Monday, December 10, 2012

The Happy Hollisters (The Happy Hollisters #1)

The Happy Hollisters (The Happy Hollisters #1)
Jerry West
Doubleday & Co., 1953

Genre: Realistic


Holly is waiting for the moving van as the Hollisters are moving to a new house in a new town. The van stops further down the street and Holly and Ricky run to meet the moving people and direct them to their house. They get in the moving van and drive down the street. The Hollisters help load up the trucks and get in their own car to make the long drive to their new house.

At a rest stop, Holly meets a boy named Joey Brill who says that the town of Shoreham already has too many kids and they will be sorry if they move there. He then gets into their station wagon and releases the emergency brake causing the car to start gliding down the hill toward a tree. Joey freaks out and he Holly abandon ship as the car barrels down the hill. Pete starts running after it and luckily gets in and stops it from hitting a tree.

The family finally arrives at their new house to find a note on the door. One of their moving vans showed up but the other one is missing. The Hollisters decide to at least start unpacking what has arrived. Ricky and Holly hear something weird in the attic. Outside Pete and Pam happen to see a face in attic window. The children decide to go up and examine the attic and all they find are some fingerprints in the dust, the remains of a match, and, most interesting of all, a trap door under a rug. Pete and Polly decide to discover where it leads. Turns out it leads to the cellar and they find an open window. Maybe there was a man in attic and he escaped that way.

During breakfast the next morning, Mrs. Hollister gets a call. The police have found the van in a nearby town but it has been stripped of all their toys and Mr. Hollister's important briefcase which has important notes of all his inventions. Everyone decides to go with Mr. Hollister to the Trading Post, the new general store that Mr. Hollister has bought. The children are examining all the toys when suddenly a bunch of boxes starts to fall toward them. Luckily for them, a man yells a warning and the children are safe. The man tells them that he saw a boy push the boxes and run out of the store. The children wonder if it was Joey. The man introduces himself as Tinker and Mr. Hollister offers him a job at the store.

At home the Hollisters discover that they've been invited to a party held by two of their neighbors, Jeff and Ann Hunter. At the party they also meet Dave and Donna and learn that no one in town likes Joey because he's always making trouble and is a braggart. Joey shows up at the party and he and Pete get into a fight. As Joey is sent home he tells the Hollisters that their house is haunted. The other children explain to them that supposedly the old man who built the house decided to hide his money there and ending up forgetting where it was. Now he haunts it every night trying to find his money.

The next day as Pete is out walking he comes across a girl pushing a doll carriage that is just like one that was stolen from them. He looks at the underneath of the carriage and sees burnt into the wood Sue's initials. The girl's older brother says that he bought at a secondhand store in town. Pete goes to see the proprietor and explains the situation. The man apologizes, saying he didn't know that it was stolen goods and says that the man who sold to him was roughly dressed and had an interesting little hat. He says he will keep an eye out for the man in case he tries to come back and sell more stuff.

Pete and Pam decide to check the hidden stairway for possible treasure. Pam accidentally leans on a hidden switch and discovers a small room but nothing is inside it. Later that night, they hear a noise but when they investigate they can't find anyone. They do notice that the key to the cellar door is on the ground outside which leads them to believe that the door was locked from the outside and that someone was in the house.

The next day Pam and Holly take the rowboat out. They lose the oars and a storm starts which blows the boat out to Blackberry Island where they await rescue. Supposedly, somewhere on the island is a farmhouse but no one lives there. Holly notices signs of a fresh fire on the shore and by the fire, soaked from the rain of the storm, are blueprints of the Hollister house. Pete and Mr. Hollister eventually show up and rescue them. Later that night there more weird sounds are in the house and Pete and Polly discover a mother cat with five newborn kittens in their cellar. When the children tell their other friends about the cats, Dave warns them that the mother cat looks like Joey's cat who disappeared more than a month ago. Joey eventually shows up and demands his cat back along with the kittens. Holly tells Joey that he only has a right to what he lost so he has no right to take the kittens. The mother cat even refuses to go with him so he snatches her up, puts her in a basket, and proceeds to dunk it in the lake. She escapes, scratches him, and he falls in the lake yelling at the Hollisters that they will pay.

The Hollisters want to help their father advertise his store. They come up with a scheme that they will put little ads in balloons and then let them loose for the children of the town to snatch up. Families can then come in to the store and have the balloon popped to discover if they won a prize. A boy named Phil wins some roller skates and Ann wins a doll. Joey comes in and wins a rocket but only moments later another boy shows up and his balloon says that he is a winner too. The Hollisters know something is up because they only made three winning tickets. The crowd in the store stops Joey from being able to run away and Pam looks closely at his winning slip and announces that it is not her handwriting so somehow Joey made a fake.

As a reward for all the business the children drummed up Mr. Hollister takes the family to the state park. While they are there the children decide to rent some bicycles and ride to a nice picnic spot. Pete notices a bike that looks similar to the one that was stolen. He explains to the man the situation and asks if he can examine the bike. The man watches as he unscrews the headlight and pulls out a piece of paper with the message on it that this bike is property of Pete Hollister. The bike man says that a rough looking fellow sold him the bike for three dollars.

When the Hollisters return home they find a police car. Mr. Hunter said that he saw a prowler and decided to call the police but they haven't been able to find anyone. They do discover that the cellar window is open and lots of footprints are on the ground. Pam happens to find a handkerchief just like one that Tinker owns. Tinker admits that he'd come to see Mr. Hollister and had seen a mysterious figure go around the back of the house. When he tried to follow, the man was gone. When he points to the spot that the man disappeared at the Hollisters notice that it is directly in front of the cellar window. Mr. Hollister and Pete come up with a plan to set up a camera in such a way that if the window is opened the camera will go off and capture the trespasser on film.

