There are many pleasant meetings on the George R. Stewart Trail.
On a walk through beautiful Historic West Carson, I took a breather on the bench near The Martin Basque Restaurant. Not long after, a rider on a classic Schwinn came by. He called out a neighborly greeting. I returned the greeting. He stopped and we began to talk. An hour later we were still talking. It was one of those friendly swappings of stories which enrich lives, and unearth the most unlikely and wonderful connections.
He knew where Atwater Village is, one of the few who do. His grandmother’s name was Theodosia, an unusual name but also the name of George R. Stewart’s wife. He’d been a YAK – Youth Conservation Corps member – and we’d worked with the Yaks and similar groups in the old ranger days. He’d fought fires, like the one described in Stewart’s fine novel FIRE.
And – the highlight – his great-grandfather was Robert Holmes, founder of the legendary Holmes Bookstores in San Francisco and Oakland.
In Ranger days, when money was tight and our interest in Stewart’s books strong, on payday some of us visited Holmes in San Francisco – at Third and Market – to seek first editions of Stewart’s books. We found many, and many of those cost a dollar. His Oakland store had more collectible antiquarian books, but it was a long drive and anyway we had no money for rare books. So our collections were founded at Holmes in San Francisco.
The Holmes bookstores finally closed – buildings old, foot traffic low, no internet on which to offer books in those days. The last one was the Oakland store, which closed in 1994, 101 years after Holmes opened his first store on Mission Street in San Francisco.
As my new friend talked about his family, and Holmes Books, I closed my eyes and saw the stacks – and smelled that wonderful aroma of old books – where my GRS collection began.
If the internet had been strong in those days, Holmes would still be in business – it is the internet antiquarian book store fronts which are keeping such bookstores in business.
My new friend Lumpy (the name given him by his beloved Brotherhood of the Surf on Southern California beaches we both frequented (but me much earlier, and not surfing)) talked on, about the old Southern California days for a while.
Then we parted, promising to get together again when time permits.
Walking home, I felt the breath of Carl Jung on my neck. And since the Oakland Holmes Bookstore is supposed to be haunted , Jung’s breath felt perfectly appropriate Here’s to synchronicity!