When I was a freshman in a Chicago high school, back when raptors ran and pterodactyls flew, a typical Saturday routine for me was this:
• Walk two blocks to catch the 119th Street bus (avoiding raptors of course).
• Take that bus to 103rd Street and walk a block to my BFF Christine’s house.
• Catch another bus (these were the days of bus passes, tokens, and supertransfers, when students rode the buses cheaply) to 95th Street to one of our favorite hangouts (besides the mall).
What was that hangout? The Beverly Paper-Back Exchange. (Grammarians, please don’t come at me because of their decision to use punctuation in paperback.) We would spend hours combing through the shelves and would each leave with a paper shopping bag full of books. Note the price in the photo at the right below. All of their books were stamped with the store’s name.
Because this was an exchange, you could bring books for them to sell, which would net you a slight discount. Invariably, we’d bring back many of the ones we bought. (Half-Price Bookstore existed, but had not yet spread to the Midwest.)
Christine and I read a ton of Harlequin Romance novels, mostly acquired there, because our goal was to write romance books with a suspense element (ala authors like Victoria Holt). So, we also read mysteries, hence the Perry Mason books.
It was great having a friend who loved reading and writing romance stories. We analyzed the Harlequin formula: how the hero and heroine would meet cute, when the first kiss would happen, when the misunderstanding would come, how they would get back together. And since our imaginations ran wild, how many times the heroine would nearly be murdered. (This was back in the day, as I mentioned.) Also, how silly the hero’s name could be, and still, in our minds, sound cool and masculine. Steve Sacks O’Mony. Tyler Tall Endark. We had lofty plans to submit our novels to Harlequin for a ton of money. As I write this, I can’t help laughing because we were so sure we would hit it big as romance novelists.
Though Christine and I lost touch after high school, I managed to hold onto these two books, and the memories I made acquiring them.
Victoria Holt cover from Goodreads. Bus tokens from WBEZ. Supertransfer from the Illinois Railway Museum website. Other photos by L. Marie.