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   From the Editor

    When I was eleven, back in 1960, we lived on Tunxis Hill in Fairfield.  Our next-door neighbors were a house painter, Ralph Prater, his wife, Alice, and their four kids.  Billy Prater was my age and on some Saturdays we got to ride in the bed of old man Prater’s pick-up truck as he rode around visiting his friends, who were all painters, carpenters, roofers  floor installation men and such. What I remember is sitting around in their dens and garages listening to them talk about the books they were reading. They read a few mysteries, but mostly it was meaty stuff, biographies and history. More than any other  memories, those Saturday mornings with those literate workingmen typify for me growing up in Connecticut.

Ezra Webb House, Old Wethersfield,
before 1730

   Twenty years later, I was working for a big company and was transferred from Tacoma to Sacramento. There was a problem with me not being licensed for insurance in California which resulted in me having what amounted to paid leave for two months. In those days I was much too restless to sit around getting in my wife’s way or just go fishing foe eight weeks, so I checked out the help wanted ads in the Sacramento Beer to see if there was anything I could sell as an independent agent.

   The Encyclopedia Britannica was advertising for sales reps.  Steve McQueen had sold encyclopedias. When I made an appointment over the phone with the manager, whose name was Mark Smith, I knew right away from his voice that he was from Hartford. When I met him at his office he looked like Hartford, born and bred. He was of medium height, with a lanky build that made him look taller, and he had the square granite head of the old Connecticut Yankees. His black hair was a little bit long and his wide mustache was neatly trimmed. I was straight with him about my situation and he said he would hire me on the chance that in two months I’d be making so much money and enjoying the work so much that I wouldn’t want to go back to my old job.

   Mark wasn’t just selling books, it turned out. In the days before the Internet was on a mission to get an encyclopedia into every family’s home. Besides me, there were five other salesmen and one woman. This group looked up to Mark and had a tremendous affection for him. We got our leads from ads in Parade magazine where Lucille Ball offered a little bookrack free to anyone who would sit through a sales presentation.

Mark would run the leads that were way out in the boonies, where the reps didn’t want to go. I sold a bunch of sets, but I went back to my job at the end of the two months. I kept in touch with Mark. I visited his apartment once. It was stuffed with old editions of Britannica and with every one of the Great Books of the Western World that was in print at that time. A year after I left I heard from one of the old crew that Mark had been killed driving through the snow on his way to a night appointment in one of the little isolated towns in the Sierra. Mark’s body went back to Hartford and he left a hole in a bunch of people’s hearts in Sacramento. May you live forever Mark, in the light you wished for others. You are not forgotten, my best boss ever, my Connecticut brother.

                                                                                           Max H. Peters



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