It was one of my favorite places to visit,

A dusty and crowded used book store,

Where stacks and stacks of books littered

The aisles in absolute disarray,

And bending down to check out the titles

On the lower shelves,

You never knew

What treasures you might find;

One especially favorite such place

Was in Burbank for many years,

Owned by an older man named Pete,

Who counted my children

Every time we visited his store,

And admonished me to make sure

I left with the same number I came in with;

The children were free to explore

And Chris would always seek out the wash room

Because every place that mama went,

Chris was sure to have to go,

(with me admonishing “don’t touch anything

Except your penis and the sink to wash your hands”)

Along some high shelves in the book store

Were an assortment of very old cameras

That Pete collected,

But this was long before I took up photography

And I paid little attention to those cameras,

Much to my regret, later on.

It was also long before I began collecting cookbooks;

At Magnolia Park Books,

The children found comic books

Or children’s stories

While I explored,

Looking for books of fiction

And authors I was interested in

Way back when.

One day I told Pete I had a small set of books

A collection of the world’s best fiction,

To which there were, perhaps 20 books in the

entire set of one hundred stories,

But I was missing just one of the books—

It may have been #15 in the set.

You’ll never find it”, Pete warned me,

It would be too hard to find just one book

In the set

And yet as I explored the shelves,

I found exactly that –#15 to the set (and no others!,

Even though it had a different colored binding.

Pete was as amazed as I but

Thinking back on this particular book store,

I think it had a kind of magic about it;

I don’t recall most of the titles in the set,

Except that Crime and Punishment was one

And I waded determinedly through Dostoyevsky.

And then after I had been gone a while –

Perhaps when we moved to Florida in 1979

And back to California in 1982,

I went to visit Pete,

But he was no longer there;

He had passed away, I was told.

The store was being run by relatives

Of his wife.

I never knew there was a wife.

The store remained in business, and I discovered

A huge cache of club and church cookbooks,

Which I began buying–

And then one day when I went to visit

Magnolia Park Books, it wasn’t there.]

Where it had stood was now part of

A furniture store.

I had to find a place to park on busy Magnolia Boulevard

So I could cry.

That was only one of the many used book stores

In Southern California, in particularly the

San Fernando valley, with at least half a dozen

used book stores in Burbank alone

That no longer exist;

There was a time when I knew where

all of them were located.

The internet has replaced them

And the used book dealer is becoming one

Of a dying breed.

Oh, Pete, I hope there is a place

In heaven for used book store dealers.


–Sandra Lee Smith




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