Wednesday, May 09, 2007

just an old-fashioned book sale

I first stumbled upon the Elora Festival's book sale last year, after having brunch in Guelph with my friend Dayna. It was a sale Dad would have loved, as it combined three of his key qualifications for going crazy at such events: large selection, low prices and geriatric volunteers.

Two sales Dad and I regularly attended during my childhood stick out in my mind:

* Essex County Library sales. Besides the regular sales at each branch, there was at least one or two mass sales held every year in one of the loading docks at the Essex Civic Centre. We'd arrive early and wait in line until the hordes poured into the tight space. I tended to stock up on young adult lit or 1970s NHL guides.

* Brandeis book sales. Held annually at Tel-Twelve Mall in suburban Detroit as part of a national series of fundraisers for Brandeis University, these were notable for seeing how fast Mom's eyes would roll as Dad quickly filled up K-Mart shopping carts full of ludicrously cheap books. We went on the next-to-last day, when prices were reduced. Elderly volunteers meant we tended to get deeper discounts. The best deal I ever found was a near-complete set of Grant Morrison's run as writer on Doom Patrol and 1980s issues of The Comics Journal, all for 10 to 25 cents apiece. If this sale is still going in Motown, I'm not sure of the location, as Tel-Twelve was later converted to big boxes.

Little wonder that the collection in our basement grew to the size of a small library branch.

Last weekend, I checked out this year's Elora sale, twice as it turned out, with friends in tow. The main trip was on Saturday, where Dayna and I picked up an empty box each and started browsing.

Food Section
I began browsing in the food section, where I figured I could find a pile of material to use for future posts here. It didn't take long for cookbooks and pamphlets to find their way into my box, given that most predated me and were going for a quarter apiece.

The Box Starts To Fill
Among the early finds: 1960s cooking tips from spy novelist Len Deighton, a paperback mixing meals and metaphysics, Penguin cooking handbooks and the scripts to Michael Palin and Terry Jones' post-Python series Ripping Yarns.

Esoteric Books
The tables were organized by category, with a few unusual categories like "Old Favourites" and this catch-all. Like any mass donation book sale, there were the inevitable copies of the full range of works by Erich von Daniken and, over in the poetry section, Rod McKuen.

The Damage Done
When the dust settled, I spent $20 on a box full of treasures. Among the items: a guide to Orson Welles I remember borrowing as a kid from the Windsor library, a dozen early 1960s issues of Maclean's, several issues of Popular Science and Popular Mechanics from the early 1950s, a guide to the many uses of Jell-O, a collection of recipes from Toronto restaurants c. 1980, etc. The day's finds should keep me occupied for months. Dayna also filled a box, which we carted around in the trunk as we wandered around the region for the rest of the afternoon.

Pictures from the entire day here - I'll cover the rest of the day's sights in future entries.

***

Visit number two came the next day, on a roadtrip to be featured in an upcoming entry (but you can peek at the pictures). I picked up a few more items, including 1930s pamphlets on vegetarianism and a 1974 Toronto Life handbook to visiting our fair city, as well as a 1970 study on the "underside" of Toronto (think articles on, say, sex at York University), while my fellow roadtrippers stocked up on Time-Life series and classic literature.

Based on everyone's reaction, I should have no problem filling the car for next year's sale. - JB

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