I’m not a very observant person, which may explain why I failed to notice that for the last 25 years, she has belonged to a book group here in Oak Park called the Oyster Shells. Oh, the evidence was there. Every six weeks or so on Thursday evenings – come kids, job or terrible weather – my wife Marsha, without fail, headed out with a book under her arm only to return a few hours later, ever so slightly energized and inspired by the evening’s activities. I just failed to notice. So much for my starring in CSI: Oak Park.

Upon my recent vigorous cross-examination, she has revealed to me that Oyster Shells is a book group that has been in existence for 31 years, which I’m sure improves the quality of the snacks, if not the discussion. The ages of the 20 or so members range from 27 to mid-70s. Now they’re named Oyster Shells because, like the oyster, these women may not be beautiful on the outside, but they are beautiful on the inside. I’m guessing that none of the women are marine biologists. According to Marsha, you don’t have to have read the book to attend the discussion, which is nice. Kind of like playing a round of golf just riding in the cart. Marsha, on more than one occasion, has told me that Oyster Shells reads “serious” books. Makes sense. There aren’t that many “funny” books available – anything by David Sedaris and Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue. That’s about it.

As technology makes it easier for us to live our lives in fraudulence and isolation, book groups are probably as good a measure as any as of our community well-being. While Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and avatar worlds may purport to enhance our sociability, we all know deep down where this is headed: lots of lonely souls in their underwear staring at computer screens at 1 a.m. Book groups, with their collegiality of face-to-face intellectual discussion, are the canaries in the coal mine of civilization. Beware their passing from the scene.

Oyster Shells has been in existence for 31 years. During that time the group has read more than 300 books. When these women began meeting to discuss books, Jimmy Carter was president. These women were talking about starting their jobs and families. Now they talk about retiring and their grandchildren. Former District 200 Superintendent Don Offermann once told me that there is satisfaction in doing something well, but the real praise goes to those who do something well for a long time. By that standard I hope that Oyster Shells and all the other book groups will accept my congratulations and best wishes for continued success. I hope that 31 years from today you will still be reading “serious” books and sharing your lives with people who care about you – even if you are gathering in the common rooms of the Oak Park Arms or Holley Court!

John Hubbuch, an Indiana native who moved to Oak Park in 1976, is a retired lawyer. Hubbuch served on the District 97 school board and coached youth sports. He is the father of three and grandfather of one.

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John Hubbuch

John is an Indiana native who moved to Oak Park in 1976. He served on the District 97 school board, coached youth sports and, more recently, retired from the law. That left him time to become a Wednesday...