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No students! or My First Bookstore
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No students! or My First Bookstore: 04/23/15

Satellite view of the bookstore's location.

I didn't really get into reading until late elementary school. There was a small bookstore in the strip mall across the street from the elementary school, or halfway home from the jr. high. It was one of those stores that had a sign posted on the window warning, "no students" between the hours of such and such (basically the time when the schools let out). I would have paid no attention to this hole in the wall because the sign was unfriendly, the store was small, and books just weren't my thing.

But my grandmother knew the owner. Actually, my grandmother was the type of person who always knew someone wherever we went. I'm not entirely sure how she did that, but she did.

My grandmother who didn't like the sentiment of the sign either decided to use me as a teachable moment. Or something. So she introduced me to the owner — a stern older woman who looked too mean to be a librarian but secretly wanted to be, and so opened a bookstore instead.

I don't remember what exactly she said, except to promise I would be coming in one some regular schedule (weekly or monthly, I don't recall). More importantly, I wouldn't always be accompanied by my grandmother, and on those days I would be showing up after school. I would spend no more than an agreed upon amount of time and then I would make my selection and pay for my book. If I caused any undue trouble, she should telephone my grandmother.

All this time, I'm standing there somewhere between dumbstruck with anger and feeling scared to death that I'd be expected to be in here alone with the Wicked Witch of the bookstore. I hoped she wouldn't agree to such terms, but she did. (My grandmother had that effect on people too.)

Around the same time as this, I was getting ready for some of my first overnight camps (Girl Scouts, and a sixth grade graduation camp). My grandmother told me to pick some books to read on the bus because the ride one way was an hour or more and I might get bored.

I ended up picking the first two of the Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey because the dragons looked like dinosaurs and I had just seen Flight of Dragons based on The Dragon and the George by Gordon R. Dickson and Flight of Dragons by Peter Dickinson.

And I ended up reading both McCaffrey books on the bus ride (one out and one back) and I knew the grumpy bookstore had more of her books. So yes, I did start going. And throughout all that time until I went to college, I was a regular visitor. I even eventually got to invite some of my closest friends in (with my supervision and threats to call my grandmother if they misbehaved).

The store is closed now and I'm long since moved, 500 miles to the north, but it was my first experience as a regular bookstore customer. I actually still have many of the books I bought there, though not all of them.

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