- "Miss Lillie truly an unforgettable person" Posted: Sunday, August 29, 1999; by MARY KATE TRIPP Globe-News Books Editor; She loved books and for more than 30 of the last years of a long working life she shared that love with people of the Texas Panhandle. These thoughts and other memories of Miss Lillie Hostetler, who organized the Deaf Smith County Library in my hometown of Hereford in 1930, are prompted by a recent letter from the Rev. Norman V. Hollen of Taos, N.M. The Rev. Mr. Hollen, a retired Episcopal priest, writes about his experience with Miss Hostetler some years after her retirement at Hereford had led, unintentionally, to a new job as Hutchinson County librarian. The job, supposed to be temporary, lasted more than 10 years, and Miss H. was well established in Borger when Hollen met her in 1949. Explaining the timing of his letter, he says it should have been written in 1996 around the time I mentioned Miss Hostetler in a column about the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. "My late mother in Borger sent me a clipping because she knew of my knowledge of Miss Hostetler," he writes, and proceeds to tell how he came by that knowledge:"After graduating from college in Iowa in 1949, I came to Borger where my parents lived and taught ninth grade English in the Borger schools from 1949 until 1951, when I was drafted. The school library was non-existent, so I walked over to the Borger Public Library and introduced myself to Miss Hostetler. I shall never forget her generosity, her friendship, and her graciousness to a green school teacher, then barely 21. She helped me set up a reserve shelf for my pupils and worked with me on a field trip to the library for them, introducing them to the library and its resources."From the first I was impressed with her personality, her obvious competence, and I suspected many of her jobs had not been easy. So I was delighted that her memory is still green for others, too. It has been half a century since I first met her, but she has always been in my memory as a model person in my life. Thank you for remembering her and writing about her." The letter further notes that the writer's father and aunt operated a weekly newspaper in Iowa from the 1920s through the early '40s and that his father came to Borger in 1945 to take a job on the Borger News-Herald. The stint in Borger represented Hollen's first and last experience as a teacher. After his discharge from the Army, he attended seminary in New York City and later was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church. He is now retired and makes his home in Taos. His letter reminded me of why Miss Lillie must surely have been "the most unforgettable person" in the lives of many who met her. Certainly she was that for me.The library that opened in 1930 on the ground floor of the courthouse at Hereford represented riches to a 13-year-old who thought she could never get enough of books and reading. The lady in charge became a wonderful friend, keeper of the keys to the kingdom. I learned that she was from Illinois, a graduate of the University of Chicago, and that she had worked as a librarian in her hometown before becoming a teacher and a businesswoman. She had been out of the library field for years before coming to Hereford at what must have seemed a poor time - the beginning of the decade of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Actually, it was a good time in some ways. Books in the Hereford library and an adult education program instituted by Miss Hostetler brought entertainment, inspiration and hope to people ground down by the worst weather and the hardest economic times most of them could remember. Always looking for a way to expand library services, she made her Model A Ford coupe into a bookmobile and traveled the dusty, unpaved roads to take books to farm homes and country schools where they could be checked out, saving farm families the cost of gas for a trip to town. Many, of course, continued to make regular trips to the county seat on Saturdays, the biggest day in the library week and the one on which I had an opportunity to work at the checkout desk. (Miss H distributed her minuscule labor budget to cover about $10 a month for each of several teen-agers who had taken a course to learn the rudiments of the Dewey Decimal System, plus the basics of shelving.)For me, the smell of the depression will always be the dusty aroma issuing from those books which were usually covered with silt by the time they got back to the library. Miss Hostetler was wonderful at her work but no good at all at retiring. After her temporary job with the Hutchinson Library stretched into more than 10 years, she once again planned to retire - by this time she was in her late 70s. Instead, she answered a call from Alice Green, director of the Amarillo public library system, to take over the adult education program, then called group services. Once again her tenure lasted around 10 years before her retirement in 1962. In 1964 she moved back to Hereford, to King's Manor retirement home where she lived until her death, at age 102, in 1977. Unable to read in her last years, she told me that before going to sleep at night she would remember favorite passages of literature and scripture committed to memory in her youth. I do not think this routine of her extreme old age will surprise the Rev. Norman Hollen.