Longtime Wanatah librarian turning 100

Submitted photoJulia Boldt, who served as librarian in Wanatah for nearly 40 years and oversaw many changes, and moves, will be turning 100 next month. 

WANATAH — Anyone who grew up or lived in Wanatah from the late 1940s on almost certainly remembers Julia Boldt – after all, she’s almost 100 years old.

Boldt, who was librarian at the Wanatah Public Library for nearly 40 years and helped oversee many big changes, lived in Wanatah for most of those 100 years before recently moving to Michigan City.

And that’s where friends and family will gather on Dec. 8 to share memories and mark the milestone – three days after her birthday.

Julia was born on Dec. 5, 1919, in Chicago, daughter of Peter and Julia Wabol. Her sister, Catheran Rosenbaun, passed away in 1999. She attended elementary school and high school in Hamlet before eventually graduating from Knox High School.

On May 30, 1941, she married Ben I. Boldt of Wanatah at the Salem United Church of Christ Church. The couple moved for a short time to Camp Polk Army Base near Leesville, Louisiana, after her Ben was drafted.

Julia worked in a Five & Dime store in Leesville for about a year before Ben was discharged from the Army in 1943 and the couple returned home to Wanatah. And that’s where their only child – Ben I. Boldt Jr. – was born in September 1944. Ben Jr. is now a real estate agent in Tucson, Arizona.

Julia, meanwhile, took a job as assistant librarian, and when librarian Leona Kuster moved away, she asked Boldt to take over as librarian. The request was approved by the Library Board, and Boldt became the sixth person to hold that position since the library was opened in 1925.

She studied for and passed equivalency courses to attain her Indiana Librarian Certification and worked at the library for the next 37 years before retiring in 1982 as the longest-serving librarian the town has ever had.

When Boldt started her career, the library was located in a 25-by-25-foot space at the front of a former store building owned by the Boehlkes, where it had stood since 1930, according to a “History of the Wanatah Public Library” section on the library website (wanatahlibrary.com/about/history/).

In 1954, the library moved to a newer building it shared with the Cass-Clinton Volunteer Fire Department, tripling its available space. The new library also had an adjoining workroom, which the former location lacked.

The library, and Julia, would stay in that space for nearly 30 years. She retired in 1982, the year before the library moved yet again, this time to the Wanatah Town Hall in 1983.

During her time at the library, Julia helped oversee its conversion to a Class I library, a move debated by the Library Board throughout the 1950s until it approved the conversion in 1959, in part because the move would help stabilize the facility’s finances. 

When she started, the library’s collection totaled 6,031 books and there were 412 registered borrowers. By 1964, the number had grown to 7,891 volumes, and in 1972, the library marked its 10,000th volume.

Julia also oversaw binding of the local newspaper, the Wanatah Mirror, in 1953, when copies from 1932 on were bound for safekeeping. Eventually the bound collection would span from 1899-1969.

She also maintained the popular tradition of a summer reading program for children, known as the Indian Club, and her son said after retirement, Julia “was always thrilled when one of ‘her kids’ recognized her years after she left the library.”

The library also acquired a collection of phonograph records in 1959, and in 1966, a section was set aside for books on Indiana and books written by Indiana authors.

Throughout her time at the library, and beyond, Julia was an active member of the Salem Church Women’s League, an avid bowler and, of course, an avid book reader.

She was also part of a committee that put up a historical marker in 2003 at the site where the Monon Railroad Station stood until it burned down in the 1970s. The marker commemorates President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train stopping there on May 1, 1865.

Julia called the memorial “something Wanatah can be proud of,” according to newspaper reports of the time.

Her 100th birthday will be another, and the “by invitation” party will be from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8, at the Life Care Center on U.S. 20 in Michigan City.

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