Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hobo T-shirts now available!

Now, Hobo, beloved bookstore cat and children's author, is available as a T-shirt! The front of the shirt features the Hobo photo you see here at his blog, framed in a warm brown, with the words:

Hobo says, "You can never have too many books, just not enough shelves"

underneath his photo. On the back, in black script, is:

From My Shelf
Wellsboro, PA
(570) 724-5793

We have them available in kids' small (think really small) and medium; and then adults small all the way through to 3XL. The adult "small" is really the same size as a kids' large. All t-shirts, despite size, are $12 each, (that includes tax, but not shipping).

If you'd like to order one (or more), let us know!

Use the Paypal button here:

Or send your check or money order to : From My Shelf, 87 Main St, Wellsboro, PA 16901 indicating what size or sizes you need, and the address to which you'd like them sent.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

I'm in love! And there's a book about it.

Kasey Cox

I love books, writers, wannabe-writers, young moms and dads, nerdy kids, teachers, librarians, first graders clutching Junie B. Jones, retired couples, vacationers, loyal locals, book clubbers, new grandparents, the tween boys who come for their latest manga installment, railroad aficionados, folks doing jail ministry, college students, expectant parents, bird watchers, hikers, sci-fi conventioneers, crazy collectors, local historians, poets, seekers, philosophers, bored teenagers, conservative Christians, insistent liberals, doubting Thomases, cynical humorists, wounded souls, self-helpers, New Agers, literary snobs, cowboys, nature buffs, romance junkies …. I love them all, and feel at home with them. Despite all their differences, they are all BOOK PEOPLE. How fantastic that they are united in a bookstore, and how lucky I am to be among them.

Certainly, for any subject under the sun, there’s at least one book about it. But Shelf Life: Romance, Mystery, Drama, and Other Page-Turning Adventures from a Year in a Bookstore is for me. With her sixth book, Author Suzanne Strempek Shea has gifted me, and book people like me, this slice-of-life memoir from her first year of working at Edwards Books in Springfield, Massachusetts. This warm, funny story is a love song, an ode to independent bookstores and the people who frequent them. Which ultimately gives the reader, I am happy to tell you, a wry, sweet, forgiving look at the quirks of the contemporary American.

The front cover of my copy of Shelf Life features a detail from Van Gogh’s painting, “The Parisian Novels”, otherwise known as “The Yellow Books.” I’m a Van Gogh fan, but I’ve never seen nor heard of this piece. This cover alone has touched me: I want to run right out and buy a huge copy of this painting for my wall.

Just inside the perfect front cover, then, are the words I wish I’d written. Suzanne lists all the requests she fields. When people come to a bookstore, they are often in search of entertainment, relaxation, an escape into the stories. More often, though, they are in search of new knowledge, or more information about a subject that is already of interest to them. Sometimes they are searching for answers, for help, for validation, for absolution, hoping to find it in the words of a book. The mix of these requests paints an amazingly accurate and near-bewildering collage of the most intimate details of the American life as well as the melting pot of culture we are. Even in Wellsboro, our custom order clipboard and daily customer requests reflect this amalgam, too.

At another point in Shelf Life, Suzanne admits to the envy she feels as an author working in a bookstore, wishing at times for that author’s sales, or this author’s cover art, or another author’s idea. Accordingly, I’m comfortable that she wouldn’t mind a little paraphrase of her opening pages: what do people ask for? Lasagna gardening. Leadership skills. Escape from codependency, from debt, from a*%holes at work, from holiday weight gain, from neck pain. They want murder, intrigue, romance, passion, a new kid by Friday, new hiking trails, more energy-efficient houses, Mennonite recipes. They enjoy hedgehogs, boy wizards, survivors, football players, forensic scientists, sharks, vampires, women who own quilt shops and play amateur sleuth. The list goes on. And so do we!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Elmira Express

Kevin Coolidge

I love the Twin Tiers in the autumn. The days are still warm; the nights cool, giving birth to vibrant fall colors. The hills seem almost alive, and the threat of colder weather is a promise on the wind. Fall in the Twin Tiers ushers in a revered tradition. When it’s autumn in America, it’s time for football. Across the land, in big cities and small towns, in large stadiums and rural high schools--the sights, sounds, and colors of the game are all around us. The common thread is the game, and the athletes that practice and play it with heart and determination to the very best of their abilities.

