My Life – Saved by Books Once, Surrounded by Books Always

Brian W. Wesbster

I have been lucky with books all of my life. Once they saved my life.

During World War 2 I was living in London, but on the outskirts. We were only occasioally bombed, although there was a large Anti Aricraft unit very close to us and you could hear their guns banging away all night. The Jerries learned very early that daylight bombing was too dangerous. Funnily enough we could sleep with all the guns going off but a German Plane overhead would wake you immediately.
This particular night I was awakened by a bomber flying so low I thought he was going to smash into the house. Apparently he was damaged and going down and they were throwing out everything out in an effort to lighten the aircraft to keep it flying.
Unluckily for us one item was a bomb, which exploded about a hundred and fifty feet from our house.
My parents had kindly built me a bookshelf over my bed and that was my life saver. The explosion toppled all my books out of the shelf and dropped on me, just in time for them to protect my body from the glass that was blown into my room from my bay windows. Looking at it the next day you could see the shards embedded in my volumes. All I got was some scratches. That taught me a lesson – take care of your reading!
I continued my love affair with books even when I joined the RAF (many years after the war) and was trained as a Radar Navigator. I was in Jet Fighter, an NF 11 which meant I climbed into a little cubby hole beneath the pilot and just flew around, waiting for locations of the enemy. If there was I would turn on my little Radar Unit and search for a target. It only had a Range of about 10 miles so when I turned it on I had to find the intruder very quickly. When I did I was in charge of the plane directing the pilot to the target. Quite of often he still couldn’t see it and I would have tell him when to fire. But most of the time was spent stooging around and, since I couldn’t see outside, I always took a book or two with me.
I only lasted about 3 months at that when they brought out a new Ground Radar that was so accurate that my job became redundant. From then I was a lowly Operator, Ground, and that is the single most boring job in the world. Six of you sit around looking at screens reporting positions or sit around a plotting table doing the self same thing but marking the table with a wax crayon. So you got to play cards or read most of the time.
However most bases I was one were so small and isolated that very few had libraries. So as soon as I was posted to a new place I made one of two moves. I would either Volunteer to produce a base newspaper or start a library if they didn’t have one. That got me off Radar duties and put me on a good footing with the bosses and so I could always get a pass whenever I needed it.
The librarian also inherited the Title of Education Officer. I had to teach Airmen how to pass tests for promotion and things like that. I also had to teach some how to read and write. You cannot believe the number of illiterates that could get away without knowing how to read. One I had was a Corporal and was a truck driver. He even passed the training to drive a “Queen Mary”, a vehicle that was used to move whole aircraft around. It took about 3 months but he turned into real bookworm.
Once my RAF was done I tried to get back into my old job, newspaper reporter, but had no luck there so I went aroaming. Canada, Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore and onto the USA.
Well I finally retired and found I couldn’t stand around and do nothing plus – because of my travelling – I was getting almost no money. So I needed some way of raising funds. I couldn’t get a job because I had developed a Lung Disease called COPD so I was pretty well housebound.
But I had collected a library of about 2,000 books, most of them either Aviation or Fiction and I heard of ABE Books so I thought I’d give it a try. To my surprise we started to sell, but from all that I read we would need at least 5,000 books to be viable, so that was the next step. No – that’s wrong. My first step was to read up on what would be the best type of books to sell.
Today we are up to about 8,000 and still climbing. Thanks to the economy we aren’t having a lot of luck with sales, April was a killer, but it does seem to be picking up a bit this month.
Our collection is pretty varied, but we attempt to sell VG or Like New. We keep away from the modern stuff if possible – we find books off the beaten track to sell the best so we always hunt for them. As an example, we went to a garage sale about 10 doors down from us and they had a small batch of books and we bought them all for $10.00. There were a few books of rearing rare birds and, much to our surprise, sold almost immediately. That was rare since we have had pretty poor results with Yard/Garage Sales. Usually people have no idea of the value of their books and most of the prices are out of sight. But we do well at Library Sales, Humane Society etc.
We just enrolled into Stamps Unlimited and that saves us a lot of money on shipping. I hear there are better places and when business picks up a bit I might try another.
So happy sales to all


2 thoughts on “My Life – Saved by Books Once, Surrounded by Books Always”

  1. Very interesting blog. Do you have an open to the public book store? Name and location please?


  2. Now, see, that is odd, because our April sales really picked up for some reason. But then, I have fairly good luck at garage sales too. Mostly because I am rather addicted and try to get to all of them in town, having a lengthy list of things I want to pick up besides books. I have forced myself not to go out of town unless someplace is having a city-wide garage sale or something similar. A week or so ago I was at a garage sale and the lady was totally pleased. “We have a book!” she called out, pleased, and presented me with a rather ragged Judy Blume volume. I bought it, although it was at the upper range I pay for that sort of thing, especially in that shape. It’s just that she was so happy to have one for us.

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