he doesn’t understand about the “church women” part of the name, but he isn’t the only male on the board and it does help to have some men who can fix things around to help with the minor repairs and maintenance). In dropping off the items, I saw this book and I knew I had to buy 1 (11)

Bill Cook and his family restored the West Baden Springs Hotel (see and the Indiana Landmarks Center, where the Centennial of the Indianapolis Alumnae Panhellenic was celebrated a few weeks ago ( I knew that this book hadn’t ever come through the library book sale or I would have purchased it then for a third of the $2.99 cost. Bill Cook was a Beta Theta Pi at Northwestern; his wife Gayle was an initiate of the Alpha Omicron Pi chapter at Indiana University.

 © Fran Becque,, 2014. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest

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