Chapter 656 Cornucopia of Curiosities, Or, Bits and Parts of Stuff to be used in Practical or Impractical Ways

Say what you will about antiquarian bookselling. It is never boring.

A few days ago, I received an advertisement from an estate sale company explaining that their upcoming sale would be held, “in a large, underground basement of a coffee shop”. The location sounded odd to me, so I looked up the coffee shop online and found that it was “once owned by an Irish-American thug family”.  The sale’s advertisement promised interesting “bits and parts of stuff to be used in practical or impractical ways” and a “cornucopia of curiosities”.  No books were advertised, and I note for those new at treasure hunting that sales advertised in such a vague way usually offer a whole lot of nothing for an antiquarian bookseller. It looked like a waste of time to me.

But all through last weekend’s 4th of July celebrations, Larry McMurtry’s Cadillac Jack kept whispering in my ear. “Anything can be anywhere.  Anything can be anywhere.”

Indeed, I have found enough good things in places that are the equivalent of nowhere enough times that, well  . . . maybe you have a point there, Jack.

How could I resist?

Since they’re off school for the summer, I woke Tom and Huck early and we clambered into the Bookmobile, headed for an area on the border of San Francisco and her southern neighbor, Daly City.  I was seeking whatever I could find that might catch the eye of an antiquarian bookseller. Being of partial Irish-descent myself, I wondered what sort of things might be in the basement of a coffee shop “once owned by an Irish American thug family”.  Tom and Huck were seeking items they might use as movie props. Their current hobby is making movies with the other kids on the street. They all work together and then edit the movies on the computer with music, credits, etc.  Cheap props and costumes go a long way toward helping them to make their films look the way they want them to.

The sale was, as advertised, in a dark, multi-roomed basement beneath an old coffee shop. Every treasure hunter’s dream.


We lined up and when the clock struck ten, we were let in and found that the sale offered a strange array of random items:   large pieces of metal, lighting equipment, lamp parts, hand tools, and other assorted things. At the back part of the back room were several boxes of original photographs, books, posters, and bits of ephemera.  I jockeyed for position (it gets crowded quickly in a small basement) and searched through each box as carefully as I could. After a few minutes,  I came away with a couple of 19th century San Francisco photographs and San Francisco trade cards, one poster, and a couple of books. I also found a press photograph of an early 20th century author and another press photograph of a man arrested for “B of A [Bank of America] hold-up” (according to photographer’s notes on back of the inscription).  Perhaps he is the “thug” mentioned in online description of the coffee shop? I’ll have to do some research. Tom and Huck each found a few odd items, such as spent bullets (perhaps belonging to the “thug family”?) and old metal gears and parts that they plan to use in their films.  There were no “jackpot” type finds, but all-in-all it was not a bad haul for a morning’s work.

As an added bonus, there was a Krispy Kreme Doughnut shop near the sale, and at Tom and Huck’s insistence (as if they  had to twist my arm!) we stopped for fresh, warm doughnuts on our way home.

Summertime is a great season for book hunting.

See you in the stacks!

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Filed under A Family Business, Book Finds

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