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 continued 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,
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
cc: Ohio Book Store, Cincinnati