Few players have shown more heart or determination than Ernie Davis. Davis was born on Dec. 14, 1939, in New Salem, Pa. His parents separated shortly after his birth, and his father was soon killed in an accident. He grew up in poverty in Uniontown, a coal-mining town 50 miles south of Pittsburgh, where caring grandparents raised him.

At 12, Davis moved to live with his mother and stepfather in Elmira. He went on to become Elmira's favorite son, both as an outstanding athlete and as a respected and well-loved citizen. Ernie’s talent bloomed, and the honors came early and often. He led Elmira Free Academy to a 52-game winning streak in basketball and as a Syracuse sophomore helped the Orangemen gain their only national football championship.

As a senior in 1961, he became the first African American athlete to win the Heisman trophy and was the number one pick in the 1962 NFL draft. And then, suddenly, he was gone. He was diagnosed with leukemia the summer before his rookie season. He never played in the NFL, but succumbed to the disease less than a year later. Though Ernie never played a game for the Cleveland Browns, they retired his number 45, worn only in practice.

Davis was easily recognized as a great athlete, but his high school coach, Marty Harrigan, summed up what many felt for Ernie Davis when he said, "Everyone knew Ernie's athletic greatness, but few realized what a great human he was. His concern for his fellow man, and his affection for children, was sincere."

I think this is what moved me the most when I read The Express, The Ernie Davis Story by Robert C. Gallagher. There are lots of talented professional athletes today, and most of them are more than willing to inform you just how gifted they are, but the media exposure never changed him. "Ernie was the same kid at the end as he was at the start," said Jim Flynn, his high school basketball coach.

Ernie believed he was fortunate to be so gifted and never took his ability for granted. He worked hard both on the field and in the classroom. “Ernie was always the first one on the practice field and the last to leave.” Many athletes, assured of a college scholarship, would have coasted in class, but “Ernie worked hard when it wasn’t popular to get good grades. The teachers loved him. He never would excuse himself from work and say he had too many outside activities.” Ernie intended to play professional football, but he knew that career expectancy in the NFL was only a few seasons, so he wanted to be prepared for another career when he retired from football. He believed that education would lead to social and economic success.

Syracuse University experienced its greatest football success during Ernie’s career. The Orangemen became the national champions and winners of the Cotton Bowl. Four days before the game, Ernie pulled a hamstring while practicing place kicks. It was doubtful right up until game time whether he could play. Before leaving the game in the fourth quarter, he scored two touchdowns, including a then Bowl-record pass play, scored twice on two-point conversions, and intercepted a pass that led to Syracuse’s final touchdown.

He was voted the game’s Most Valuable Player. Davis was to have received his MVP award at the awards banquet that night. But when bowl officials said that only white players were invited to the dinner and that Davis would have to leave after picking up his trophy, the Syracuse team refused to attend.

It was Ernie's performance against the University of Pittsburgh that same year which inspired the nickname "The Elmira Express." Elmira Star-Gazette sports writer Al Mallette coined the phrase. Penn State coach Joe Paterno had this to say about Ernie Davis: "He's the kind of runner you hate to coach against; you can't instruct a boy to tackle a man if he can't catch him."

It was December 1961 when Ernie won the Heisman trophy. Winning the Heisman is a significant accomplishment regardless of the year or player, but it was a significant racial breakthrough at a time with segregation was just beginning to become a social issue. Today, black players often win the award, and it might be hard for his contemporaries to appreciate his achievement. When he was in New York to receive the Heisman, Davis was treated with media coverage usually reserved for national heroes. President John Kennedy was in the city at the time and asked to see Ernie, a visit that thrilled him. "Imagine," Davis said, "a president wanting to shake hands with me."

Ernie was the number one pick for the 1962 National Football League draft following his senior year. The Washington Redskins had the initial selection, but soon traded him to the Cleveland Browns, who signed him to a three-year no-cut, no-trade $65,000 contract with a $15,000 signing bonus, a new record for a rookie.

The next summer while training for the upcoming All-Star game, Ernie awoke with swelling in his neck. A trainer sent him to the hospital, and doctors soon discovered the leukemia. At the time, Ernie and the public were told only that he had a “blood disorder”. He wasn’t told it was leukemia until October, after he had been in and out of the hospital. "Either you fight or you give up," Davis said in remembering how he felt when told the news.

