When I was a kid, paperback spinners were in almost every drug store, liquor store and market. You could buy paperbacks nearly everywhere. Spinners were always exciting. They weren’t organized or predictable, so finding a book on them was a treasure hunt!
Catalina Avenue in Redondo Beach is a row of retail shops. One was a liquor store and it had the requisite spinner. The summer before I went into high school, I found a book I wanted, The Girl from Harrison High. It was a 60’s sleaze piece, well, sort of sleazy. It intrigued me, I took it and a soda to the counter.
The woman working behind the counter said, “If you were my daughter, I wouldn’t let you read that.”
I replied, “My dad doesn’t restrict my reading.” and figured that was the end of it.
No. After several back and forths about how she thought the book was unsuitable, no doubt she also thought I was much younger than I actually was, a common occurrence at the time; she wouldn’t sell me that book. I left the soda and book on the counter and walked out.
No one had ever told me I couldn’t read something before! I was completely outraged. The only media Dad had ever restricted were WWII newsreels. I’d had nightmares. I couldn’t understand how the fact that my grandparents had been Jews meant that someone would kill me — I’d never even been in a synagogue. Dad said, “You need to be able to understand the politics and social situation before you’ll understand.” So no more WWII newsreels.
Anything and everything else in the house or otherwise was available to me. Accordingly, I had very little interest in racy items in general. We didn’t have a lot, but it was 1968, so there’d been the influx of this or that piece. If I’d wanted to read sleaze, I could probably have found it, but I had no interest. My interest in The Girl from Harrison High was that I was about to enter high school, and I was curious about what the author said it was like.
Well, this was Catalina Avenue, and my stomping grounds at the time. I walked up the street to see Fred at Catalina Music & Books. Fred knew me, and knew Dad. He knew Dad didn’t restrict my reading (I found out years later he’d kept the porn behind the counter, although I never bought any.) I bought a copy of The Girl from Harrison High and tucked the receipt inside the book.
I went back down the street to the liquor store and pulled a soda from the cooler. I put the soda and paperback on the counter.
The woman said, “I told you, young lady, I will not sell you that book!”
I pulled the receipt out of the book. “You don’t have to. I bought it from Fred up the street. Can I have the soda please?”
She sold me the soda and I left –satisfied. No one was going to restrict MY reading material! Dad was amused.
While in college in San Bernardino, there was a Colonel Sanders was next to a hole-in-the-wall liquor store on HIghland Avenue. The liquor store had a tiny paperback spinner. I’d buy a two-piece “snack” meal from the Colonel and a book from that spinner and sit, happily eating and reading in my car in the shops’ back parking lot. I don’t remember many other shops on that street, the major retail strip. What I do remember was DJ Books, the ice cream parlor and a favorite coffee shop (I’d go there and eat their yummy coffee cake and read.) The chicken/book combo was used when the book store was closed, on weekends or after hours, and when I was nearly broke, just enough money for that box snack and a book.
Addicts always know where to get their next fix. That spinner is where I first discovered Thomas Burnett Swann, amongst others. I bought a lot of Daw paperbacks from there and ate a lot of chicken! I was almost certainly an oddity to the liquor store owner or employees. That was a store for hard drinkers or after-hour drinkers in a blue-collar town. I only bought cigarettes and books, mostly science fiction, romances, or mysteries. And, I still looked much younger than the 22 or so I was.
When we lived in the desert, one time DH was traveling for work, I was both lonesome and bored. I went to the town liquor store and found a book on their spinner. This was about 10:30 or so at night. Got me among people, even briefly, and of course I got a book.
I went home, read the book. The liquor store was still open. So, about 12:30 or so, I went back for another book I’d seen earlier that looked interesting.
The fellow behind the counter said, “But you just bought a book!”
“Yes. I read it. Now I want this one.”
“Why don’t you watch TV?”
“Boring? Reading’s boring!”
“Not to me! I can be anyone, do anything, go anywhere, and I never have to leave home, buy a drink or talk to anyone! More I can repeat the experience as often as I like.”
“I’d rather go to a bar.”
“Not me!” I went home with my new book.
When I opened the store, I was desperate to find spinners. There was a fairly local paperback distributor I talked to before I opened the shop. I would have happily bought $100/month in new paperbacks from them, but they couldn’t be bothered to make an appointment for me to come and talk to them. I had too many things to do while opening the shop to drive an hour on the chance that the person I needed to talk to might be there. (This was before cell phones.) So I didn’t get a spinner the traditional way, that is, from a paperback distributor.
Eventually, I found one here, another there, and the last shop I had was tiny, but I had room for 7 spinners. When the store closed, I sold the best one to a friend. But the others I couldn’t give away — I tried!
I finally gave 3 of them to a fellow dealer, who sold them cheap to someone opening a store. But that left me with 3. I set them up in antique stores, with varied success. When I finally gave up on selling paperbacks from spinners, I still had the last three.
I haven’t got them in the house! For years, two were the bottom of my bean trellis. When I finally got a better way to do that, I made the two spinner cages the bottom of the wild grape trellis (we’ve been nurturing those for the past several years). The bases — a circular foot with a pole coming up through the middle — hold tomato cages off season. They’re slowly but surely rusting, but still useful! I still have one spinner in the storage. I think it will go to the dump’s recycling bin — soon!
I’d love to have a reason to use them for books, but those days are gone. Paperback spinners nurtured who I was for years, and they’ve been supporting the food I grow for the past decade or so — nurturing of another sort.