Saturday, January 24, 2009

Williams Bookstore Celebrates 100

How many stores can say that? Maybe the secret to longevity to hide out in small nooks and crannies.

The store, now owned by mother-and-son Anne and Jerry Gusha, stands on 6th Street in San Pedro. The Gushas bought it from the daughter of the founder--Mr. E. T. Williams hisself, in 1980. Williams had run a bookstore in Wales, so when he came to America he started one in San Pedro, on Beacon Street. (The picture at right of Beacon Street in 1908 is from Williams Bookstore's website). The store moved to its present location near the arched brick walkway between 6th and 7th Streets in 1988.

Mrs. Gusha is 89 and says she reads five books a week. Dang, I'm a slacker.

Here's some neat trivia from the Los Angeles Times piece on the store: "English movie star Charles Laughton and his wife, Elsa Lanchester, used to frequent the store and help customers. Charles Bukowski, the eccentric Los Angeles-based poet whose works have long been sold at Williams', would come in, sign his books without telling anyone, and duck out."

Mrs. Gusha learned that last bit from Bukowski's wife, years later. The ABA's Bookselling this Week quotes her tale of the time she'd just had a baby and was a bit overwhelmed in the store, so Charles Laughton helped her out behind the cash register, ringing up customers.

The celebration lasts through Sunday the 25th, with 25% off books and 10% off magazines. Plus sandwiches, cheese & crackers, fruit, coffee--all sorts of good things. Ray Bradbury and Andy Rafkin were signing books today; Sunday other authors are scheduled. (Bradbury was also at the Warner Grand Theater across 6th Street to introduce a couple of movies based on his short stories: The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit and Something Wicked This Way Comes. If I may be allowed one more time-sensitive subcategory, the Wonderful Ice Cream Suit is being performed live at the Fremont Centre Theatre in South Pasadena through Feb. 15.

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