The first series of Twins books I read belonged to my cousin Betty. I know I was six, because in 1932, deep in the Depression, we were homeless and "doubled up" with my father's relatives in Buffalo.
Here's everything I remember about the Bobbsey Twins: Bert and Nan were eight years old; Flossie and Freddie were half past four. They lived in Lakeville. And some girl in the book became seriously sick because she disregarded her mother's warning and jumped rope 100 times. I was just learning to jump rope (counting of course) and I had a nightmare.
I wouldn't turn six until the end of February, but someone had talked me into first grade. That must have been a crowded house, come to think of it. Betty had a twin (!), my folks had a new baby, and they probably wanted to get me out from underfoot. Number 74 was a forward-looking demonstration school for the Normal School, the two-year teachers' college.
Our pleasant young teacher posted a clipping -- the first words I learned to read -- the masthead
Buffalo Evening News
in gothic type.
The next year we moved to the slums of Lynn, Massachusetts, and doubled up with my mother's relatives -- four adults, two children, a toddler and a baby, in a four-room "cold-water flat" above a little grocery store. The icebox, I remember, was outside in the stair landing.
So I started second grade, and I have only one memory of that school in Lynn -- the day the principal took me out to the room next door. She handed me an open book, stood me in front of those third-graders and said "Read it out loud." Hard to believe anyone would do that, but she did.
I still remember that first sentence: "One summer morning, very early, Vrouw Vedder opened the door of her little Dutch kitchen and stepped out." I had trouble six words in, with "Vrouw". Must have got it, though, because then and there I was "skipped" -- ended up six years old in the third grade. Evidently if you could read, you didn't belong in second grade. Not in that school, anyhow.
And what I set out to tell you is that, reading through my top shelf now, I discovered I OWN THE BOOK. The Dutch Twins, by Lucy Fitch Perkins! The original 1911 edition! A pencilled booksellers' note on the flyleaf says I paid $15 for it, evidently in the 1990s.
So does anyone else remember that other Twins series, which turned up several times later as I kept changing schools? Here's what sticks in my memory -- the Scotch Twins (yes, now I think it should have been Scottish but it wasn't) met the Young Laird out on the hills. The Japanese twin told her brother "that pot is always rice -- what's cooking in the other one?" And the Irish Twins had an uncle who had emigrated and was a policeman in Boston.
I don't remember a thing about the Cave Twins.