Book returned to Hamilton library 46 years after it was due


Published August 29, 2022 at 1:27 pm

Amid the hoopla of Canada hosting the Olympics for the first time, someone in Hamilton forgot to return a library book.

While it is conjectural as to why someone checked out a paperback full of fitness tips, this much is true: Hamilton Public Library shared that a member recently returned a title that was 46 years and six weeks overdue. As HPL related, the yellow-covered copy of “Total Fitness In 30 Minutes A Week,” by Dr. Laurence E. Morehouse and Leonard Gross was due on July 22, 1976.

“A Member found this overdue book while decluttering his grandparents’ basement recently,” HPL tweeted on Monday (Aug. 29). “Thanks for returning to our Sherwood Branch!”

Like many municipal library networks, Hamilton Public Library eliminated overdue charges in 2021 in order to keep reading accessible. Some basic math says that a 10-cent-a-week fine would have added up to $240.

It sounds like it would have been a case for the memorable Lt. Bookman from the “Seinfeld” comedy series. The book was checked out for more than half the lifetime of character actor extraordinaire Philip Baker Hall, who lived to be 90 before his energy returned to the earth in June.

(In that 1991 episode, Jerry Seinfeld is tracked down by a library cop over a 20-year overdue copy of the racy novel “Tropic of Cancer” that he checked out in high school. In the final reveal, the book turns out to be in possession of an unhoused man who was once the phys-ed teacher who sicced some jocks on a teenaged George Costanza to give him an “Atomic Wedgie.”)

While 1971, per Lt. Bookman, was “a bad year for libraries… a bad year for America,” 1976 seems to have been generally good times in Canada. As noted, the nation was at the centre of the international sports scene. Montréal hosted the Olympics from July 17 to Aug. 1, right in the timeframe when the book was due to be returned. Four years removed from the 1972 Summit Series, the first Canada Cup hockey tournament involving Canadian pros, the Soviet national team and Sweden, Finland, the United States and the former Czechoslovakia was also due to be held.

The Olympics are known to spark a renewed interest in physical fitness. In Montréal, Canada suffered the shame of being the first host nation to fail to win a gold medal. The silver won by high jumper Greg Joy in a driving rain, with American favourite Dwight Stoness getting bumped to bronze, had to suffice.

That now-tattered copy “Total Fitness” was checked out of HPL nine times in five years before being lost. As advertised on the cover, it was on the top 10 bestseller list in the U.S. for 35 weeks. It was translated into 11 languages and sold more than 1.5 million copies.

The lead author, Morehouse, was considered ahead of his time in the physiological sciences. He was involved in developing some everyday living comforts that are now taken for granted, such as automatically-controlled exercise devices, soles of sneakers and chairs that are adjusted to suit an individual’s posture.

“The concepts in this book were quite controversial among his contemporaries, but many of his ideas remain viable today,” the Online Archive of California says of Morehouse, whose last academic position was at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) before his death in 1995.

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