Bibliophile essay contest – Entrant 11

in from Bob Lewis – Sylvan’s Foremost Bookstore

How I Became a Used Book Seller

When I was very young my mother read me stories. I loved stories. I wanted them all the time.
When I started school I thought I would learn to read and then I could have stories any time I wanted. But I had a lot of trouble with reading. My parents mentioned it to Mrs. Batts, a retired school teacher who lived next door.
At this time, 1956, I was 8. Mrs. Batts said it was because they weren’t teaching phonics. She told my parents to get a set of books called ‘The Beacon Readers’. In 6 weeks she taught me to read.
Whenever we went anywhere, my father was on the lookout for used bookstores. My mother went for wool shops. I went with my father.
Owning a used book store seemed like too much of a fairy-tale – it would just be too good to be true. I didn’t even consider it as a real possibility. I sometimes got jobs like night gas station attendant, which meant I could just sit there and read for nearly 40 hours a week.
I was about 50 when I spotted an ad in the newspaper for a used book store for sale. I knew that I couldn’t afford it, but then I thought – what are they going to do – beat me up if I don’t buy it? So I phoned. A young woman had started Red Ink Books on the second story of a store in London, Ontario. She’d had it open a year when she got accepted to university. 12,000 books with pine shelves – a good starter collection – and the lease would be up in a week, so the price was right. I gave her a deposit and set off for home.
Sylvan, where we live, has a population of about 25. When we came here we bought the existing gas and grocery store but had closed it after our road was closed for 4 summers in 5 years. I thought I could open weekends only, and with no rent to pay it could work. It was early May – I just had time to tidy the store and get set up.

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