Looking Back: A Bookstore on Lincoln Avenue

Myron and Sue Wahlstrand in the early 1980s.

Image: Myron and Sue Wahlstrand in the early 1980s. Myron's love of collecting poetry lured him into the used book business. Coincidentally, Myron's sister was married to the brother of Recycled Bookstore owner Joan Hayes. For a while I worked at both bookstores concurrently. Photo courtesy of Myron Wahlstrand.

One fine day in December of 1978, I found myself walking along Lincoln Avenue in Willow Glen. Earlier in the year I had hitchhiked across the United States. In September I began taking classes at San Jose City College, and was also on the lookout for part-time work.  Crossing Curtner Avenue, the next block north brought me to the corner of Lincoln and Franquette. On the corner was a commercial building housing a barber, the Glen Washette, Terry Well's sign shop, and then a space that appeared to be vacant. As I passed the vacant storefront, I peered inside to see a fellow unloading books out of boxes.
Myron's Books in the Forsyth building in the early 1980s.

Image: Myron's Books in the Forsyth building in the early 1980s. You can see the yellow and blue sandwich sign that I painted for Myron, as well as the beautiful window sign created by Terry Wells, whose sign shop was next door. After the sign business moved, Myron expanded into the adjoining space. City Historian Clyde Arbuckle lived nearby and was a frequent visitor. Photo courtesy of Myron Wahlstrand.

I tapped on the glass, and the fellow sorting books stood up and came to the door. He was a rather tall, stocky fellow with a full beard, who I thought resembled a Viking. He invited me in and introduced himself as Myron (Kyffan) Wahlstrand. Myron was the forty-year-old son of Minnesota state senator Harry Wahlstrand. After serving three years in the army (1957-60), he moved to California to attend San Jose City and San Jose State Colleges (psychology/English). After college, Myron worked for many years with Books Inc. and the post office.  In 1977, he and his wife Sue opened a bookstore in Campbell with former Recycle Bookstore employee Lee Garrett. A year later, Myron and Sue had decided to split the inventory with Lee, and open their own store on Lincoln Avenue. Being a lover of books (especially old ones) I asked Myron for a job working at the store. A short time later I was hired to run the shop during the days that Myron was at his post office job.

A cartoon and a bookmark/business card that I did during my years working at Myron's.

Images: A cartoon and a bookmark/business card that I did during my years working at Myron's. Both Myron and Sue were very supportive of my interest in writing and illustration. Illustrations ©Ralph M. Pearce.

Myron had the store from 1978 to 1986, and I worked many hours for him during those years. My primary responsibility was to sit behind the counter ringing up sales and taking in trades. Much of that time was spent quietly reading.  One afternoon an older gentleman wearing a hearing-aid came into the store. He said 'hello', then made his way to a section in the very back of the store. I returned to my book, but then a short time later a slight movement of the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves across from the counter caught my eye. The bookshelves were unsupported on one end, and apparently beginning to collapse under the weight of the books. I quickly jumped up and ran over to brace myself against the the shelves. I stood there for a while, looking over at the out-of-reach telephone behind the counter. Then I remembered the older man in the back of the store and tried calling out a couple of times, but to no avail.  And so I waited, feeling like the Little Dutch Boy with his finger in the dike, until the gentleman finally returned and was able to hand me the phone.

In 1984, Myron spoke on Ezra Pound, Harriet Monroe, and an Era of Poetry at the Rosegarden Library

Image: In 1984, Myron spoke on Ezra PoundHarriet Monroe, and an Era of Poetry at the Rosegarden Library. Myron's love of poetry flourished during his time at San Jose State, particularly with Prof. Roberta Holloway, and Dr. Williams. He became a member of the Robert Frost Chapter of the California Federation of Chaparral Poets, and took first place in a sonnet contest. In the 1980s, he was able to locate Ezra Pound's mistress in Italy through the efforts of his good friend Victor DiMattei. In 1985, she visited the United States and attended a colloquium on Ezra Pound hosted by San Jose State University. Image courtesy of Myron Wahlstrand.

Myron and my wife Emelie visit the site of poet Paul Iwashita's haiku in the Japanese Friendship Garden

Image: Myron and my wife Emelie visit the site of poet Paul Iwashita's haiku in the Japanese Friendship Garden which was dedicated on July 4, 1976. Emelie's mother, Toyoko Ohara (aka Elena Anacleto) did the brushwork for the engraving on the stone and Myron provided the English translation:  I've changed my dwelling - to bathe in summer coolness - so tranquil so calm.  Photos ©Ralph M. Pearce and Myron Wahlstrand.

Myron and Sue sold their bookstore in 1986 to another poet and book enthusiast Joyce Link. Joyce ran the bookstore as Lincoln Avenue Books for many years before selling it. The business finally closed in 2006. Other bookstores that ran along Lincoln Avenue included Mike's Coliseum (now Hijinx Comics) at Malone Rd, Hicklebee's Childrens Books (still in operation), Willow Glen BooksScotland Yard Books on Brace Ave., Gilfillan Book Barn on Pedro St., and then further out on West San Carlos St. was Perry's.  After selling the store, Myron began working for the Santa Clara University Library. Now somewhat retired, Myron and Sue currently live in Modesto, California, and operate a used book space within an antique collective.  They also enjoy the company of their three children, their spouses, and six grandchildren. It seems fitting that I should conclude this post with one of Myron's poems. It was originally published in the California Federation of Chaparral Poets' First Poetry Anthology of the Robert Frost Chapter (San Jose).

Unicycle poem

Further Reading in the California Room: