I grew up in Atlanta and was graduated from the University of Virginia. After two years in the Army and about two and a half more working at C&S Bank (now Bank of America), I admitted to myself that I was not cut out to be a traditional businessman. I thought that I would be better as a full time used bookseller, a trade somewhat akin to my own collecting instincts anyway.
So in September of 1971, taking my own collection of mostly Southern and military history and naively buying several more large lots on many subjects, I found a store front at 256 East Paces Ferry Road in Buckhead. I packed everything into that store and hammered together shelving salvaged from a recently-defunct lending library. Then proudly I announced myself available to serve the collector needs of anyone who might venture into my establishment. (It soon became evident how very little I needed to eat so as to still appear successful at this endeavor.) But Yesteryear Book Shop was underway. In those days it did not take much to get by, and old books were really cheap. Of course, it helped to know what was not junk. The learning curve never ends as we all know in this trade.
Finally it dawned on me to specialize, not so much in what I liked, but in what my customers wanted. Bingo, I was hooked. My associate/business partner, Polly Fraser, came on board around June of 1976 and stayed with me through thick and thin until we closed the shop many years later. With one expansion into a smaller store front next door, the halcyon East Paces Ferry days lasted until a disastrous water leak nearly wiped us out the day after Christmas in 1983. A frozen and burst fire sprinkler pipe floated our inventory like so-many small boats for several hours. After three months of throwing away damaged treasures, holding a clean-out distress sale and saving a small percentage of the rest, our insurance, thank heaven, came through and gave us liquidity to restock.
In the meantime we had sent a somewhat curt letter to our landlord holding him responsible for not heating the upstairs, hence the burst pipes, during the hard freeze. He did not renew our lease for the following September and kicked us out. This boot was a blessing in disguise as we fortunately, on short notice, found a much better location — bigger and with free parking — about five blocks away at 3201 Maple Drive. From 1984 to 2003 we held forth as a real antiquarian book store with a select offering of collectible and scarce books, old prints, maps, autographs and documents. Our specialties from then on settled mostly into the main categories of Americana, literary first editions, Civil War and military, architecture, fine art and decorative arts, leather bound and special editions.
The world of bookselling started changing fast about eight years ago, so we felt it was time, after 32 open-shop years, to close and become a by-appointment, collector-show and antique-mall dealer only. A successful going out of business sale ended that very special and delightful phase of my bookselling days.
For over twenty years now I have taken an interest in early paper ephemera as a focus area. I also collect ephemera particularly in the themes of early Southern states commercial and financial history. I also pursue printing history. The Atlanta History Center several years ago kindly assisted me in developing two exhibits at the museum, covering both of these fascinating aspects of our heritage.
In 1980 I joined the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, a fine representation of national antiquarian booksellers. It was and remains a source of much shared knowledge about our trade not to mention a collegiality with many interesting professional book people. On August 2, 1984 a group of Georgia dealers established their own trade association, GABA. Of that original number, still persevering in the trade, are Cliff Graubart, Jim McMeans, Virginia Velleca, Tom Dorn, Charles Henson, Harold and Jean Ballew and Frank Walsh.
Our first GABA book fair was held in 1985 in part of the vacant and soon to be demolished Buckhead Sears store at West Paces Ferry and Peachtree Road. Several shows then followed at the Terrace Garden Inn across from Lenox Square, one year at the downtown Radisson Hotel on Courtland, then for some more years at the Gwinnet County Civic Center in Duluth. Next we went to the Oglethorpe University gymnasium for three years followed by three years at the Holiday Inn Conference Center as a part of the nearby Decatur Book Festival. This year the Book Fair moves to the Cobb Civic Center in Marietta where I hope it finds a new and even more successful home.