Still booked as best friends decades later

Burt's Eye View

I ran into some old friends recently — Frank and Joe Hardy, Chet Morton and Aunt Gertrude.

They hadn’t changed a bit. Oh, a bit of dust laced the bindings and the pages seemed a tad yellow around the edges, but the Hardy Boys jumped off the action-packed pages just like they did when I met them nearly 50 years ago.

I, on the other hand, am a foot or two larger these days. I’m also taller. Hair has sprouted off my chin and turned snowy white. I’ve also developed lines and wrinkles, creaks and groans, huffs and puffs, and a bit of dust around the bindings and a tad of yellow around the edges.

The Hardys don’t seem to mind.

The reunion came about when Mom and Dad decided to downsize.

“You kids are going to have to move out,” Mom said.

“We did decades ago,” I said. “I left in 1985.”

“You forgot a few things.”

She and Dad presented the four of us kids with boxes of prized possessions that we couldn’t live without — but somehow had been for a good 30 years.

I peeled back the flaps on a box marked “Burton’s Books,” and there they were: 15 Hardy Boys detective novels; four basketball tales; a couple Jules Verne adventures; a couple of books based on TV Westerns; and an exciting new book called “The Moon Explorers,” which wasn’t science fiction because — and this was pretty big stuff — man had actually landed on the moon! Wow!

I thought I’d hauled all my shelves of books with me when I moved out. Somehow, I had missed these.

I sorted through the books. Brothers Hoss and Little Joe pestered each other like crazy in the 1966 based-on-TV book “Bonanza: Killer Lion.” Billy Carson dazzled everyone as the skilled point guard and the talented editor at Kerwin High School in “Carson’s Fast Break,” published in 1969 by I.S. Young. Jeff Bates, a 6-foot-2 junior, struggled to make the Bedford High School team in “Basket Fever,” published in 1970 by Robert Sidney Bowen.

But the prize of the box was “A Figure in Hiding,” No. 16 in the The Hardy Boys series. My little brother Dan got it for me in Christmas 1969 because he thought Frank Hardy on the cover looked just like me: handsome, intelligent, athletic and brave.

Well, OK, those weren’t the things he actually said about me. I know he would have if he had thought about it.

I read the book and was hooked. I raided the basement of the old Carnegie Public Library in Conneaut for every Hardy Boys book they had in the place. I used my allowance to buy my own copies. Many of the books in the box still had price tags pasted to them, marked down to $1 at Nichols Department Store.

I had a new career goal — to become a basketball-playing boy detective who maybe occasionally took on killer lions in the Old West. I even found a copy of “The Hardy Boys’ Detective Handbook.” It would change everything. I was going to be a detective!

Except the handbook ended up getting left behind with Mom and Dad when I moved out to become a newspaper guy who also writes books. It’s OK. Maybe someday another little boy who’s almost 60 years old will open up his own box and find books I wrote in the stack of memories, a bit dusty and a tad yellow, but still exciting.

— Read with Cole at burtseyeview@tribtoday.com or on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.

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