Judy Bolton Days

Judy Bolton Days
First annual in 1991!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011



Margaret Sutton signing a book for fan Joyce Wallner at the Coudersport
Senior Center in June of 1997.

Joyce Wallner in the country kitchen of the Dry Brook Hollow house, 1997.

One of the bridges over Dry Brook leading to the Dry Brook Hollow house.

In June of 1997 Margaret Sutton had come to Coudersport PA with a family member to speak at the Senior Citizen Center, as related in part 2 of this series of posts. This went over quite well. There was a nice crowd of fans and others who were interested, both children and adults, and Margaret spoke well for a person in her nineties. She talked about family life and her writing career and answered many questions put to her by the crowd. It was a very successful appearance.

After speaking, Margaret signed copies of the Judy Bolton books for fans, but her family member would allow her only to sign copies of the reprinted Applewood Judy Bolton books that were purchased right there at the Center that day. Signing of any other volumes was prohibited. Of course, Margaret did sign other books for fans she knew, but her companion was not happy with this. The push was to sell copies of the Applewood books.

These had been published a few years before and were facsimile copies of the original first editions - the first two books with dust jackets, and the last two books in the series, which were picture covers. I had personally met with Phil Zuckerman of Applewood Books at the Nancy Drew Conference at the University of Iowa in 1993 and planned for these books to be reproduced. I gave him the books to copy and hooked him up with Margaret Sutton to get her okay and take care of the business end of it.

Margaret was very happy to have these books back in print, especially the last two, Glowing Hand and Sand Castle, because they were pretty hard to find at that time and selling for hundreds of dollars each. Here were nice sturdy facsimile copies for under $20! She spoke about liking the new books and she also spoke about the 'illegal' copies printed by Aeonian/Amereon publishers on Long Island. She claimed that this publisher, whom she called 'the mad printer' did not have her permission to print her books. They were nice looking hardcover editions with facsimile interiors and sold for almost $30 each. She also claimed she was getting no royalties for them.

This company had contacted me trying to get copies of certain Chip Hilton books, hard to find and expensive, to reprint for lower priced selling. But I knew that the Chips were still copyright-protected and that the daughter of the author was updating the stories for publishing
, and when I talked to her agent about this I was told definitely not to send Aeonian/Amereon copies. So I was not surprised when Margaret's family member said that they would walk to the very end of Long Island (where the publisher was located) to get the royalties due. Apparently they did, or took care of the business without having to do all that walking, because the next year when Margaret came to town again, the Aeonian/Amereon books were available for sale and signing at the library where she spoke. And they are still for sale to this day.

Margaret had been invited for breakfast the following morning at the Kerns' house in Odin PA, which is the Dry Brook Hollow house in the Judy Bolton books. This house sits in a hollow in the lovely PA mountains halfway between Coudersport (Farringdon) and Austin (Roulsville) in Potter County. Margaret was born in this house, built by her father in the 1890s, and she lived in it until she was nine years old. This was the first time she had visited there in all those years.

The Kerns cooked a wonderful breakfast for a select group of fans and friends and my friend Fred and I carried Margaret in a chair made of our linked hands about five-hundred feet from the end of the drive across two bridges that span Dry Brook (Freeman Run) and up the hill to the house. Margaret was in great shape at that time and it was easy to carry her even such a distance as that. She had a great time and enjoyed her visit to her childhood home. We were surprised to learn that Margaret, at her advanced age, had stayed in a campground the night before in a camper! Had we known, we all certainly would have chipped in to get her a nice comfortable motel room.

In June of 1998, Margaret again returned to Coudersport, this time to speak at the Coudersport library. She was accompanied by all her children, all middle-aged adults. Again she did signing, but only the books that were purchased there at the library that day. Applewood editions and the Aeonian/Amereon editions were available. Beautiful reproduction dust jackets had been added to the Aeonian/Amereon editions, and they were hard to resist. I bought about a dozen of them myself, they were so attractive. These books can still be purchased with the repro DJs through ads in The Whispered Watchword and other series book fanzines.

However, Margaret's speech turned into a disaster. It was apparent almost immediately that her health and mind had failed quite a bit during the year since we had seen her last, and she could not concentrate on the topics she wanted to speak about. She kept going off on strange tangents and had to be prodded back on track by her kids several times. At one point she was particularly addressing a group of children sitting on the floor at her feet, and she was telling them and all the others how she had to entertain her husband's girlfriend at home years ago, and even cook for her. This riled up her kids, of course, and they tried to get her to change the subject, but Margaret was determined to tell everyone about it and continued with some really juicy tidbits until her children actually put an end to her speaking.

It was sad. It was obvious that Margaret was failing and that she was no longer fit to be speaking in public. Her children most probably didn't know this because none of them lived near the PA nursing home and may not have seen much of her in the last year to know that she had gotten so bad. It was the last time she appeared in public. Fans continued to visit her at the nursing home for a couple more years until she got too sick to have visitors, and she then passed away in 2001 at the age of 98. A memorial service was held in Coudersport for her on the Judy Bolton Day that October.