Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: The Aldredge Book Store

The Aldredge Book Store — 1968

ABS_charlie-drum_dick-bosse_andy-hanson_degolyer-library_SMUCharlie Drum and Dick Bosse… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Today my father, Dick Bosse, would have been 84 years old. A very nice person at the DeGolyer Library at SMU (who knew my father) sent me this photo a couple of days ago. It’s from the DeGolyer’s Andy Hanson collection (Hanson was a long-time photographer for the Dallas Times Herald). Taken in the original location of The Aldredge Book Store at 2800 McKinney Avenue, the photo shows bookseller Charles Sartor Drum at the left, and my father — the then-manager of the store — at the right. My father looks really young here! Dig that cool shirt — worn with a paisley belt buckle and western-cut slacks. Hey, man, it was 1968.

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Sources & Notes

Photo is from the Collection of Photographs by Andy Hanson, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University. (Thank you, friendly DeGolyerite — I now have a 50-year-old photograph of my father I’d never seen before!)

I’ve written several posts about The Aldredge Book Store, the store my father worked at fresh out of college and after eventually owned. The ABS-related Flashback Dallas posts can be found here.

More on the career of photographer Andy Hanson can be found here and here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Mimi Payne Aldredge McKnight

ABS_mimi_bookcaseMimi, with books… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Mimi Aldredge McKnight (née Mildred Payne) died this week. She was an important person in the story of my family — she and her then-husband, Sawnie Aldredge, Jr. owned The Aldredge Book Store on McKinney Avenue, where my parents met and worked for many years and which, for my brother and me, became pretty much a second home. When Sawnie died, Mimi continued to run the store and kept my father, Dick Bosse, on as manager. My father ended up owning the store, and when he died, he had worked at The Aldredge Book Store for almost 45 years. Even when Mimi’s involvement with the store was minimal, she still kept in touch, and she and my father were always on very friendly terms.

I knew Mimi mostly when I was a child, and my memories of her are happy ones. I remember her laugh and her voice most of all. She always seemed like a lovely, friendly woman, and my parents were both very fond of her.

The photo below is how I remember her — talking animatedly on the phone (she and my mother, Margaret, were champion telephone talkers, and I remember them both working at that desk, and talking and talking and talking on that phone).

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I ran into Mimi a few times as an adult. We’d usually just exchange quick pleasantries and ask how various family members were — but I always hoped I’d have the chance to sit down and have a long conversation with her someday. Sadly, that didn’t happen, but I’m so happy that my brother, Erik, and I have reconnected with her children, Amy and Trip Aldredge, and that we’re all friends. The four of us share nostalgic childhood memories of each other’s parents and of that old creaking house on McKinney — a house so crammed with books that the medical section had to be shelved in the bathroom. I can’t imagine a better childhood that one spent growing up in a bookstore.

Goodbye, Mimi — I’m so glad you were a part of my family’s life.

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In one of those wonderful unexpected discoveries I’ve made while looking for something completely unrelated, I stumbled across this photo of little Mildred Payne as a baby and was happier about it than I might have expected. (Click photo to see a larger image.)

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1929

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized Mimi had been a real-life, honest-to-god debutante (probably the only debutante I’ve ever met) and that her mother was a member of Dallas’ famed Volk retail family. She grew up in a very nice house, built by her father, Robert I. Payne, in the Perry Heights area of Oak Lawn. If you’re famiiar with Oak Lawn, you’ve probably seen the plantation-like house at 4524 Rawlins (at Hawthorne), designed by architect Ralph Bryan in 1936. (See the house today on Google Street View, here.)

Sawnie Aldredge, Jr. (son of a Dallas mayor) opened The Aldredge Book Store in 1947 at 2800 McKinney Avenue (at Worthington) in an old house built in the 1880s or 1890s (this was several years before Sawnie and Mimi married). The picture below is from around 1960. This was before my time, but I seem to remember it looking less overgrown and less … shabby! It was much larger than it appears in this photo. Below the photo, the store’s early logo. (I’m not sure when the house was torn down — maybe in the ’80s? The lot was vacant for quite some time, as I reall. The block is painfully unrecognizable today. Today it looks like this.)

