Applause burst out on the illustrious second bus as we reached Mankato and started to see treasured sights in the distance (the train station – location of many goodbyes and much fudge, the Presbyterian Church where Betsy went to Christian Endeavor – which made me wonder for the first time if a 1910 mother would have let Catholic me join that group – but how else to socialize with cute boys?).
I was pleased for formally meet Sara Collins,
brilliant archeologist from Hawaii, for the first time. She was sitting behind me with Susie Welsh,
equally brilliant educator from Milwaukee.
|Sara and Susie|
The buses brought us up Centre Street, past Maud’s birthplace, to the two iconic houses – Betsy’s home and Tacy’s home at the top of what is known in the books as Hill Street. For those who don’t know, Lois Lenski grew up in the Midwest like Maud and also wound up living in the NYC area. When she was commissioned to illustrate the first four books, she visited Mankato and really got the lay of the land and the interior of Betsy’s house (while I believe the stove inside is not original, it is authentic to the period and it is identical to the one Lenski drew). Lois herself is an interesting person, and I recommend the recentbiography, although BTers will agree there is not enough about Maud and their collaboration).
I spent too long chatting in Tacy’s house with hostess Kathryn Hanscom (sp?) who had known Maud (and missed my chance to visit Betsy’s house – luckily, I had been there before) and buying gifts, but those more purposeful were able to tour Tacy’s house, Betsy’s house, and stroll down the street to examine Tib’s chocolate-colored house from outside. I also admired the pavers outside Betsy's house, particularly those for absent friends.
Next, we visited what is now the Carnegie Art Center, which was then the Carnegie Library so beloved by Betsy/Maud. Nearly everyone wanted to pose as Miss Sparrow behind the Circulation Desk. (Somehow we left Mary Koger behind - this was my fault because she was my roommate and bus partner!) Then we drove around a little while Jen Davis-Kay pointed out a few places we had missed, including Tony Markham’s house, Winona’s house, and the locations of Tacy’s and Betsy’s churches (since torn down and rebuilt), and Emily’s slough (which is not really recognizable as such). We had a great bus driver yesterday and today named Dale and he had one of the quotes of the day, as he let us off on the last stop and watched us begin climbing: “What’s up with this Big Hill, anyway?”
We drove back to Minneapolis (or should I say Bloomington?) by a more scenic route with many green fields and corn growing, then changed for dinner with a keynote by New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman, a long time Betsy-Tacy fan. I had been following Laura’s work since she published an article about her love of Betsy-Tacy in the Baltimore Sun in 1996, and then I worked at Avon Books when she published Baltimore Blues, her first Tess Monaghan book, which I recommend. In fact, my niece, who is a rising senior at Johns Hopkins, received a copy to read before her freshman year. She was introduced by Perri Klass, obviously a talented writer (not to mention physician and knitter) in her own right, and a former NewBetsy before she abandoned us to move to NYC.
Laura spoke eloquently about Maud’s message
about inclusiveness, about her own experience with sororities at Northwestern vis-à-vis
Betsy Was a Junior, and how she still thinks about that scene in BWAJ when
Hazel is about to join Betsy at the football game but realizes Betsy is with
the Okto Deltas and slips away. She
wonders if the glorification of mean girls has merely created more mean girls
than nice girls. “What is the opposite of
mean girls?” she asked someone called out, “Victims!” Hmmm).
She is probably right but luckily there are no mean girls at this
convention. I am happy to report that
Laura autographed the two books I had brought to the convention, completely justifying
how heavy my luggage was as I juggled it on public transportation to the
There were, however, many competitive girls! After Laura’s speech, it was time for the trivia contest! Josephine Wolff had come up with some diabolical questions, including the identities of the triumvirate in Heaven to Betsy – not the girls but the actual Romans! You’d think after four years of Latin, I would have gotten this one but I was only 2/3rds correct. The shame! As always, Jennifer Davis-Kay was the trivia queen, bringing glory to the NewBetsys. Josephine tried to tell her the prize was that she would have to organize the next convention and for a second Jen's exuberant grin turned to fear...
After the trivia contest, we adjourned to the bar. I was reminded of my brother-in-law in 1997 as my mother, sister Andrea, and I were heading to a convention, saying "The saloon keepers of Mankato are rubbing their hands together with glee as your group converges," and I said, "Maybe the tea drinkers..." Since then, however, the BTers have learned how to take over a bar! Tonight, I am sorry to say, we lasted only until about 11:30 before being driven away by a rowdy wedding party.
|Amy Dolnick and Kathy Baxter autograph their books|