October 1, 2015
Bonus To Traveling Historic Route
66 Is Great Used Book Stores
By Russell Contreras
Albuquerque, NM (AP) Travelers along historic Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles have no problem finding their fix of fake American Indian jewelry and vintage Elvis posters. But along this path motorists also will discover something once declared dead: the used bookstore.
There’s the Chicago bookstore with a cat and a mechanical elevator, and the Albuquerque shop where lawyers and the homeless search together for Jack Kerouac’s novels. There’s also the iconic California store that once delivered books to Japanese-Americans interned at nearby camps.
All are located on Route 66, or a block away, often attracting regulars from around the corner and visitors from around the world seeking Greek classics or a collection of Ernest Hemingway short stories. Owners say their stores are still thriving in the era of e-readers, tablets and online libraries.
On Route 66, Kingman, Arizona
Some, like Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, California, have been around for more than 100 years.
Others, like the 5th Street Books in Kingman, Arizona, just opened recently.
``For whatever reason, there are still some people who want an old-fashioned book in their hands,’’ Laura Eisner, owner of The Book Case in Albuquerque, a shop that opened when John F. Kennedy was running for president. ``And they get that urge when they are just passing through.’’
Route 66, also called the Mother Road, began in 1926 after the Bureau of Public Roads launched the nation’s first federal highway system, bringing together existing local and state roads from Chicago through St. Louis to Los Angeles. Small towns opened shops, motels and gas stations to pump revenue into local economies just as the nation’s car culture took off.
Its importance even sparked a ``Route 66’’ song performed by Nat King Cole, and later by the 1980s English electronic band Depeche Mode.
Yet, the route changed a number of times through the years, and eventually became less of a destination thanks to new interstate highways.
In 2008, the World Monuments Fund listed Route 66 on the ``Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites.’’
Despite its endangered status, Route 66 remains an attraction for tourists who seek out its neon-lit diners and vintage motels, like the now-defunct Albuquerque motel where Bill Gates lived while launching Microsoft.
Route 66 in Kingman, AZ, about 1940
Along the way, they can hunt through used bookstores for dusty copies of everything from John Steinbeck’s ``Tortilla Flat’’ to Ana Castillo’s ``Peel My Love Like an Onion.’’
``I specialize in nonfiction,’’ said Mert Glancy, 61, who operates 5th Street Books in Kingman, Arizona. Her store is a block away from the storied road and is located in a building that once housed a newspaper. ``There’s another bookstore a block away that concentrates on contemporary fiction.’’
No one knows just how many used bookstore are located along Route 66. The online bookstore, AbeBooks.com, recently listed 66 used bookstores near Route 66 and still faced angry comments for leaving off others.
Some used bookstore owners don’t even know realize they’re on the famous route.
Keith Peterson, 64, owner of Selected Works Used Books and Sheet Music, which sits a block from the beginning of Route 66 in Chicago, admitted he didn’t know Route 66 started at Chicago’s Grant Park. His second-floor store is across the street.
``We get a lot or out-of-town tourists, especially during the blues festival,’’ said Peterson. ``They usually want Hemingway or (Kurt) Vonnegut and we are always out. Those are hard to keep on the shelves.’’
Other owners know exactly where they are because Route 66 memorabilia surrounds them. That’s the case for Scott J. Free, 46, a former engineer who opened Downtown Books in Albuquerque 15 years ago. His store is a block south of the road and near Route 66 locations for scenes from AMC’s ``Breaking Bad.’’ Route 66 travelers are a big customer base, he said.
During a recent afternoon, Marco P. Cremasco of Sao Paulo, Brazil, stumbled upon the store during a walk along Route 66 after an Amtrak train ride. The 28-year-old had been traveling through the United States for three months.
``I had a big Route 66 sign in my room as a kid,’’ he said while thumbing through books in the fiction section. ``I’m glad I found this place.’’ He sat down to read before continuing his trip to Santa Fe, then Los Angeles.
But what keeps attracting customers? It’s the experience of trying to find a lost treasure or out-of-print book, said Eisner, owner of The Book Case.
``And I think people love the smell of old books,’’ Eisner said. ``If I could bottle it, I’d sell it, too. On Route 66.’’
Gift Of Opal To Austin, TX, From Adelaide, AU, Sparks Minor Tiff
By Andra Lim
Austin, TX (AP) Where to begin with this story?
There’s the soap opera angle, reportedly involving bitter infighting among city politicians over a precious gem thought by at least one person to be bad luck.
There’s the angle that sounds straight out of a Sherlock Holmes tale, with one newspaper writing of ``the mystery of the Lady Mayoress’ opal.’’
Then there’s the comedic angle, one reminiscent of that ``Seinfeld’’ episode where an astronaut pen given to Jerry ignites an argument over the etiquette of gift-giving, against a backdrop of petty retirement community politics.
The Austin American-Statesman reports it all began July 1983 in the Austin History Center.
