Paperback memories

paperback memoriesNow that I’m back in the reading saddle, I can see the end in the trail ahead.  Soon, all too soon, I’ll run out of “real” books and have to switch over to my Kindle.

That’s okay, actually, since I need to catch up on the enormous backlog from my review group (sorry, gang!), but I still don’t like e-reading all that much, so I’ll probably slow down considerably from there.

Reading through these old paperback and hardcover books has me waxing nostalgic of my “good old days” of voracious reading and, more specifically, bookstores.

During my “era” of growing up, there were a lot more “Mom & Pop” stores in the world. From the corner drug store (single owner) to the barber shop (with the spinning colored pole) to the bookstore.

It was not uncommon to find multiple bookstores within blocks of each other. I bemoan that has changed to miles, in modern times.

In that special period between starting senior high school and leaving for college, I was hired to “run” a small bookstore. Ostensibly, I was there simply to man the register during the days/afternoons I was off from school, but the owner’s daughter had no interest in sitting in a bookstore so I essentially ran the place.

It was mostly a used book store, with the walls lined with shelves and the interior having several large flat tables (more like horizontal bookcases without shelves).

The owner wanted the place mainly to run some backroom business in seedier print materials. He admonished me to avert my gaze from the publications and transactions. I like to think that he had my best interests in mind (don’t get the kid mixed up in the dirty stuff).

Because of his effective lack of interest in the rest of the store, there was little rhyme, reason or order to the place. Over the span of several highly motivated weeks, I created separate sections within the store: non-fiction, fiction, mystery, romance, western and hardback (including textbooks).

Since the place was mostly used books (and some not-so-legal coverless books from the new bookstore down the street), much of my effort was focused on reducing the duplication on the shelves and then storing the extra books in the back (making sure to avert my eyes from that place).

Beyond the astounding $3 an hour I was making (hey, Publix only paid $2.35), I could take whatever books I wanted for myself. Needless to say, my science fiction collection grew significantly during this period.

Beyond that, I was free to read all types of books during the “dry” hours when walk-in traffic was slow. I would normally start of with those authors we had the most of (Benchley, Michener, Ludlum) and then branch out to various series (like The Executioner, Ellery Queen or Travis McGee).

It was a dream job. Literally. I dreamed of owning a store like it when I retired. Economics of today (both cost of facilities and dearth of stock) made that dream unfulfilled, but the memories remain vibrant.

“Those” days were filled with running around to other bookstores and picking up great books and great prices. Heck, it was more fun picking up the old books because they had all those great artists doing the covers (Frazetta, Jones, Vallejo, Krenkel).

There are few enough bookstores left to visit. Occasionally, I’m lucky enough to be in a place that actually has a used book store. I can spend hours just walking around the shelves of sometimes yellowed, sometimes dog-eared, but all-times nostalgic paperbacks.


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