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A few years ago, when my brother and I were closing the store, I came across a guestbook from the first year of business and was happy to see that on Dec. 15, 1947, a 19-year-old Mimi Payne visited the store with her mother, Mrs. R. I. Payne. Little did she know that seven years later she’d be married to the proprietor of the store and — for a while — living in that house, battling for personal space amongst all those damn books!

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sawnie_mimi_desk_1961Sawnie and Mimi, 1961

The photo below is one I really love — it was taken in 1958 at the Sale Street Fair, an annual antique street market which ran at the same time as the Neiman-Marcus Fortnight (in 1958 Neiman’s was celebrating Britain). This shows Mimi manning the bookstore booth. My mother told me that she and Mimi (and probably everyone else there) passed the time sitting on the curb, sipping cocktails supplied by friendly neighborhood antique dealers. Sounds great!

ABS_mimi_sale-street-fair_1958Sale Street Fair, Mimi and a browsing London bobby, 1958

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Oct., 1958

In 1975, another chapter of Mimi’s life opened when she married esteemed SMU law professor Joe McKnight, to whom she had been married for 40 years at the time of his death in 2015. One interesting highlight was that Joe and Mimi — through their friendship with international bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith (The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, etc.) — were featured as characters in his Sunday Philosophy Club/Isabel Dalhousie series. He talked about putting them in one of his novels in a 2006 interview:

Isabel’s mother was American, and she has a cousin of her mother in Dallas, [who is based on] a real person… I was a visiting professor at Southern Methodist University and I’ve got very good friends there, a wonderful couple called Joe and Mimi McKnight, who I’ve made the cousin of Isabel in this book. I have Joe and Mimi coming to Edinburgh, and Mimi plays a large part in the story. So, I’m writing a real person into the story, which is great fun.

A woman who spent a number of years in the early part of her life selling books certainly deserved to be transformed into an entertaining character in a bestselling book in the later part of her life!

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Sources & Notes

Photos and clippings from the Aldredge Book Store archives and the Aldredge family, unless otherwise noted.

A couple of the photos above come from a profile of The Aldredge Book Store in a magazine called Texas Parade (Feb. 1961): “100,000 Books … Old and New” by Joe Swan. See the full article and photos in a PDF, here.

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Mimi McKnight died April 3, 2017; her obituary is here.

D Magazine wrote about Joe and Mimi McKnight and their connection to Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith in the June 2007 article “Muse, Thy Name is McKnight,” here. The photo below (by Elizabeth Lavin) is from that article.

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2007 (D Magazine)

Other Flashback Dallas posts concerning The Aldredge Book Store can be found here.

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1954

Most photos larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Cold Smut: Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer” Banned in Dallas — 1961

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by Paula Bosse

Today is my late father’s birthday. He was a Dallas bookseller, and when searching on his name in the Dallas Morning News archives, I found this pithy letter to the editor he had written in the summer of 1961 (click for larger image; transcribed below).

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Aug. 24, 1961

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It is refreshing that there is such a dearth of crime that the Dallas police department has to amuse itself by resorting to comstockery. The cops have been busy poking through the girlie mags at downtown newsstands, which is pleasant work. Now they have taken to harassing bookstores. If they get away with their ban of poor old Henry Miller’s tedious classic, it will only whet their appetite for more meddling.

I resent a group who seldom, if ever, has entered a bookstore or voluntarily read a book dictating what can or cannot be read. Literary criticism should be left to Lon Tinkle: he gives us freedom of choice. To have a bunch of policemen drooling over juicier passages and then whooping pietistic nonsense is frightening. Dallas is sophisticated and progressive?

Dick Bosse

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After I looked up the word “Comstockery,” I was spurred to find out what he was writing about.

Henry Miller’s “tedious classic,” Tropic of Cancer, was originally published in Paris in 1934. It was considered too vulgar to be published in the United States. In fact, it was considered “obscene” by the U.S. Customs Department, and its very presence in one’s suitcase after returning home from a holiday in France was illegal. The only booksellers in the U.S. that sold the book did so at the risk of being jailed. That’s not to say there wasn’t a lot of piracy, bootlegging, and hush-hush selling of this much talked-about book going on, because there was — especially in New York.

