Book Review: The Hardy Boys Book 3, The Secret of the Old Mill by Franklin W. Dixon et al
A Trip Down Memory Lane
When I was young, just about every kid I knew was reading either a Hardy Boys Mystery or a Nancy Drew Mystery. I used to get one for every birthday and Christmas. If I was really good, there was the occasional one in between. By the time I was grown up, I had almost the complete set. When I moved away from Ontario, I gave the set along with all my encyclopedias to a family of five little girls. Sometimes I think about that action and mourn slightly, but, of course, it was the best thing to do at the time. You can only have so many books. I have enough for three lifetimes or a small village library.
Since the day I gave up my Nancy Drew set, I have been slowly buying them back again ( yeah, so I missed them. Don’t judge me.), plus the occasional Hardy Boys Mystery. The other day, it was lousy outside; rain, snow, darkness, you know a typical British Columbia winter day. I looked at the bookshelves where my short and sweet books are and lo and behold, there sat The Secret of the Old Mill by Franklin W. Dixon. A Hardy Boys Mystery!
So who was this Franklin W. Dixon fellow? I decided to check online and see what came up.
According to missy7 on answers.com a heckuva lot of ghost writers were Mr. Dixon, either that or the guy had the worse case of multiple personalities known to man. There were so many that I couldn’t bother to be as thorough as Miss missy7 was. Wow! We are talking a whole pile. The series was the brainchild of the Stratemeyer Syndicate ( no we are not talking organized crime here) later bought out by Simon and Schuster in the 1980’s. So nowadays, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys are being pumped out by the ghost writers of Simon and Schuster. So there you have it—Franklin W. Dixon in a nutshell! Quite a guy.
This particular book is number three in the series, but already it had labelled the brothers as young detectives, and they were just taking after their Pa, a real life (or fake life….or well, just a fictional real life…) private eye. Yup, daddy was a detective too. So they were just taking after the old man.
During this story they drive around in their buddy Chet’s ( real name Chester Morton, wow, which today would just mean a whole load of misery, and a kid in his thirties who ends up completely covered with tattoos and on death row) bright yellow, souped-up jalopy named Queen. Oh wow, those were the days. I remember naming my first car. They were always French names and male. My current Dodge Caravan (be nice) is named Anton; not quite Antonio as in Banderas, but in my mind he looks almost the same as we whisk along the highway, with our hair blowing in the breeze from the passenger windows open slightly at a safe level and the only rear window which works, open to get a little counter breeze.
I have, in my youth, driven in a few jalopies, which were fun and required no doors to open. You simply hopped in! Over the existing, seemingly always shut, door. Back then, I hopped. Today, it only happens in the kitchen when I step on something. Or in the bathroom when Mr. Lloyd Kitty has been particularly flamboyant with his cat litter.
Back to the story…Chet is described as plump and constantly eating junk food, a description today which would have led to cyber bullying indeed. His buddies tease him in a good-humoured way because back then we just teased people out loud and to their face, not online—since there was no online. (Well, that’s not exactly true. I loaded the line every other day with the wash and my mother regularly asked, “What’s on the line? Did you bring everything in?” So yes there was “on line” but not the online we mean today. Whew!) Back to Chet. Chet is a constant homey in the Hardy Boys’ crib. He and Tony, their other buddy, show up here and there throughout the story and near the end help them jump a bunch of guys and get in a fight. Not quite your sweet little angels now, eh?! Heh heh heh.
Eighteen-year-old Frank and his one-year-younger brother, Joe, who is described as “blond and impetuous” (in other words, some little punk kid who probably gave his mother all the grey hair on her head) get involved with a boy on a bicycle who nearly gets hit by a car. One thing leads to another and the next thing you know they are involved with counterfeiters and Mill Wheels, and tracking paper at the local stationary story ( can you imagine walking into Staples and saying, “Can you tell me who bought this piece of paper?” ) wandering through tunnels, getting trapped in trucks, and having their dad get sort-of blown up and stuff like that. All the things which would put hair on the chest of a young lad in the 1950s!
Throughout it all, they interact peacefully with the local sheriff who has no trouble telling them everything that’s going on in the rich underbelly of crime in their little berg. Today, if the cops know you by name when you walk into the station, it’s not because they respect your dad and want to give you an award or have you help them solve a crime. Nope, no way. We will leave that one there.
So of course, they solve the mystery and their last words are nice and corny and no one ever swears, not even the bad guys. It was a nice time back then. Post WWII when the world was shiny and bright and mom was at home all day (not working like Rosie the Riveter in the munitions factory anymore and sitting out back smoking cigarettes, chewing gum and drinking beer with her buddies after work)
cause the war was over, and dad smoked a pipe constantly (not worrying about his future lung cancer or emphysema) and sat in an easy chair and was home to listen to your troubles and give you good advice which rivalled the advice God gave Moses in the Bible.
Man, I love the Hardy Boys. I think I’ll check the second hand store and see if they have anymore of the old ones. I don’t want to read the new ones in case Chet’s car is now a Jaguar XK XKR-S GT convertible which does zero to sixty in 4.9 seconds, and instead of having twenty bucks in his hand, he thinks nothing of popping a hundred in the tank every other day.
And Mr. Hardy is smoking pot in the garage and rhyming off clever little gems that sound more like a Cheech and Chong rerun.
Mrs. Hardy has just returned from drug rehab and had a couple of fentanyl scares. And Frank has piercings everywhere which occasionally get painfully ripped out in a fight or while he’s crawling through a tunnel underground somewhere chasing Columbian Drug Lords. And Joe, dear little Joe, has green and pink hair; no sweet little blond-headed moppet is he anymore, no he’s got muscles like the Rock,
and mimics Vin Diesel on a good day.
No, give me the old Hardy Boys. I like those guys. I’ll just sit in my rocker and daydream.
You can buy the Hardy Boys mysteries all over the place and especially at second hand book stores. Enjoy!
Have a nice day!