Between the ages of 10-12, my reading diet consisted almost exclusively of the teenage-targetted detective series The Hardy Boys. For me, the term invokes the names Frank and Joe before the Matt and Jeff of WWE fame. We had a fairly wide collection of the blue-hardcovered books of those days. And I believe I made the effort to read every single book in that particular series, through borrowing and such. I think I was successful, but I can’t be sure.
In any case , that meant this article piqued my interest:
The Knotty Nostalgia of the Hardy Boys Series Why one writer still reads the wildly popular books with a mixture of love and disappointment, 60 years after they were revised to remove racist content
Reading the series as a child, I never felt any serious racist undertones, probably because the versions I had were already torn down. Or more likely, because as a child I didn’t have any real concept of race. Sure, Frank and Joe were depicted as white kids on the book covers, but that meant nothing to this brown kid from Asia, even though I was certainly aware of caucasians and blacks by then. As far as I was concerned, I could have been mixed in with their crowd with no issues. I even remember specifically the Hidden Harbor book mentioned in the article, there were some characters who spoke with a southern accent, I guess they were meant to be black? But I never imagined them in my head as any different from their northern visitors. (There was this one character named Grover who in my head looked like a blue muppet…)
Our copies of those Hardy Boys books are long gone, but like the article’s author I still look back at them with a tinge of nostalgia. I did learn a lot from those books, from vocabulary to American culture to different kinds of hobbies. I think the main charm of the Chet Morton character mentioned in the article is that with every book he always had a new, different hobby, and in that way the teenage readers could learn about some new field or possible area of interest. Later on, we also encountered softbound books of a later Hardy Boys series The Hardy Boys Casefiles, which was more dark (one of the character’s girlfriends got killed), but they lacked the charm, templating or formularity of the old ones, and we never got more than a few books from that series.
I’m not sure if these books are still available locally, I don’t recall seeing them in bookstores. I think they would still be pretty good reading for young boys these days - the Hardy Boys seem like they’d be good role models, they’re smart, they do well in school, they’re friendly and accepting and they obey the law and perhaps most importantly, they exhibit a sense of curiosity and adventure about the world around them, something many kids these days seem to lose as they grow up.