Saturday, April 30, 2011

H is for Heroin

Sometimes you find a book and sometimes the book finds you.

Last night, I made a quick after-work run to one of Butte's thrift shops with my wife where I was to give my husbandly approval of a table and chairs she wanted to buy and re-finish for her funky-junk business.  The furniture was fine--bolts and screws needed a little tightening, but otherwise I could see how Jean would work her magic on this early-century table and turn it into something beautiful and vintage-y.  She's good at breathing new life into old things (present company included).

While she paid for the junk furniture, I beat a predictable path toward the book section.  (What?  You thought this was going to be a post about repurposing furniture?)

The tattered and torn book spines were a siren song, drawing me closer and closer to the cast-off David Baldaccis and DaVinci Codes.  My pulse always quickens and I break into a light sweat whenever I'm around books that smell like someone's basement.  Yesterday was no exception.  Just look at one of the treasures which had been sitting on the shelf waiting for me to come along with my coins:

(click image for a larger version)

(click image for a larger version)

Oh sure, we can laugh about it now, but back in 1952, they took heroin addiction very seriously.  In its June 9, 1952 issue, TIME magazine offered less of a review of Hulburd's book than a cautionary sermon dotted with excerpts from the pages of H is for Heroin.
"One day," says Amy, "Jocelyn. and I rode around in Jocelyn's car and she started telling me all over again what kicks I would get out of blowing up a joint....We parked way down the other side of the abalone pier. She gave me the joint and I lit it. Yeah....I liked it. I had a ball real soon....It made me feel just good, I guess. Kind of silly-like....Then we had another and then we just rode around and goofed."
I don't know about you, but I'm fascinated by books like this which pull up the shades on windows to earlier times.  This is one reason my collections of Dell mapbacks and vintage pulp fiction novels are so large.  Apart from the cover art, I love reading the jacket copy and phraseology of a society that now seems quaint in how it commercially treated sex and violence.  "Shocking" and "sordid" are tossed around like firecrackers, even though the actual contents of the book usually turn out to be tame by comparison.

There was never any question I would buy H is for Heroin from that Butte thrift store.  While my wife was feeding her furniture addiction, I was busy paying 33-1/3 cents for Hulburd's narcotic expose.  The store had a special 3-for-$1 deal on books (I spent my other 66-2/3 cents on The Foolish Immortals by Paul Gallico and Killing Time by Thomas Berger).

So one day in the near future, don't be surprised if you find me sitting at a circa 1945 table reading a 1952 account of a young girl's downward spiral into a shocking and sordid lifestyle.  For good measure, maybe I'll watch Reefer Madness later that night.


  1. Nice find! As you well know, that kind of thing never fails to make my day.

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