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.
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.
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.
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.
Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.