In 1961, the book was finally published in the U.S. by Grove Press, and it was an immediate hit. (Grove priced it at an unbelievably steep $7.50, the equivalent today to about $60.00! The typical new hardcover fiction title in 1961 was around $3.95.) Unsurprisingly, the book was immediately banned in Boston, because Boston’s “thing” was banning stuff. But then … it was unexpectedly banned in Dallas, even though it was the #1 bestseller at the respected McMurray’s Bookshop downtown.

Dallas Police Department officials had decided the book violated a new Texas “anti-smut” law, and, on August 15th, policemen visited all the large bookstores in the city and informed them that if any copies of the book continued to be offered for sale, criminal charges would most likely be brought against the booksellers and the stores. (The state law called for fines up to $1,000 and one year in county jail for selling lewd and obscene material.) Dallas joined Boston as the only major American city banning the book. And then the whole thing became a cause célèbre — a “Dallas-Boston axis”!

tropic_long-beach-independent_081861The Long Beach (California) Independent, Aug. 18 1961

The move was roundly deplored by most of the Dallas public. The “Letters to the Editor” section of the historically very conservative Dallas Morning News contained many, many letters to the editor from outraged Dallasites, speaking out against the police department’s action. Sure, there were a few who were happy that objectionable material was being removed from Dallas bookstores, but they seemed to be in the minority. Even those who vehemently disliked the book were steadfastly opposed to its being banned, including the editors of The News.

As with many other non-issues like this that tend to cause near-obsession by the media, this story would not go away. The summer of ’61 was, for Dallas, the Summer of Smut. Best headline throughout all of this? One which appeared on a Morning News editorial: “COLD SMUT.”

Booksellers pulled the book, but, as the editorial says above, there were almost certainly sales continuing to interested clientele. Also, it should be noted that only Dallas was banning the book at this point (by 1962 other cities around the country had become embroiled in threatened legal action, resulting in books being pulled from shelves). You couldn’t buy the book in Dallas, but you could buy it in Fort Worth.

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Elston Brooks, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Aug. 22, 1961

One assumes bookstores in Cowtown were cashing in on Tropic of Cancer sales — Barber’s Book Store must have been doing land-office mail order business.

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FWST, Nov. 8, 1961

I thought this was a silly flare-up that lasted only a few weeks, but letters to the editor continued to show, at least through the winter of 1963, that it was still impossible to find the book in a Dallas bookstore. It probably wasn’t until 1964, when the United States Supreme Court ruled that the book was not obscene, that Dallas booksellers were finally free to openly sell a book which was published in 1934. No one seemed to care much when the X-rated film version (starring Texan Rip Torn) played at the Granada in 1970.

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Sept., 1970

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Sources & Notes

Cartoon by Herc Ficklen, from Aug. 30, 1961.

More on Tropic of Cancer at Wikipedia, here. This article contains my favorite line of any I read from the people who really, REALLY hated the book. It came from a Pennsylvania judge:

“[It is] not a book. It is a cesspool, an open sewer, a pit of putrefaction, a slimy gathering of all that is rotten in the debris of human depravity.”

Tons of articles on this appeared in The Dallas Morning News.in just ONE WEEK. Here are just a few (seriously, it’s the tip of the iceberg):

  • “Sales Banned: Police Label Book Obscene” by James Ewell (DMN, Aug. 16, 1961)
  • “Stores Stop Selling Book Called Obscene” by James Ewell (DMN, Aug. 17, 1961)
  • “Censorship of ‘Tropic’ Looses Opinion Barrage” by Scott Buchanan (Aug. 17, 1961)
  • “What Is Obscenity?” — editorial (DMN, Aug. 19, 1961)
  • “Book Fight Takes On Circus Air” (DMN, Aug. 19, 1961)
  • “Citizens Group Lauds Police Move On Book; Some Less Costly Smut Considered Main Problem” by Frank Hildebrand (Aug. 20, 1961)
  • “Cold Smut” — editorial (DMN, Aug. 20, 1961)
  • “Wade Orders Study On Smut Literature” by Carlos Conde (DMN, Aug. 21, 1961)
  • “Police Lectured On Book Action” by Jimmy Thornton (DMN, Aug. 22, 1961)
  • “Primer for Censors: A Few Basic Ideas”  by Lon Tinkle, Book Critic of The News (DMN, Sept. 3, 1961)

Every time I came across the word “smut” mentioned in connection with this topic — and it was mentioned a LOT — I couldn’t help but think of Vera Carp and the other Smut Snatchers of the New Order from Greater Tuna.

