We asked our Field Editors to share reminiscences about their trusty reference book of old
“THE ATLAS I GREW UP WITH was a hand-me-down from my brother; his second-hand, dog-eared Collins World Atlas.
This became my favourite book, and something of a status symbol. I was touched that he thought I was grown-up enough to appreciate it.
My brother and I were both named by our father, a recent migrant from the UK. Kent was named after his place of birth, and I was my father’s English Rose. How eagerly we scanned the British Isles in our atlas to find where our relatives and penfriends lived.
But the winds of change blew over our pre-war maps as de-colonisation
reduced the proud pink British Empire to a mere shadow of its former self. Then the Benelux countries united, and New Zealand feared the loss of Mother Britain as our major trading partner. Our little country had made major sacrifices for our Motherland through two World Wars and the Depression, and now she was f lirting with her European neighbours. She finally tossed New Zealand adrift on January 1, 1973. To my father, it was the ultimate betrayal.
Eventually, my atlas was considered inaccurate and out of date and I had to buy a new one for school. This lacked the well-used, crumpled pages and familiar old-book smell. There was very little pink in it, and it felt uncomfortably foreign. So I carefully tore pages out of my old atlas, and glued them on cardboard. My father helped me to cut them into jigsaw puzzles as gifts for my friends.
I later travelled to many of the places I had learned about in my atlas, and also gained British citizenship, including the privileges of being part of the European Union. Now Brexit may alter that, and maybe the UK will once again show loyalty to her former colonial trading partners.
Google Search is an easy way to find various places, both local and foreign, but I still prefer to search for exotic places in a real page-turning atlas. One day it may be an antique!” ROSEMARY FRANCIS, FIELD EDITOR
“When I was 13, I desperately wanted a horse of my own. Eventually my parents softened to the idea and bought me a beautiful part-Arabian bay gelding. To settle on a name, my father suggested I open our atlas to the page on Saudi Arabia, close my eyes and place my finger randomly on the page. Bandar Shah (Royal Port) was a wonderful horse.” MELANIE EGAN, READER’S DIGEST CHIEF SUBEDITOR
“When I retired after 20 years with the same employer, I did not expect to be given a gold watch. I certainly did not expect to be given a Reader’s Digest Atlas of the World. But that is precisely what my colleagues decided I needed. For the next 15 years that atlas was used by my family to settle geographic disputes and plan trips abroad. Sadly, wear and tear forced its retirement, too.”
WINSTON HINDMARSH, FIELD EDITOR