You make lemonade, right? In these days when we’re pretty much confined to our homes, I’ve decided to do just that in the form of taking the many books I have lined up in bookshelves throughout my living quarters and re-reading them, one at a time. It’s nothing new. I’ve read “A Simple Song” by Russ Mohney (available at this newspaper) at least five times and I’m certainly not through yet. It’s still my favorite book and I suspect it always will be.
But there are so many other classics from past years that have only gathered dust on my shelves. Some will not be remembered by younger readers such as several by Oscar Levant, an incredible pianist who wrote witty books for years and later became known as one of the most unpredictable guests on TV talk shows. There’s a signed first edition of Betty McDonald’s northwest classic “The Egg and I” which I found at a local garage sale for 50 cents. There are books by Willard Espy who may not be familiar to many people but who grew up in Oysterville and wrote a comprehensive history of the area. He loved to play with words and wrote a small book (not much larger than a pamphlet) called “Omak Me Yours Tonight” where place names in Washington State are substituted for originally intended words. It’s a delight. Another delightful book of his is a first edition called “The Game of Words.” He dedicated it to a former roommate back in Washington D. C., who became a local judge — D. J. Cunningham. (That book was a gift to me from D. J., brother to the world famous dancer and choreographer, Merce Cunningham.)
I also went through a spell of collecting mystery serials. A series by John Dunning caught my interest because the main character was the owner of a bookstore. He also compiled the most complete collection known of old time radio shows which, of course, intrigued this old DJ and newscaster.
A series written by someone with the improbable name of G. M. Ford caught my eye because the first book in the series was entitled “Who in Hell is Wanda Fuca?” I’ve met a couple of times with John Straley, the writer of a series about an Alaska private detective. Timberland Library has them, including one which includes some action here in Centralia, “Death and the Language of Happiness”.
But, a frustrating part of the “lemon” in the headline is that I can’t find the book with which I wanted to start my projected pastime. It’s called “Sketchbook” and it was written by Bill Cumming, one of the artists — the youngest one — who made up what was called “The Northwest School” of art back in the 1930s, the period of the Great Depression. Other more well-known artists in that group included Morris Graves, Mark Toby and Kenneth Callahan, who, by the way, is the artist who painted the mural on the wall of the Centralia Post Office.
I once had a copy of that book back when Huckleberry Books was operating and convinced Dixie Rogerson to buy it but afterwards realized I wanted my own copy. I found a dealer online who had one for sale at a higher price and bought it.
I’d once met Bill so I called him and set up a time when my wife, Corine, and I could meet with him. We spent nearly an hour on his deck overlooking a wooded valley and his signature included a delightful reminder of the former comedy team, Bob & Ray. Remember them? That — as I said — is the book I want to reread first. But I can’t find it! Still, I have some delightful rereading ahead with some old favorites — come rain or come shine!
Bill Moeller is a former entertainer, mayor, bookstore owner, city council member, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.