If it looks too dang small to read, click it!

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

“A Haven From the Usual Turmoil of Holiday Shopping”

ABS_xmas_haven_nd“A superlative selection…”

by Paula Bosse

Remember the quiet joy of shopping in bookstores? Remember bookstores? In celebration of the completion of this year’s Christmas shopping, I give you two ads from The Aldredge Book Store, where there’s “plenty of parking  space […] and a pleasant Christmas spirit.”

ABS_xmas_19631963

No one is in a hurry. And we all try to see that you still have your Christmas spirit when you leave.

I practically grew up in this store, and I miss it.

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Sources & Notes

Both ads from the early 1960s. They appeared in the Sunday book sections of The Dallas Morning News and The Dallas Times Herald. (Remember when we had two newspapers? Remember when we had Sunday book sections?)

Previous posts on The Aldredge Book Store can be found here.

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Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

My Father, Dick Bosse — Dallas Bookman

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by Paula Bosse

Dick Bosse was my father. When he died in 2000, he had managed (and later owned) The Aldredge Book Store for almost 45 years. He started working for founder Sawnie R. Aldredge, Jr. fresh off a half-hearted attempt at grad school. I’m sure he had no idea when he started working there (at $1.00 an hour) just how important a role the store would play in his life. My parents met at the store when my mother began working there, and they married a couple of years later. My brother and I spent countless hours there and practically grew up in the store. The Aldredge Book Store was a second home to my family, and looking back on all the time I spent there, all the books I read when I was bored, all the literati of the city I met who eventually popped in and sat around talking with my father over a cup of coffee or a beer, all the store cats I loved who became minor celebrities themselves — when I look back on all that, I realize how lucky my brother and I were to have had such interesting parents who brought us up in such an interesting place.

My father had a reputation as a stellar bookman but was known as much for his wit and humor as he was for his deep and wide-ranging knowledge of books, both rare and “chicken-fried.” He was one of the state’s top Texana experts, and his mailing list contained just about every major Texas author. The Aldredge Book Store was one of the oldest antiquarian bookstores in the Southwest, but my father was a remarkably unstuffy, unassuming, and down-to-earth bookseller.

I’ve been working off-and-on at collecting pithy catalog blurbs my father wrote over the years. The bulk of his sale catalogs were straight listings of antiquarian and out-of-print books, but he became fairly well-known in the Texas book trade for descriptions like these which he would insert throughout for his own amusement. I’ve left out the full bibliographical descriptions, but here are a few of my favorites. I realize some of these are a little esoteric, but this has been a fun project, and it’s nice to remember how funny my father was (bad puns and all). (I only wish I had been able to catalog like this when I worked as a rare books cataloger for an auction house!)

Adams, Ramon F. THE RAMPAGING HERD. The shit-kickers’ John Ciardi.

Brown, John Henry. LIFE & TIMES OF HENRY SMITH, The First American Governor of Texas. A rather nice copy, not one of the bugshit-encrusted remainders.

BULLETIN OF THE UNITED STATES FISH COMMISSION FOR 1891. A Texas piscatorial incunable.

Carter, Jimmy. KEEPING THE FAITH. Signed by the author, a former president.

Clary, Annie Vaughan. THE PIONEER LIFE. In HERD, but curiously not in SIXGUNS despite feuds, Texas Rangers, and Daddy popping caps on some badasses.

Clay, John. MY LIFE ON THE RANGE. Nice copy of the consensus bovine biggie.

Cravens, John Park. WITH FINGERS CROSSED: The Truth As Told In Texas. Apparently humor.

Devlin, John C. & Grace Naismith. THE WORLD OF ROGER TORY PETERSON, An Authorized Biography. Peterson, a student of blue bird mores, was known to Brandeis ornithologists as the goy of Jay sex.

Dobie, J. Frank. AS THE MOVING FINGER WRIT. Inscribed to “Mr. Moore,” in which 60-word inscription Dobie alludes (a frequent trick to prove he was not your run-of-the-mill shit-kicker) to Maugham and Schiller.

Eickemeyer, Rudolf. LETTERS FROM THE SOUTH WEST. Puny yankee sopping up the sun in El Paso & Santa Fe.

ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA. The twelfth edition (the eleventh edition with the supplements). Best encyclopedia in English executed prior to the American greaseballization.

Faulk, John Henry. FEAR ON TRIAL. HUAC to Hee-Haw.

Fuermann, George. RELUCTANT EMPIRE. Fine copy in dust jacket, signed by author and illustrator and marred only by one of those hideous goddam lick-in bookplates.

Gent, Peter. TEXAS CELEBRITY TURKEY TROT. Too much Peter; not enough Gent.

Hardin, John Wesley. THE LIFE OF JOHN WESLEY HARDIN. Mischievous preacher’s kid.

Hargrove, Lottie H. TEXAS HISTORY IN RHYME. Aarghh!

Hudson, Alfred Edward A’Courte. SELECTED BLOOD STUDIES ON SWINE. “Satisfying your antiquarian porcine hematological requisites since 1947.”

Koehler, Otto A. KU-WINDA (To Hunt). African safari by the Texas Beer Baron; well-illustrated, including some comely bare-breasted Somaliettes holding a “Join The Swing To Pearl” banner.

Long, Mary Cole Farrow. STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, From Beaufort, South Carolina, To Galveston Island Republic of Texas — A Biography of Judge James Pope Cole (1814-1866). Probably unknown to Heinlein.

McDonald, William. DALLAS REDISCOVERED: A Photographic Chronicle of Urban Expansion, 1870-1925. The reissue was in wraps and had a “perfect binding,” one of the more notable oxymorons of our time.

Pellowe, William C. S. (ed.). MICHIGAN METHODIST POETS. Enthusiasts of The Muse will be relieved to know that Michigan sprinklers are as fully gifted as their Texas colleagues.

Riley, B. F. HISTORY OF THE BAPTISTS OF TEXAS. Covers blemished, apparently sprinkled by a surly Methodist.

Rozelle, Robet V. (ed.). THE WENDY AND EMERY REVES COLLECTION. The greatest Dallas art coup since SMU acquired the wet-paint Spanish Masters collection of Al Meadows.

Schlesinger, Arthur M., Jr. A THOUSAND DAYS, John F. Kennedy in the White House. Most notable fawning since Bambi’s birth.

Slaughter, Bob. FOSSIL REMAINS OF MYTHICAL CREATURES. Profusely illustrated with photos and drawings by the author, apostate bar-fly now a distinguished scientist and sculptor. A grab-ass classic.

White, Owen P. MY TEXAS ‘TIS OF THEE. A nice enough copy except that a cretin at something called “Mary’s Book Nook” was a compulsive rubber-stamper.

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Above, my father, on the right, at the first location of the Aldredge Book Store on McKinney Avenue. The accompanying article by Luise Putcamp, Jr. is here.

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Above is one of my favorite photos of my father, taken in a small used bookstore I had on Lower Greenville Avenue. A newspaper editor thought it would be “cute” to have a photo of father-daughter booksellers. The photographer suggested I hold the newer, cutting-edge art book while my father held the older, obscure British arts journal. Of course, my father would have been more interested in the Allen Jones book, and I would have been more interested in The Yellow Book (a set of which my father gave to me for Christmas one year — and it was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received).

Today would have been my father’s 80th birthday. 80! I think of him all the time, and I miss him terribly. He was a wonderful guy, and — aside from the modest income — I think he would have said that a lifetime career as a bookseller was a pretty sweet deal.

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Sources & Notes

When my father died in April, 2000, several appreciations of him appeared in print. If you would like to read the appreciations by his friends A. C. Greene (a very sweet tribute) and Lee Milazzo (my personal favorite — very funny), as well as the nice official obituary, they are all transcribed here.

My brother, Erik Bosse, wrote a wonderful piece about our father for a catalog we issued after his death. The warm and amusing essay — as well as some of the crazy business cards my father took great joy in printing up — can be found here.

Sketch at the top was done by Nancy C. Dewell (1969). Slightly larger than a business card, it arrived in the mail one day with a short note that read: “I don’t know your name. I think you are Mr. Aldredge. I would be pleased if you would accept my drawing of you in the bookshop. Sincerely, Nancy C. Dewell.” I can’t imagine a better likeness. I really, really love this.

Photo of me and my father from the Dallas Observer.

Click pictures and article for larger images.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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