Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Long overdue: Scottdale library book returned after 73 years

Monday, January 4, 2010
Last updated: 5:11 am
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'The Birth of Rome' returned
Linda Harkcom/For the Daily Courier

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In 1936, a young Scottdale boy checked out a library book from school that sparked something deep inside of him. The boy loved the book so much he decided he could not bear to part with it so he kept it. Some 73 years later that same boy, now a man of 85, felt it was time to part with that special book and return it to its rightful owner, the Southmoreland School District.

Thomas McArdle was 12 years old in 1936. He was a sixth-grade student at the Chestnut Street Elementary School.

"I had to write a paper in class and I took out a brand-new book, a novel, written for that age about the story of Rome and how Rome developed from when it was founded by Romulus and Remus. I just fell in love with the book and then I did a nasty thing, I kept the book. I read it about three or four times after that," said McArdle.

The book, "The Birth of Rome," was written by Laura Orvieto and published in 1935. McArdle said that after reading that book, "I just literally fell in love with history at that point. I majored in history in college. That book, that class, and that teacher made a big difference in my life. I still read about Roman and European history."

After McArdle graduated from Scottdale High School, he went to the service and to college and lived in various places in the United States including Boston, Mass., White River, Ariz., Richmond, Va., and finally ended up in Greenbelt, Md., where he resides today with his wife Jean. Everywhere McArdle moved, he took the book along with him.

"I can't believe he still had that book after all the moving around he did," said McArdle's cousin, Joe Fagan.

McArdle said he would never have parted with the book except to return it to its rightful owner. "I have quite a book collection now and one day we were dusting the book shelves and I saw the book and thought it was time to return it," McArdle said.

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