The Yellow Brick Road is a well-traveled one; generations of young readers have followed L. Frank Baum’s path to the magical Land of Oz. This spring, as members of NPR’s Backseat Book Club embarked on their own journeys to the Emerald City, we asked you to share your Oz memories and photos with us. Here’s a sampling of what we received.
“I grew up in Indiana, so the threat of tornadoes marked every spring and summer season. When I was about 10 or 11, one particularly dangerous storm — one that produced golf-ball sized hail — sent my family to our basement where we were forced to sit and wait for the storm to subside and electricity to return. I comforted myself with a big flashlight and a hardback copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, reading the opening chapters over and over. This early infatuation and fascination with Oz may be why I am now working on my English Ph.D. with a specialization in children’s literature, so I’m continually blown back again and again to Baum’s marvelous land.”
Paige Gray, 31, Hattiesburg, Miss.
“As children, my sisters and I watched The Wizard of Oz repeatedly. So often, in fact, that the Schwan’s man, who delivered groceries to our home once a week, finally asked my Mother, ‘Do you own any other videos?’ “
Megan Parin, 25, Cincinnati, Ohio
“I learned to read with Oz books. They are the books I read over and over again as a child. They set the stage for a life as a reader. I think I loved them so much because my mother and grandmother grew up reading them as well. It was something we shared. And who wouldn’t love stories of children off on adventures without pesky adults around? I still have those same books that my grandmother read as a child in East St. Louis and my mother read as a child in Bogota and I read as a child in rural Minnesota. They certainly aren’t precious antiques, though — they show the wear and tear of being read by three generations. Now if I could just convince my own children to read them!”
Susan Green, 42, Eagan, Minn.
“Like most of us who grew up watching The Wizard of Oz on black-and-white TV, I will never forget the first time I saw the scene when Dorothy opens the door and enters into Oz in color. For me that didn’t happen until I was about 20 years old. The technology of color television at that time was almost as magical as Oz itself. We waited all year for the annual broadcast of The Wizard of Oz. It was by far the most important television event of the year for us. My own children, who watched it dozens of times on videotape, could never understand or appreciate the additional pleasure generated by that kind of anticipation.”
Richard Isenberg, 60, Cornwall, Vt.
“My father was born in 1922 and his dad read all the original Oz books to him as a very young boy. Because they stirred such vivid images and thoughts in him at that age and his love for the books stayed with him throughout his life, he introduced my son, born in 1992, to the book series. My dad bought him many of the original publications that have been reproduced lovingly by a modern publisher. I truly believe these tales inspired my son to write.”
Sally Faires, 50, Mesquite, Texas
“The Oz books were a huge part of my childhood. We have close to all of them, and my dad would read them aloud to me and my sister every night before bedtime, voices included. (My favorite was his imitation of Billina the chicken.) When I was older he came to my third-grade class and read them aloud for story time. They were a big part in how I learned to read and also how I learned to get drawn into an imaginary world.”
Molly Cook, 20, Peachtree City, Ga.
“I can remember watching The Wizard of Oz on our small Philco TV when I was maybe 5 or 6 in the early ‘50s. My mom was upset that the scenes of the flying monkeys and of the witch melting scared me so much that I had to sleep with her and my dad for days after I watched it. She swore that I would never be allowed to see it again but I never missed it whenever it aired on TV.”
Ben Ferguson, 64, Dallas, Ga.
“The Wizard of Oz is my favorite movie of all time. When I was little, my babysitter would play it over and over for me, so much so that the VHS copy broke because the tape ribbon snapped from overuse. My grandmother taped the VHS copy [that] I still have [today] from television. … I love that she missed a bit of one scene and that there are commercials from 1987. Much to her chagrin, I regularly used to unravel full rolls of paper towels and lay them down along the hallway and skip along them as if they were my ‘Yellow Brick Road.’ The Wizard of Oz will be forever in my heart. It reminds me of my childhood, my grandmother (who has since passed away), and I can’t wait to introduce it to my children someday. I hope they love it as much as I do.”
Mandi Jacobs, 28, Bloomington, Ind.
We hope you’ll share your Oz stories with us in the comments below.