Here’s my story…

About 20 years ago or so, I was at a Salvation Army auction one morning. They were selling of tons (literally) of junk they’d had donated to them over the last few years or so; stuff that wasn’t easily sold in their actual stores. A lot of it was good stuff, too.

One thing that immediately caught my eye was a pallet (6′ high, 4′ wide X 4′ wide) of nothing but boxed up hardcover books. I looked through some of the books in the top boxes and realized that there were some very old, and often valuable, books in this boxes. I decided I’d bid on it a bit and see where it goes.

The auctioneer kept bringing up lot after lot, but not the pallet of books. I was getting impatient by the time the morning wore on. Finally, when he’d pretty much sold everything that was in the yard back there that morning, he brought up the pallet of books. There was only a small crowd of folks left by then (about 20 or so). He described the contents of the pallet briefly by saying, “Here you go, folks… a bunch of books”.

He looked around at the faces in the crowd and said, “I’m opening the bidding at one dollar.” I about shit myself. I bid the $1 immediately to get things rolling. Well, after I bid, he looked around and said, “Once, twice, sold that man there for $1.” I just laughed… and wondered how the Hell I was going to get this pallet home and what I was going to do with all those books.

When I asked the auctioneer afterwards why he’d let it go so cheaply, he said, “Did you see anyone trampling you to get in a bid?” I said no, I didn’t. His reply, with a smirk on his face, was, “Gotta’ know your audience in this job.”

Well, needless to say, I got the books home and spent a few years going through them and selling some, giving some away, etc. However, that’s not the point of this story. The point was finding things in books. So, with that in mind…

There were quite a few books in this collection that had the name of a fellow in them. His name was Charles Lounsbury. He was evidently a well-educated man; many of his books were text books from Cornell University. Anyway, whilst thumbing through one of them one day, a small business card fell out into my lap. It was a dentist’s appointment card for Mr. Lounsbury. It also had his address and phone number on it.

Just for grins and giggles, I called the number on the card. An older-sounding man answered on the first ring. I said “Hello” and gave my name. I then asked the fellow if he was Charles Lounsbury. He said he was indeed. I told him about all the books I’d bought and how I had found this dentist appointment card in one of them. He was BLOWN AWAY immediately upon hearing about the books.

He told me that his sister had possession of his personal library at the time of her death, but he had not spoken with her in many years. When she died, it seems that someone cleaning out her house had donated all her possessions, including Charles’ books, to the Salvation Army. Mr Lounsbury was very interested in possibly seeing his books again. He was wanting to leave some of them to his grandchildren upon his demise.

I made a date for him to drive from Sarasota, FL up to my home in Tampa and take whichever of his books he wanted back. The following Saturday he showed up. He was absolutely amazed to find all his books in the middle of my living room (huge stack of books, here’s a sampling):

Anyway, he picked out 10 of 15 of his prized books and asked if he could take them. I, of course, said yes… for sure. After that we sat and had some coffee and he told me his life story. It was a wonderful afternoon! Charles and I became pretty good friends after that for about 10 or so years, until his death at age 88.

It’s amazing, sometimes, the things you find in books. 🙂

About V. T. Eric Layton

vtel57, Nocturnal Slacker

33 responses »

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  6. festercluck says:

    My story happens when my wife and I also were bidding on an auction. We obtained a number of old cookbooks from local churches and restaurants. When going through them one cookbook had a much smaller book inside it which fell to the floor. It was a sex manual “For Married Couples only, by prescription!”, a small, blue, and highly informative booklet.

  7. A Person says:

    You found a person in the books!
    Nice reading this.

  8. Sri says:

    This is the the most beautiful story I’ve heard. May be because I can see the love of books among us 3. Love the story

    • Thank you, Sri! And yes, the love of books has always been a thing for me. My mother taught me to read and write when I was about 3 years old. When I started the 1st Grade (never went to Kindergarten), they were studying the alphabet the first few days… I was reading Melville’s Moby Dick at that time. 😉

  9. Frank says:

    A lovely story. Warmed my heart.
    Very rare for me to find personal Blogs worth reading these days.
    Today I found one.
    A big Thanks from Germany 🙂

  10. Scooba says:

    Good story 🙂 Sounds like a British expat, given his name and the British university book collection. But maybe I’m wrong.

  11. This is a fabulous story … thank you.

    You may be interested to know that there is a lengthy discussion of it … and other things … over here:

    https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=32334552

    One of the comments is on the irony that there are *so* many comment there, but not one here, so I thought I’d point you at that discussion in case you’re interested.

    For me, I’ve never found anything interesting in books, but I’ve started to consider leaving things behind in books I might give away in the future. Maybe I’ll create a story for someone else.

    • BTW … It’s likely you can’t do anything about this, but the “hoverbox” that popped up while I was trying to leave a comment made it really, really hard to fill in the boxes. I’m idly wondering if that’s contributing to the lack of comments:

      • Hello, Dr. Wright…

        Thanks for you comment here. As stated in a reply above, I had posted this on the Diaspora Network and @HackerNews re-shared it.

        The lack of comments here is because this is just a little backwater WordPress blog that I, sadly, have not been very active on over the years.

        Glad you enjoyed the story! 🙂

        • It’s not that “@HackerNews” re-shared it … I submitted it. I know you posted it on the Diaspora network, I saw it via a boost on Mastodon, thought it was fabulous, so submitted it to HN.

          So the flood of hits and comments is kinds my fault.

          • HAHA! No harm; no foul… I assure you. It’s been interesting. This ol’ blog has had more hits (nearly 50K) in the last three days than it has had in 12+ years. 😉

            I’m glad the story got folks talking and thinking and interacting. That’s always a COOL thing! 🙂

      • Oh, and yes… I noticed that hover box in my own travels around WordPress. It IS annoying. And no, I can’t do anything about it, unfortunately. 😦

    • Heh… I scribble “reviews” on scrap paper and leave them in library books all the time. I’m not sure if they get tossed by the librarians or what. 😉

    • HAHAHA! It’s seems that @HackerNews re-shared my posting of this on the Diaspora Network. It’s sent my “hits” on this blog into record-breaking orbit (over 50,000 visits in the past two days)! Never had so much activity on my little boring blog. Glad to see that I brought some smiles to a few folks.

      I’ll check out the comments on the Hacker News site sometime later today. Thanks! 🙂

  12. amenditman says:

    Hi Eric

    I remember those piles of books. I think I even borrowed a few from your library. I even seem to remember returning them, which is amazing.

    Hope you are well!

    amenditman

    • You most definitely did return them, brother. 🙂

      When the weather gets a tad cooler (Oct-Nov), you need to get off your ass and come sit on the porch with me and have a couple bourbons, Bob. It’s been a while since I’ve seen you.

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