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Alameda, Ca. mid 1970's

My memory of when it first opened is cloudy. "The Factory" Bookstore was housed in an old iron foundry situated in the industrial part of town, across the street from the railroad's loading ramp. The same loading ramp I and the neighborhood kids would ride our bikes on. To enter the store, you would have to walk through a 20 ft. high iron gate and a long courtyard laden with whimsical iron sculptures and cafe tables and chairs.

I used to tell people I didn't grow up on the wrong side of the tracks, I grew up one block up from them, and I did. The Factory was very out of place in the neighborhood, and the town at that time.

It was every bookworm's dream; To have a bookstore open kitty corner from your block. I was in heaven.

Alameda, in the mid-70's was still stuck in the 1960's, at least to my eyes. As far as I knew, it was the first bookstore/cafe in town. The first to play live jazz music on Sundays. I used to wander around the store sipping my iced tea and feeling very grown up, breathing in the aroma of new books and listening to the classical music they would play.

I remember when it first came out, Ann Rice's "Interview With The Vampire" was displayed on the front table by the door for a long time. I wouldn't read the book for a few more years but, because i would see it every time I walked into the store, it intrigued me. The Factory was the store where I discovered some of my favorite genre writers, Patricia A. McPhillip's "The Forgotten Beasts of Eld"  and Judy Blume's "Forever" were just two books I brought home.

The only fight I got into with my father over a book happened after I brought home a novel called, "Weekend Father" about children of divorce dealing with seeing their dad on the weekends. This was after my mom and sister and I had moved out and into my grandfather's house. He was so offended by it, he marched me back to the bookstore and made me return it. I was so embarrassed by the incident, I refused to pick out another book, crying my way home.

I didn't always buy a book when I ventured into the store. When I began high school, I liked to go into the store to browse a book called, "The Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Rock Music A-Z" It came out in 1977-78, and was filled with pictures of artists and bands and record album covers. Imagine my surprise and delight when, shortly after I first discovered it, my dad surprised me with a copy after I had sprained my ankle and was confined one weekend. That book began my musical education. I devoured it and learned what albums to look for in stores.

My memory of when The Factory closed is as cloudy as when it first opened. I only know I was an adult by the time it closed, and in a sad ending, it became a mortuary.

Oakland, Ca. 1980's

The Holmes Book Company was housed in an old building at 274 14th St in downtown Oakland and was in business for over 100 years when it closed its doors in June of 1995.
Its three floors were rumored to hold a ghost that would reportedly throw items around occasionally. They had a sign on the second floor warning visitors who walked up to the third floor if they could "spot" the ghost, they won a free book. As far as I know, no one ever won. My favorite spot was on the second floor mezzanine in the little rooms where the genre fiction was kept. To get there, you had to walk through the stacks of old magazines, and strangely, where I felt most uncomfortable walking, besides the third floor, where I rarely browsed. Lamentably, their efforts at an online bookstore haven't panned out.

I.C.I. A Woman's Place bookstore (ICI stood for Information Center Incorporate) was begun in the early 70's and was located at the corner of Broadway and College.
As a teenager, it took me awhile to realize it was primarily a lesbian bookstore but, it was there I began researching Wicca, finding Merlin Stone's "When God Was A Woman" and Margot Adler's "Drawing Down The Moon" and Charlene Spretnak's "The Politics Of Women's Spirituality". I also discovered writers I enjoyed like Robin Morgan, Rita Mae Brown and Suzy Mckee Charnas, giving me permission to exert my feminism.
Sadly, it closed in the early 80's after an upheaval within the collective.

Berkeley, Ca. 1980's-90's

Cody's Books was a landmark on Telegraph Avenue for 30 years after beginning elsewhere in town as a strictly paperback bookstore, one of the first of its kind in the country. I was able to see Clive Barker and Harlan Ellison there at readings and did the bulk of my book shopping there. I used to love hanging out in the periodical room where you watch the street musicians through the windows. As far as I know, it was the only bookstore that had a chalkboard in the bathroom to discourage writing on the walls. It was always interesting reading the graffiti while doing your business.

San Francisco 1990's

McDonald's Books was located just inside the Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco and advertised itself as, a dirty, poorly lit place for books as a nod to City Lights Books slogan, a clean, well lit place for books. It was not self-deprecating humor on the part of owner, Itzhak Volansky. It was the truth. The stench of urine could be overwhelming in hot weather. I used to browse upstairs, not because I preferred to look at the old magazines stored there but, because I didn't want to let anyone see me put my shirt up over my nose so I could breath without gagging. Unsurprisingly, Itzhak lost his lease in 2008. I'm unaware of his success in opening another store, which is tragic because as far as I know, he had an unsurpassed collection of vintage erotica.

All of these bookstores were portholes to finding undiscovered aspects of myself at various points in my life. They can act as a sanctuary to a combative home of quarreling parents to a community where you find empowerment to simply an enjoyable place to hang out. I hope they never go out of style.

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Sat 9:00 PM Books So Bad They're Good Ellid


Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter and Community Spotlight.


How many bookstores have you personally loved & lost in your life?

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