The necklace in question (c) R. Barrera, A-American Statesman
That’s where officials visiting from Adelaide, Australia, gifted Austin a large brooch that features a sizable opal surrounded by smaller jewels—now worth tens of thousands of dollars—as the two mayors signed the paperwork that cemented their sister city relationship. In return, Austin gave a bronze longhorn cast on the 100th anniversary of the University of Texas, later valued at $1,200.
Now, more than three decades later, the Adelaide City Council is asking for the return of the opal, a gemstone that was once worn with pride by Austin mayors’ wives but that a city spokesman says has been sitting in a safety deposit box since the late 1990s.
``If it’s just being put away and not really valued, then we thought it would be a nice historical thing to put it back where it belonged,’’ Adelaide City Councillor Anne Moran told the American-Statesman by phone.
Moran said she proposed ``tactfully’’ inquiring a few months ago about the opal on behalf of Genevieve Theseira-Haese, the new lady mayoress of Adelaide, the South Australian state capital of 1.3 million people known for its festivals, its wine and its beaches.
The new lady mayoress had been researching her predecessors when she stumbled upon the story of the opal, Moran said.
The lord mayor wears a ``huge gold chain,’’ Moran explained, and a former lady mayoress had a similar piece of regalia made with Australia’s national gemstone. The Advertiser, a South Australian newspaper, reported that the opal was commissioned in 1980 and set with diamonds in a gold chain.
The opal, which cost $10,000 at the time, would be worth $50,000 today, The Advertiser said.
But the next lady mayoress thought the opal was bad luck and wanted to be rid of it, leading to an angst-filled fight among Adelaide councillors, Moran said. Though the superstition is by now mostly dead, some thought the red flashes in opals were the devil’s eye looking out, Moran said.
When that lady mayoress and the lord mayor visited Austin in 1983, they gave the opal to Austin.
``It was considered a very generous gift,’’ Moran said, explaining, ``Austin has been historically the most popular sister city with the people of Adelaide. It’s seen as similar to us.’’
Adelaide, AU - Austin’s Sister City
The 1983 resolution the Austin City Council passed to become sister cities with Adelaide noted that both cities were founded in 1839, are capital cities and are located along rivers.
Austin City Council member Leslie Pool said she somehow happened upon a May article from The Advertiser about the brewing interest in getting the opal back. She plans to bring a resolution to the City Council in about a month that says Austin will look into returning the gem.
``If they want it back, I should go see if there is interest on council to send it back to them,’’ she figured. Pool said she’s interested in placing the opal on display in Austin in conjunction with the resolution.
Not everyone in Austin thinks the opal should be sent back.
Former Mayor Ron Mullen, who was in office when Adelaide and Austin became sister cities, said, ``I would encourage us to not change history and not change what a past City Council gave us.’’
His wife, Carole Mullen, remembers thinking upon receiving the opal, ``What would we ever do with that? It’s just going to sit somewhere.’’ So she had a jewelry store place a hook on the opal, and she wore the gem on one occasion: to the Women’s Symphony League of Austin’s annual Jewel Ball.
The next Austin mayor’s wife was Lynne Cooksey, who said she wore the opal when representatives from Adelaide visited Austin.
``Oh, it is just gorgeous,’’ Cooksey said. She also said, ``Every time a new person comes into office as wife of the mayor, I say, `Be sure and wear the Adelaide jewels, because it’s the most beautiful necklace you’ve ever seen.’’’
Barbara Vackar also wore the opal when she was married to former Mayor Lee Cooke, who served from 1988 to 1991. She remembers placing requests to wear the opal to a staffer at the city, perhaps Cooke’s secretary, and someone would retrieve the gem for her.
``Back in those days we were going to a lot of formals . so it was great to wear, and I loved showing it off and telling people where it was from and who had given it to us,’’ Vackar said.
Cooke said it seems ``outside of the principles that people have all over the world, no matter what culture: When you give something, you don’t ask for it back.’’
Elizabeth Christian, wife of former Mayor Bruce Todd, said she wore the opal on a few occasions and ``loved it and treasured it.’’ She kept the opal in a safe at their home, Christian said, and out of their own pocket brought the gem to a jeweler when a hairline fracture began to develop.
When she and Todd visited Adelaide, no one mentioned any controversy surrounding the opal, Christian said. They did ask about the opal and told her they hoped she was wearing it, she said.
Christian said she passed along the opal at an event welcoming Liz Watson as the next first lady of Austin when now-state Sen. Kirk Watson succeeded Todd as mayor.
Liz Watson doesn’t remember wearing the opal, said Kate Alexander, a spokeswoman for the senator. The opal was put on display in a Sister Cities exhibit when the new airport opened, Alexander said.
It appears interest in the opal waned after that. Former Mayors Gus Garcia and Lee Leffingwell said their wives never wore the opal. The same is true of Diane Land, wife of current Mayor Steve Adler, said mayor’s office spokesman Jim Wick.
If Austin does return the opal, it may not be left totally empty-handed.
A letter sent from Adelaide to Austin earlier this year says Adelaide would be willing to give Austin a ``significant piece of local Aboriginal art’’ in return.