The Shelves his Dad Built

birch shelfSince our bookstore is in a 113-year-old house that has been a) a doctor’s office b) a boarding house c) a funeral parlor (yes, really) and d) a private home before it became e) The Little Bookstore of Big Stone, we’re used to people coming in and saying “Oh, my room was here,” or “I remember Dr. Taylor’s son” etc.

But the other day a nice couple came in for browse-and-lunch, and the husband’s eyes fell on a set of shelves we’ve had about five years, donated by someone at some point. He touched the shelves with a strange look on his face before going up to eat.

When they came back down, the guy went straight for the shelves, which hold local writers and Appalachian Fiction. He wasn’t looking at the books but touching the shelves. Nay, stroking them. There is no other word for it, like an animal lover pets a cat, he was patting the shelves.

He asked, not taking his eye from the wood, “Where’d you get these?”

I wasn’t sure, but told him all the shelves that weren’t handmade by my husband had been either donated by the local preschool director when she retired, given us by other friends, or bought in yard sales.

“These are from HeadStart,” he said. “My dad made them.” He then launched into his story: back when HeadStart was the program du jour to “save Appalachia from itself” money poured in. This man’s father, a carpenter by trade, had been given $100K to make furniture for all the local HeadStarts, to specifications required for small children. (Believe me, as a chair caner, I’ve sold a lot of antique chairs to preschool programs because they have lower seats than modern chairs.)

“He made them out of birch,” the gentleman continued, a smile made of memory on his face as he stroked the wood. “You don’t see that nowadays, shelves made out of particle board and crap. This is real craftsmanship. I’m glad to see they’re still being used. Ain’t seen any in a long time.”

There’s something so sweet about a house full of stories sliding around in time.

a close-up of the wood (plus kitten)

a close-up of the wood (plus kitten)

 

I always knew our books were portals for people to enter other worlds, but it’s great to know our furniture is, too.

 

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3 Comments

Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, crafting, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

3 responses to “The Shelves his Dad Built

  1. Janice Brooks-Headrick

    The sturdy shelves I was given at least 20 years ago were from the Knox county court house. Solid wood, deep enough to double stack paperback. Strong enough you can climb them. Some shelves were built by Cuz, solid wood. Another was a gift from a friend whose ex built them for her, and she couldn’t keep looking at them, remembering the romance.

  2. Cynthia Piwowarczyk

    Yet another great Little Bookstore story. Your lives are filled with such riches (cats too)!

    • We have bookcases in every room/hall in our two story home….except the bath room……every BC has a story but the monster in our living room is the best tale….It is a hand me down from my brother-in-law because no on else wanted it. He worked for a radio station out of Baltimore and the owner of the station had it custom made for his bride to be for a wedding present. The Olde Overlea Goat Herder

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