—When Joan Reed met Venice, Fla., resident Bernice Baker Walker at the Venice Presbyterian Church, they quickly exchanged their backgrounds.
Walker explained that she had been an artist. In fact, the Carbondale native was an original artist for the children's magazine, Highlights for Children®.
Thinking that Highlights would be interested in Walker's story, Reed decided to contact the magazine. She discovered that not only were people at Highlights excited to get in touch, but Pat Mikelson, a granddaughter of the Highlights' Founders, was in Florida for a company meeting. Mikelson had joined the family company in the 1990s after a career working in nonprofits and is currently the company historian. She was eager to reminisce with this early contributor to the magazine's success. And with that, a meeting was arranged.
On Feb. 6, the three women met for lunch and to discuss their memories of Dr. Garry Cleveland Myers, Ph.D., and his wife, Caroline Clark Myers, who founded what has become the nation's best-read children's magazine.
After graduating from Rhode Island School of Design, Walker responded to a newspaper ad seeking illustrators for Highlights for Children. During her five years as a staff illustrator, she worked closely with Mikelson's grandmother, Caroline Myers, who was the magazine's managing editor.
Walker specialized in drawing animals and people. She often illustrated Old Testament stories that were part of the magazine at the time, as well as the "thinking" features.
Walker remembers the early years of the business, which started in a rented room above an auto dealership on Main Street in Honesdale. Dr. and Mrs. Myers, who were near what many people would consider retirement age, wanted to create a magazine that taught children learning was fun through thinking and reasoning activities, crafts, music, and stories. "They wanted to set a positive example for children and not preach to them," says Walker.
Mikelson's grandfather did most of the writing. He also answered letters from children, containing questions and artwork that Highlights received. It was up to Caroline Myers to work with the artists. When the final product was ready, she would deliver it to Columbus, Ohio, where the magazine had found a printer. Paper was precious during the 1940s and finding a printer for the new publication had been a challenge.
As Walker and
Mikelson talked, it was the small, personal memories that they focused on most. "I remember being entertained in their beautiful, spacious home," said Walker. She was amazed by a beautiful hand-braided rug in the living room. Mrs. Myers had made it, along with many other rugs. It was a hobby she worked on while her husband read Dickens out loud. "I didn't know that!" said Mikelson. "Thank you."
Page 2 of 2 - Walker left the area after she got married, but continued to work for Highlights for one week a month "to put the magazine to bed."
Walker and her husband moved to the Lancaster area where she opened a studio and taught.
Highlights, now in its 67th year, continues to be the most recognizable and widely read children's magazine in the nation.
In addition to its flagship publication, the company publishes Highlights High Five™ for children ages 2 to 6, which premiered in 2007, and Highlights Hello™ for infants to age two, which started earlier this year. The magazines go to more than two million homes, schools, libraries, and professional offices each month. The editorial offices of all three magazines, as well as HighlightsKids.com and Highlights Press, are located in Honesdale. The company's business offices are in Columbus. The Highlights family of companies also includes Zaner-Bloser Educational Publishers, Inc.; Staff Development for Educators; Stenhouse Publishers; and Highlights for Children International, Inc.