Sunday, March 26, 2017

REMINISCING: The Bacon-Leonard Detective Agency

When I was a kid, the book, Harriet the Spy, was a very popular book. I definitely read it at least a couple of times. I must have been 11 or 12 when I took the book to heart. So, I was the same age of Harriet Welsch from the book. I would guess I was that age since I can clearly remember putting my own journal in its hiding spot in a trunk in my upstairs bedroom. I must have been about 13 when I took my new sneakers and moved into the basement.

It wasn’t only Harriet that I was trying to emulate. I grew up on the Hardy Boys mysteries, borrowing the entire collection, one book at a time, from my neighborhood library -- the Marsha Stuckey household. They had Hardy Boys, Bobbsey Twins, and some Nancy Drew mysteries on the shelves. I borrowed every one of them. So, I had this vision of becoming a detective like all of them. To be one, I had to be observant. Hence, I kept a journal.

 A quick side note about the Porth/Stuckey lending library. Saturday night while at a birthday party for Mike Porth, his younger brother, Steve Stuckey, was explaining to his wife my borrowing and reading habits. He said, “Craig would come over, grab two or three books, and take them home. The next day, he’d bring those books back and choose another two or three.” He may have been exaggerating just a little. It might not have been the next day, but it was definitely within a day or two. Those books really nurtured my love for reading, and eventually, my writing.

I loved those books so much, that I wanted to be just like them. I decided that I would become a detective with my own agency to accept all the customers who would flock to me once I hung my shingle. There were no other detectives outside of the police department in Lockport as far as I knew. I would be raking it in.

The Christmas before I had my bright idea, I was given a personal printing press by my grandmother. I could print my own business cards and really have a head up on those Hardy Boys. They didn’t have those modern amenities, although they did have a cool clubhouse in a junkyard. I’d have to work on that part.

I was in Lyndonville when I decided that I should have a partner in this endeavor. My cousin, David Leonard, lived in Lyndonville and we spent a lot of time together whenever I was staying in town. Thus, the Bacon-Leonard Detective Agency was born. Utilizing the printing press, we made business cards, letterhead, and journal pages. I think we may even have come up with what we could charge for our services.

A shelf full of Hardy Boys books.
The difficulty in procuring a cool clubhouse meant that we had to add another member to our agency. Matt Herman joined us, and we became the Bacon-Leonard-Herman detective agency. Together, the three of us raided the refuse pile from the canning factory for some materials to construct a fort behind my grandmother’s house. There were broken pallets that still had usable slats to build something. We dragged a lot of garbage back to the house from there --- and then never did anything with it.

We never had any cases in Lyndonville, but we did roam about the village keeping an eye out for anything that would require our very special skill set. I think we had more fun setting up the agency with the printing press than actually trying to solve any mysteries. Plus, we got to hang out just a bit more, and have fun trying to be like those characters in those books.

When I came back to Lockport, the Bacon-Leonard-Herman Detective Agency “opened” a second branch. Of course, I was the leader of this branch, and I enlisted the aid of some school friends. Again, nothing much came of it, but we did build a fort in the woods across the street from my house. I guess that was a little bit more than what we had accomplished in Lyndonville.

While we never actually solved any mysteries, or even got a case for that matter, we sure did have a lot of fun pretending we could be just like the Hardy Boys. We could get into a little danger (even if that danger mounted to missing the whistle for dinner each evening), and we could explore. That’s probably more of what we got out of it than anything. We did a lot of exploring. Sometimes in places we should have never been. But, hey, that’s being a kid. We didn’t destroy anything, and no one got hurt.

Somewhere around the house there is one of the original business cards left. I’m sure it’s the only one left. While writing this story, I stopped several times and ran to where I thought it could be. I still haven’t found one, but I will.

I think this shows the power that books can have on a formative imagination. If it wasn’t for me reading those books, I would have never thought of any of this, and our childhoods would have been just a little less awesome because of it.

Craig Bacon still wants to be like some of the heroes in the books that he reads. A lot of these involve being in deep space uncovering new mysteries of the universe.