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Three Weeks in British Columbia #11, Sidney-by-the Sea

January 24, 2018

Used book stores! Not just any used book stores, but those that are run by bibliophiles who genuinely love books that have stood the test of time, and cherish their favorite authors so much that sometimes they hate to part with certain beautifully bound and illustrated classics.

Today, such bookstores are mighty hard to find! Even in mega cities. Oh there are lots of half-price run-of-the-mill paperback stores, but more often than not they are run by individuals who know little about books and authors. They just show up, dutifully shelve alphabetically whatever comes in. And when asked probing book-related questions, they just stare at you blankly.

This is why Sidney-By-the-Sea is such a grand place to visit. It is known far and wide as B.C.’s premier book town, with six or more book stores that are worth traveling to get to. The ones most talked about are Munro’s (set up inside a magnificent neoclassical building that originally housed the Royal Bank), Chapters, Ivy’s Bookshop, Russell’s Books, and Beacon Books. Several of them I could have stalled out in all day.

We lucked out in another way, as lining both sides of the city’s main streets were around 250 vintage antique cars, protected by eagle-eyed owners who were clearly determined to make sure that no hoi polloi dared to touch their washed and waxed treasures. Several thousand onlookers all but slobbered over their favorites: cars they revered but had rarely if ever actually seen. I did a double-take when I first set eyes on a coral sand (one of the two rarest colors) 1957 T-Bird convertible. I had personally owned two of them over the years: a white supercharged one and, later, a coral sand one. When the owner discovered I’d actually owned one, he really got excited. It almost killed him to admit to me that his was originally white–he’d painted it coral sand to make it appear rarer than it actually was. My two Thunderbirds were the only autos I’ve ever owned that periodically pop up in my dreams–usually with the dashboard lit up at night. My coral sand car was a magnet for attention wherever I drove it. I didn’t dare leave it unattended anywhere. Kids mobbed it, and police fattened on the tickets they so generously bestowed on me.

This is my ’57 Thunderbird. Photo taken in Texas.

So how could I ever forget Sidney-By-the-Sea, with a coral sand ‘57 Tbird and six vintage book stores. Luckily for my pocketbook I live nowhere near those used-book Meccas.