Studies in Crap: Learning ‘Bout Ducks and Dicks With My Weekly Reader


Each Thursday, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets. I do this for one reason: Knowledge is power.

A school year’s worth of My Weekly Readers

Date: 1936 – 1937
Publisher: American Education Press
Discovered at: Estate sale

The Cover Promises:In the Depression, Americans couldn’t even afford news.

Representative Quotes:

  • “The dog in the picture has a letter to mail. The dog puts the letter into the mailbox.” (Cover story, December 14 – 18, 1936.)
  • “Children play with the chickens. Little chickens are not toys.” (Above-the-fold headline, March 22 – 26, 1937.)

Between the fall of 1936 and the following spring, the world boiled in changes. Civil war broke out in Spain. Prince Albert ascended to the British throne. In Flint, Michigan, workers seized control of a GM plant, ushering in the era of the UAW; meanwhile, on an island somewhere in the south Pacific, archaeologist Indiana Jones settled for all time the question of God’s existence: “Yes He does, and just close your eyes when He gets in one of His face-melting moods.”

Of course, none of this made My Weekly Reader: Edition Number One, the newspaper for the most wee of kids. Even in the thick of the FDR/Landon election, young America was fed “news” like “A big duck lives with the pig” and “Children like to look at squirrels.”

While this may seem innocent, good Americans even then had to monitor the schools for leftist indoctrination.

Liberal sex-freaks!

Even worse, the instruction below must have led to some serious scrubbing – and scolding — come bathtime.

In the spring, Stalin executed Trotskyites, and President Roosevelt launched his infamous court-packing scheme. Edition Number One rose to the occasion with new breakthroughs in adorableness.

That is to cute what Chuck Yeager’s flight was to the sound barrier.

The bar raised, My Weekly Reader soon resorted to celebrities.

The writers at American Education Press shielded our kids not just from world events but also from dependent clauses.

At least once, they broke some news. Did you know that animals can talk to each other?

And that they’re milk-sharing commies? Without the inspiration of this photo, would John Steinbeck have dared to composed the final scene of The Grapes of Wrath?

Shocking Detail:
From the November 2 expose “Winter is Coming”:

Bears live in trees! And flourish and beseech in conversation!

In October, My Weekly Reader risked alienating its bunny-obsessed kneebiters with a substantial piece on transportation.

Despite the efforts of academics, stewardesses, and Ameilia Earhart, women did not become regular users of transportation until the mid-1960s.

Since this was the Depression, the writers took what opportunities they could to reduce their readers’ expectations of home ownership.

The “Men Travel” piece concludes with this.

This ranked number one on the Project Censored list of 1936’s “Most Censored Stories”: The time the brownies enslaved the squirrels, slugs and fishes. During the worst of the conflict, Hemingway drove an ambulance.

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[The Crap Archivist lives in Kansas City, where he originates his on-line Studies for the Voice‘s sister paper, The Pitch.]