The disease went into remission, and Davis kept planning on pro football. He practiced with the Browns. Coach Paul Brown, heeding the advice of medical people who warned him of the risks, did not play Davis. The next spring, Davis noticed more swelling and entered the hospital again. Two days later, on May 18, he died in his sleep. In Elmira, more than 10,000 citizens passed the Neighborhood House on May 21 where Ernie lay in state. Flags in the city were flown at half-mast. He was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, also the burial place of Mark Twain.

Universal Pictures has finished production on the film adaptation of Davis’s life. The movie is slated for release Oct. 10. The book is available now. Stop by your local bookstore or library and check it out. You can catch Kevin tailgating at From My Shelf Books in Wellsboro. Stop by or tackle it online at www.wellsborobookstore.com

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Preserving Reviving Appreciating Local History

Kasey Cox

Our bookstore, like many others across the nation, participates in the weekly reporting of our bestsellers. While we do sell our share of Stephenie Meyer and John Grisham, our report of top sellers is as different from the New York Times bestseller list as the Bronx is from Galeton. The main reason for this is not that we are Ridgerunners as opposed to Manhattanites; and, anyway, our bestseller list is compiled from books purchased by tourists and locals alike. Strangely enough, these are often the same books. We sell a disproportionate amount of our books from one section of our store – the shelf labeled “local interest, local history, local authors.”

When people travel, they want souvenirs that they can’t get somewhere else. Tourists seek out the “local color” books because they genuinely want to learn the history and flavors of our beautiful area. At first, I found this surprising; now I find it heartening. But this is a “secret” that Arcadia Press has known all along.

In the short review I wrote for the July issue of Mountain Home, I mentioned the excellent work that Arcadia Press does with the series of books they produce, focusing on the history of small towns or of city neighborhoods. Arcadia Press finds local writers and researchers who have a passion for working with historical preservation. Arcadia Press understands that the true history of America is told through the stories and pictures of individual places; this makes reviewing their books for Mountain Home such an excellent match.

Just as tourists enjoy buying books celebrating local flavor, the people from an area want books that describe their roots. I still hate disappointing those searching for increasingly rare and hard to find local histories that only had a limited number of copies printed. One such book is Bill Pippin’s thoroughly researched, amusingly told history of Galeton, entitled Wood Hick, Pigs-Ear & Murphy. This book was published in 1976, and owners of the book still jealously guard their copies. Whether you are one of those Wood Hick owners or are just waiting for someone to die so you can have their copy, I’ve got good news for you: in late June of this year, Arcadia Press published Around Galeton and Coudersport, by Ronald W. Dingle. Since this new book is part of Arcadia’s “Postcard History Series”, it features more photos than Pippin’s book, which is a treat, since many of the images come from the author’s private collection.

I found Ron Dingle’s book a welcome addition to information available on Potter County history. Ron himself obviously loves the area, since he has been coming here since the mid-1960’s, moving here permanently upon his retirement from the Chef Boy-Ar-Dee plant in Milton. Ron is currently a member of four historical societies in north and central Pennsylvania, giving him access to the people and information necessary to creating this book.

Dovetailing into the stories illuminated by the “Postcard History” of Galeton and Coudersport is another new Arcadia publication, Pine Creek Villages, by David Ira Kagan. This collection, which just became available at the end of July, chronicles the historic buildings, inns, stores, houses, train stations, and businesses up and down the Pine Creek watershed. Featuring separate chapters on Torbert and Tombs Run, Ramsey, Waterville, Jersey Mills, Cammal, Slate Run, Cedar Run, Leetonia, and Blackwell, delighted readers will be able to revisit places they thought they knew, to see what they were like at various stages from the late 1800’s to the 1960’s.

All railroad enthusiasts, be sure to take note of Kagan’s book, since much of the history of the Pine Creek Villages focuses on the logging railroads that went up into the mountains, the locomotives that brought down the virgin timber, and the people who came here to work in what was the frontier. The photos and stories in this book remind us that in order to “manifest destiny” in the United States, settlers often had to go through the Appalachians. Some stayed, but in many cases, this area of the country remained unsettled, wild, pristine, long after places farther west had bustling cities and towns. Reading this made me appreciate again the rugged beauty, the quiet, the pace of life we enjoy in this part of Pennsylvania.

Kasey Cox is the manager of From My Shelf books, Wellsboro’s independent bookstore. Both Ron Dingle and David Kagan will be visiting the bookstore in September. See their website for details, at www.wellsborobookstore.com