With the demise of "Border's Books" & advent of The Kindle - it brought back memories of home & the inevitable evolution of books.
My father's job when I was born was A Travelin' Man for "Fiction Lovers Library". This business was putting new Fiction books for rent into Drug Stores & the like - up & down the east coast.
His big brother Uncle Joe, owned the business & hired 3 other brothers to work for him, as well as other employees. My father's job was traveling to these spots regularly & manually keeping bookkeeping records & collecting money from those stores that rented out those books. Old School.
My father, the 9th of 10 children; all born poor in Ozone Park, Queens, New York & is where my father's personality was formed at age 9 by his early bout with Scarlet Fever; leaving him with a complete loss of hearing.
An extremely quiet man; with good grades - he had to drop out of Columbia University because he couldn't hear the Lectures; disappointing his father who had visions of him being a doctor - but instead floundered & took refuge in reading.
When he got his first real job for his brother in the "Book Business" during these hard times in the 1930's & 40's; he didn't have to go far for his fix.
When the business went bust with the advent of "Pocket Books"; my father lost his living & felt a failure with a weary wife & 3 children to feed. Without knowing one thing about this profession - he opened a small Grocery Store in Maryland; rising at 5 am to get fresh fruit, vegetables & meat. He learned to be a Butcher, gutting chickens for the first time - ending his long day falling into bed for the next day & his reading days were over.
Due to the emergence of the big Grocery Chains; after 14 months, my father gave up his store; leaving the IOU's giving customers credit; still unpaid in the drawer. And the Photos don't lie - he aged 10 years during that time.
A "Willy Loman" figure - years later, when he again had time for books; he used them like everyone else does - for comfort, distraction, escape & avoidance.
But there's one thing I always wished he would've done for me; share his thoughts on what he had just finished reading:
Did he like it or not? Was he moved by it? Had he ever wanted to be that character? What did he learn from it? Or even just suggesting I should read it!
In his own silent world; looking back - he didn't share that with anyone. When I think of him; I think of him sitting in his Easy Chair reading - far away; yet so near.
Years after his death; I wandered in an old dusty Book Store & spotted a book with the Opening Page stamped "Fiction Lovers Library" & clutched it to my chest. It took away my father when he travelled for the family & kept us fed & now is a cherished book I'll always keep close. The name of the Book? It doesn't matter, does it?
Like Henry Fonda's "Tom Joad's" haunting lament from the book & then Movie "Grapes of Wrath":
"Wherever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there...."
Well, I know I'll do the same - "Wherever words are written - I'll be there"! Yes, whether its a real Book or a Kindle - I'll be there.