Pete and Pam decide to ask their neighbors if they have seen the mysterious man in a funny hat. One woman says that her neighbor has a funny red hat but when they visit him they discover that he looks nothing like the thief. The man does tell them that he has a friend who lives down the road who gives such hats to the men who help out on his farm fields. They visit the farmer who tells them that he got a bunch of the hats from a carnival last year and has given most of them to migrant workers who work on his farm for a little while and then move on. He does say that there was one man who stayed in town who is thin, has close-set eyes, and black hair. He last saw him about a month ago and says that his name is Bo Stenkle.

A mother in the neighborhood asks the Hollisters if they wouldn’t mind showing their kittens to her daughter. Pete's discovers a very unique sprinkler system in the woman's yard that is like one their father invented. The woman says that she bought it a few days ago for a man who brought it to her door and that he'd come by boat. Pete, Pam, and Tinker decide to go out to the island to see if they could find this mysterious man. On the shore they find fresh footprints and one of Pam's French dolls. They finally find the old farmhouse. They look inside but no one is there. However, they find mail addressed to Bo Stenkle.

When they return home they discover their front door open and a weird, fine dust coated on everything. They head down to the cellar and discover that the bottom of the chimney has been busted open. They use their dog to sniff out a trail that leads to the local bus stop where the last bus headed to Stony Point, which is the same area where their empty moving van was found. They call the police and all head to the scene of the crime. After some investigating they discover an old barn with all of their missing stuff inside. Up in the rafters they find Bo. He admits that he has been living on the island and one day came across the moving van parked on the side of the road but was no one in it. Since he had no money he decided to rob it. Before the Hollisters had moved into their house he had been searching for the treasure and denies having found anything. Pete searches the area where he was hiding and finds a box filled with tons of cash. The Hollister's have solved the case.

Thoughts and Nuggets of Wisdom for Research

The Happy Hollisters are Pam who is ten and described as helpful, Holly who is seven and is the pigtailed one, Little Sue who is four, Ricky who is seven and freckled, and the oldest boy, Pete, who is twelve. Their family also includes Zip, a collie dog, and a White Nose who is a cat.

This series is my nemesis series—it seems that I can’t escape it when searching for series books to add to my collection. People on eBay are selling them for a lot of money as they are collectible. However, anyone who wants them should just come to my state because my only local antique mart seems to only have people selling Hollister books. I just got a bunch from there in November and the very next day a friend had a bunch donated to her library and asked me if I wanted them. Argh! Can’t escape them! So naturally, I figured I had to read one for my project.

Just within the first opening pages readers can see the idealistic, safe, and prosperous time of America that was the 1950s. When Holly and Ricky get into the moving van to give better directions to the driver one nowadays automatically thinks, “Oh, my god, the children are getting into a car with a stranger.” However, back in the 1950s no one would have batted an eye at this. The world was a safe place and no one would've even considered that the moving van could've just driven away kidnapping the children.

The Hollister parents are described in traditional ways that parents are described in series fiction. They give off the feel that you just want them to e your parents. Mrs. Hollister is described as a “pretty blonde haired mother,” while Mr. Hollister is described as a “tall, athletic looking man” with brown eyes that “crinkled at the corners when he smiled and brown wavy hair” (p. 10). The Hollisters have moved to Shoreham because of the store. Mr. Hollister had had a chance to buy a hardware business which had closed. To it, he had added all kinds of athletic equipment and sporting goods. Their mother informs the children that “Dad hasn't any clerks yet, so he's going to let you all help himself hardware and sporting goods” (p. 27). This is a common thing of this time period—the children automatically being recruited to help with ma and pop type stores. It is easier than paying other people.

Joey is a total bully. There is actually a pretty violent fight scene for such a happy series. At Ann and Jeff’s party, the kids teases him and “Joey became very angry. He wanted to hit somebody, but did not dare. Holly was giggling so hard, she had to put her head down until her nose was almost touching the ice cream. Suddenly, Joey had an idea. He pushed Holly's head down right into the ice cream! Joey jumped up from the table and ran for the door. Pete instantly set off after him. He gained on him as they raced across the lawn. Then, with a flying tackle, he tumbled Joey to the ground. The boys rolled over and over as the other children from the party gathered around him. ‘Give it to him good!’ cried Dave. When the fighters scrambled to their feet, Joey punched Pete, and Pete hit him back” (p. 42-43).

A good series for representing the idyllic 1950s post-War America . . . possibly at least until the series turns all mystery happy like most tended to do because of the popularity of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Lindsey,
    I just came across your blog this morning. Thank you so much for writing about The Happy Hollisters. These books were written by my husband's grandfather, Andrew Svenson, under the pseudonym of Jerry West. He was a series author for the Stratemeyer Syndicate, and outlined/wrote/edited a number of titles in the Hardy Boys and Bobbsey Twins series. The Happy Hollisters series was based on his real-life family and their adventures growing up in New Jersey. The books have been out of print for over 40 years, but we have started reissuing them in paperback and ebook. Happily they have found a new audience in the children and grandchildren of the children who enjoyed the books when they were originally published in the 50s and 60s! We have reissued the first 12 volumes, plus volume 21, and are working to reissue several more each year until the entire series is back in print. Since you're a fan of series books, I thought you might find this information interesting. Please let us know if we can answer any questions for you about this series, or the author "Jerry West."
    Sincerely, Callie Svenson