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(Host) Recently commentator Edith Hunter heard someone apologize for sounding like “a Pollyanna” and she decided to pin down the derivation of the epithet. Her search took her to the book of the same name – a popular juvenile title of three generations ago.

(Hunter) Pollyanna was the daughter of a minister who had gone west to serve a mission church. While there his wife died and he and the women of the “Ladies Aid” raised Pollyanna. They were recipients of “missionary barrels”, of mostly cast-off clothing.

On page 44, Pollyanna explained that it was because of a missionary barrel that her father had taught her “the Glad Game.” “I’d wanted a doll, and father had written them so; but when the barrel came the lady wrote that there hadn’t any dolls come in, but the little crutches had.” To cheer up his disappointed daughter, Pollyana’s father said: “Why just be glad you don’t need [the crutches].”

Pollyanna became an immediate convert to “the Glad Game.” Although she wanted a mirror in her room, she was glad there was none so she couldn’t see her hated freckles. When her father died, she was sorry, but glad that she would see him in Heaven.

Eleven year old Pollyanna was shipped back east to live with her wealthy Aunt Polly who had not approved of her sister’s marriage to the poor young minister. Pollyanna’s new home provided a perfect setting for the “Glad Game.” She soon had the the entire town, including austere Aunt Polly, playing the game.

Pollyanna (1912) and its sequel Pollyanna Grows Up (1914) went through dozens of printings. There was even a 1915 “Glad Calendar”, “a perpetual reminder for those who forget to play the Glad Game every day.”

I was struck by the contrast between Pollyanna and so many juvenile titles today. My daughter-in-law, a middle school librarian, has shared Books with me in the past, usually with depressing themes – parental divorce…drug addiction…

Expecting the worst, I asked her to bring me a popular title this year.

I was in for a surprise! She brought me Because of Winn-Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo, the story of 10 year old India Opal Buloni whose mother had abandoned the family. The little girl and her father, a minister, had just moved into a trailer park in Florida.

The book is all about “the good things that happen to the little girl because of her big ugly dog, Winn-Dixie.” Just as the “Glad Game” made positive thinkers out of everyone in Pollyanna’s world, India Opal and her dog are able to work similar magic on everyone they meet.

I wonder if there is going to be a calendar?

This is Edith Hunter on the Center Road.

Writer and historian Edith Hunter lives in Weathersfield Center.

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