By Dennis Hill
Published in News on July 20, 2014 1:50 AM
Angela Hobbs Wall stands in front of the original Steele Memorial Library in Mount Olive as she recalls one of her library memories.
Steele Memorial Library will have a special open house today from 3 to 5 p.m. The library will officially open Monday.
MOUNT OLIVE -- Don't bother trying to convince Angela Hobbs Wall that the basement in the original Steele Memorial Library is just an ordinary storage area filled with dusty junk.
Fascinated with the off-limits area since childhood, Mrs. Wall, who is now 40, still imagines the ghosts and monsters that lurk there.
But like the library's other inhabitants, brothers Joe and Frank Hardy, Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden and Bobbsey twins Bert and Nan and Flossie and Freddie, she was friends with the basement dwellers.
Sitting on the imposing steep front steps of the building that now houses a driver's license office, Mrs. Wall looked down the street at the new Steele Memorial Library, which is scheduled to open for the first time today between 3 and 5 p.m.
She remembers the new library building as Belk-Tyler where she went to get her patent leather shoes and Easter dress.
"Back then kids could roam all over town and you weren't worried about them," she said. "I lived just a few blocks away on Station Street, but it was nothing to me to come up to my grandmother's restaurant and just be all over the town, all over the railroad tracks.
"Everybody knew me. Probably from the time I was 5 I was coming into this library. I like to read the mysteries. There was a section in the back. I will never forget it because the books were hard (backs). Almost all of the books back then were hard. It was The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and The Bobbsey Twins and Trixie Belden. They were all in one section."
She would start at No. 1 and read all of the way through each series.
She recalls orange-color contour mats.
"I would get one and drag it in the corner and lie down and read," she said.
And then, one day, those hours of reading resulted in a little bit of a problem.
She was 7 years old.
"I was back there reading," she said. "I would read for hours at a time -- be like quiet, quiet. So one day I was back there, and the phone started ringing, and it rang and it rang. That was before answering machines I guess.
"I remember thinking, 'Why doesn't somebody answer that phone?' That is so annoying while I am trying to read. It quit. I didn't think anything of it. I figured somebody had answered it because I was way back there and they were up here at the desk."
A few minutes later it started ringing again and it rang and it rang and rang. It wouldn't quit, she said.
She finally got up off her mat to find out what the problem was.
"I remember getting as mad as fire that I had to get up and trek all the way in here because there are people who work here and they are supposed to be answering that phone," she said.
She answered the phone and told the caller she didn't know where anyone was.
Mrs. Wall started thinking she had best go to her grandmother Audrey Parker's Friendly Restaurant since the back door opened into the alley between it and the library.
It was a trip she was used to making.
"I came to the door, and you had to have a key to get out of the door unless you busted a window or something," she said. "That was when I realized I was locked in the library and couldn't get out."
She wasn't scared, but called her mother, Betty Jo Hobbs, at the restaurant.
It was in the days before caller ID and before Mrs. Wall could say anything her mother asked her where she was.
"I said, 'Mama, I am at the library and something bad is wrong,'" Mrs. Wall said. "She said, 'What do you mean?' I said, 'There is nobody here, but me. The ladies that were here have left and have locked me in. The doors are locked and I can't get out.'
"She started laughing, laughing like crazy. I said, 'What is so funny? I can't get out.' She said, 'They are over here eating lunch.' So my mama said, 'Hold on a minute.' So she had to tell those ladies over there they had locked her child in the library while they were sitting there eating my grandmama's barbecue chicken or whatever it was that day."
The call made, she sat back down and started reading.
"I didn't want to lose my page," she said. "They didn't like for you to bend the pages over so I was holding the book the whole time with my finger in the spine of the book even while dialing the phone to keep from losing my page."
Within five minutes one of the women was at the library to unlock the door.
"I will never forget she said something like, 'Are you OK?'" Mrs. Wall said. "I said, 'Yeah, I am fine. I am going back to my reading.'
"She thought I was scared and wanted to get out of here, but I didn't have any intentions of leaving. I was just concerned I was locked in this building that I could not get out of."
The ladies were embarrassed, she said.
"I suspect they had a change in procedures after that," Mrs. Wall said. "These days somebody would have sued them. We just laughed about it. We thought it was kind of funny.
"I imagine at lunchtime and the end of the day they had to go check all of the aisles and up under the tables and everything else after that."
Mrs. Wall still loves to read, but those long hours escaping into books have been curtailed by family, work and pursuing a doctorate in education leadership.
An instructor in the engineering department at Wayne Community College, Mrs. Wall said she doesn't have the time to spend in the library now.
She remembers that in the olden days, not all children had the same respect for the library she did.
She said some of them came not to enjoy the books, but to "mess around."
Back in those days, librarian Louise Barefoot would shoo them out because they were loud and boisterous.
Mrs. Wall was also known to not only call out children, but loud adults as well.
"I have told people many a time to be quiet in this library," she said. "I can remember distinctly a man in there talking real loud. 'Can you not see that I am trying to read?' I said, 'This is a library. You are so supposed to be quiet in this library.'"
After all, a person has to speak up, especially when there is reading to do.