The Moms’ Stairway in New Central Library honours moms everywhere. Eveline Wheatley Goodall, the donor who named this special spot, shares the story behind the name below.
There was no library in the small Alberta town where I grew up — a fact that seems shocking to me now. What is even more shocking is that there was no library in the school. There was a room in the school called the library, but it held typewriters. This was post World War II, in a relatively affluent town.
What I did have in those early years of my life was what my mother called the blanket cupboard. Located in our house on the landing of a stairwell, it was child-sized. I remember being lifted into it to retrieve some stored item too difficult for my mother to reach. It also contained books. Once I eagerly learned to read, it was a wellspring of stories. When I finished one book I would simply hand it to my mother and she would reach another from the blanket cupboard.
What did I read? The Bobbsey Twins; all the Anne books by Lucy Maud Montgomery; Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Kidnapped. The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series likely started me on my life of paying attention and figuring things out. There were many others with titles now forgotten. A travel book, by a writer who swam the Dardanelles and climbed the Matterhorn, most likely started me on my life as a traveller.
When I was about ten and in Grade 4, a miracle happened. One of the service clubs in town started a library! Using a basement room in one of the medical clinics, they simply asked the townsfolk for any books they could donate. (No magazines and no Reader’s Digest condensed books.) The library, open Thursday nights and Sunday afternoons, had one full wall of children’s books and three walls of adult books.
Thursday night I was there: in the back door of the medical building, down steep stairs, a long hallway, a turn to the left, another long hallway, and in the door. The room was always full of people. Clearly I was not the only one hungry for more books and the adventure and story and beauty of word they provided.
I have continued to love libraries and reading throughout my life. I adore fiction; my all-time favourite author is David Adams Richards. When I moved to Calgary and had my own children we regularly visited our local library, Louise Riley. Today, I borrow books and browse magazines at Nose Hill Library and attend Wordfest events at Memorial Park Library.
When Calgary Public Library started work on New Central Library and shared renderings, I was thrilled. I thought it was the most beautiful of buildings, the sort of architectural marvel I have longed for in Calgary. My husband and I were eager to support the new Library.
As donors, the Library offered us a naming opportunity. I was instantly drawn to a wonderful stairway. This spot links the exciting and unique Children’s Library and coffee shop, making it a logical place for moms. We chose the name “The Moms’ Stairway” to honour all of those good moms past, present, and future who encourage reading. And, of course, it is named for my Mom too, M. Oren Wheatley. After all, she was my first librarian, reaching into the blanket cupboard in the stairwell to share books.