01 October 2013

Where The Books Come From

Can anyone else look at certain books and not only remember where they were bought, but have a vivid memory of the store or sale itself? I have books I can look at and just be transported back into time:

All my Lord Peter Wimsey books came from the old Paperback Books store in downtown Providence, on Weybosset Street across from the Outlet Company department store. If I could go back in time, I could walk in that store today and still find my way around. The classics were up front, including those inexpensive paperbacks where the covers separated from the spine the first time you opened them (I still have my copy of Bob, Son of Battle that is like this). The mystery books were in the right-hand rear corner of the store, and the Wimsey books close to the dark linoleum floor. At the left-hand side of the store were shelves where the latest media-based books were kept. If a movie was coming out that had a novelization, or if a novel was being released as a movie and had a special movie cover, these books were all located on a bookcase on that side of the store. I remember buying my novelization of the movie Cromwell with Alec Guinness as King Charles (we saw it on a field trip) there.

All my Get Smart original novels (nine of them) each came from a different store; I used to be able to remember all of them, but my memory now fails me. The first book, Get Smart!, came from the Woolworths at Garden City Shopping Center. This was a "second home" for us sometimes; it carried everything from underwear to calendars (I'd buy a blank calendar from the stationery department every year, then illustrate each month with "scenes" from my stories), books to budgies (my budgie Frisky was a Woolworths budgie), ice trays, Christmas candy, and the best fresh-popped popcorn in town next to the fresh-popped at Ann & Hope (the Rhode Island version of Walmart). The second book in the series came from the Outlet Company downtown; the books were on the first floor at the back, next to the bakery/coffee shop. Mom would leave me there while shopping, relieving me from the boredom of tagging after her while she bought clothes (ugh) or shoes (double ugh). The paperbacks were on tall racks, with larger books on pallets in the center of the area.

Wyoming Summer, Mary O'Hara's memoir of life living on a Wyoming ranch, became the basis for her Ken McLaughlin novels starting with My Friend Flicka, I found at a used book sale that was being held at Garden City Shopping Center. The cover was rippled, probably from being wet, but the book was fine. I still remember the day, sunny, with a breeze, and my looking over the books piled on the outdoor tables and seeing the familiar author's name. I remember getting the third book, Green Grass of Wyoming, in a drugstore in Cumberland, Rhode Island, that we accidentally stopped at after heading to an outdoor summer concert at Diamond Hill. I had the first two books in the series (the other is Thunderhead) and didn't even know the third book existed until I saw it on the spinner rack. It was 75¢, a horrendous price for a paperback back then when the average price was 60¢, and Mom bought it for me for a good report card.

I must not forget Janette Sebring Lowery's Margaret, about a Texas hill girl sent to live in the big city with her uncle and aunt. It takes place in 1906, but the publisher had put a 70s-style girl on the cover. I was checking out the description when I realized that this was the book that had inspired the serial "Annette" on the classic Mickey Mouse Club. I found it on a spinner rack in Nayco, the "five-and-dime" that had replaced Woolworths on Rolfe Street in Cranston, Rhode Island. The changeover back then was nearly seamless; the store had the same wooden shelving and checkerboard linoleum floor and display windows as it had as a Woolworths. You could find barrettes and hair nets and inexpensive Christmas ornaments and flip-flops and packaged underpants here, and the place was a sweet, sweet trip into the past.

I have dozens of other books that not only bring me joy when I read them, but when I look at them and remember where they came from. It's always a happy journey.

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