Footnote to Postcard | Page 78 | Newberry

Footnote to Postcard

In case you got the 25th Anniversary Book Fair postcard “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” and wondered about it.

10,000 volume romance library: It’s hard, at this distance, to remember exactly how many thousands of paperback romances appeared, but there were honestly thousands. The “donor” was out of town and her children cleaned out the basement without telling her. We did hold onto the books for a while just in case, but she claimed she was perfectly happy about the underhanded cleaning. Gave her a chance to start over.

The bookstore that never opened: I don’t know what became of Mom, but in 1964 Father and Son were setting up their bookstore in the basement. They put up rows and rows of shelves and sorted hundreds of books onto them by subject. They had an old ammo crate where they stored rolled coins for making change, and they apparently planned to have a sideline in miniature and 3-D cameras. Then Dad unexpectedly died.  Son went on living in the bungalow, but it was a life suddenly without direction or purpose. He ate, slept, read the paper, and took in stray cats. He neglected his lawn, his house, and, most importantly, his taxes. The house was taken by the state after about thirty years and sold to a man who bought such places and fixed them up. He found a house filled with old newspapers and paper plates with catfood on them, and a small path leading from the front door to the kitchen to the bathroom to the couch. It took him three weeks to find the stairs to the second story, and he had the fumigators in four times before he called us to get the books. One of our volunteers stayed for only half an hour; there was too much mold in the air for her to breathe. We got some good books, not including the first edition of Carl Sandburg’s first book, signed by Sandburg, which we left on the floor: the bookcases had started to fall over, and the basement had flooded three or four times, so several books were now completely stuck to the concrete. The new owner of the house kept the ammo cases of coins (oh, all those solid silver dimes and quarters!) as well as the 1961 Chevy that had not been out of the garage since 1964.

The pickup truck loaded with LPs and 45s without jackets or boxes: The donor did this several times a year. He told us he bought up old jukebox warehouses in search of the records he loved, and brought us the rest. Over the years he also brought us eight yards of gold-embroidered tapestry, two forty year-old fur coats, and all of the non-alcoholic components of a mini-bar that had been stocked around 1960. (the tapestry was turned into an elegant tablecloth.  We sold one of the fur coats and had the other made over into a bunny rabbit, which we sold. I, um, still have the mini-bar contents; there are things where even eBay can’t help.)

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