Grant Evans in his study, with View from the Tower

Travelling books/used bookstores/Alert Bay BC

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Do you ever wonder what happens to books after you’ve taken them to a used bookstore?

One of the books I was selling at our local Christmas craft fair, was my partner Grant’s revised 2019 edition of his memoir of his air traffic controller days on north Vancouver Island in the 1960’s. (The revised book has new anecdotes and a different coloured cover.)  A young couple browsing my table, recognized it as similar to the book they had purchased from a small used bookstore/museum up island. My daughter was speaking to the couple, I wasn’t there, but they told her that they read it while camping and loved it.

I was curious, a used bookstore and museum, all in one, it sounded familiar but where was it? And how did one of Grant’s books end up there? Then I remembered visiting a bookstore in Alert Bay on Cormorant Island off northern Vancouver Island. Grant and I were in Port Hardy in 2016 for the launch of the first edition of View from the Tower held at the Port Hardy Museum. We stayed in the area for a few days and on one of those days we took the ferry to Alert Bay.

Alert Bay Public Library and Museum, Visitor Centre
Alert Bay Public Library and Museum

I had recalled a bookstore and museum from an even earlier trip and I planned to take in a few copies of Grant’s View from the Tower. We drove along the beach road from the ferry looking for the building; weaving our way past the fleet of buses parked on the side of the road; gawking at the brightly coloured cottages that lined the narrow road; finally recognizing the rambling wooden museum and bookstore perched over the water.

Alert Bay painted houses
Alert Bay painted houses
Alert Bay buses

Books in hand I opened the old wooden door, the bell above the door jamb jingled merrily. Suddenly I had a clear memory of my previous visit. The same smiling, gracious woman, Joyce Wilby, was behind the desk to my right; and ahead of me, I swear the same man was sitting at the same desk hunched over his papers under an ancient lamp. He had showed me around the rabbit warren of cubby holes and displays that made up the archives of the museum when I was there before and I surprised him by greeting him like an old friend. I felt like I had known Joyce for an age too, we could be friends I thought, kindred spirits even. She readily bought a copy of View from the Tower for the lending library and two more books for her gift store, which was separate from her used bookstore.

Joyce had started the Lending Library as a Centennial project in 1957, took a librarian course and as well as owning the bookstore, has been the managing librarian and archivist of the Alert Bay Museum and Lending Library ever since. This energetic, knowledgeable woman had just turned ninety years old in 2016 and at this writing is still at her beloved bookstore/museum and enjoying every day.

I, of course found a book or two to buy from her used section, then I just had to prop a copy of Grant’s book on the window ledge outside Joyce’s museum store and take a photo which required that I stand in the middle of the road between the dribs and drabs of slow moving vehicles.

Alert Bay museum with Grant Evan's book in the window
Alert Bay museum with Grant Evan’s book in the window

I would love to know if that young couple who had come to my book sale at the Christmas craft fair, had bought View from the Tower from Joyce Wilby’s used bookstore and what they did with it after they read it. Is it still travelling around the second hand bookstore circuit?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if books could talk?

Grant Evans in Alert Bay
Grant Evans in Alert Bay
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