Hidden Treasures Inside Used BooksSeptember 30, 2015
In 2003 we purchased two large collections of used books from bookstores that were going out of business. One was called Beulahland Books in Beulah, MI and the other was a collection Mr. Arnold Plonke and his wife sold out of their home and garage in Norway, Michigan.
As we started to organize, catalog, price and shelve them, we began finding treasures in the used books among the pages. There were obituaries, Christmas cards, receipts, math formulas, photos, shopping lists and more! I imagined the previous owners of these books slipping a photo, list or receipt to hold their place while stopping to attend to a child, an oven timer, or a comfortable pillow and blanket.
I started storing them in a small cardboard box. When the box began to fill up, I transferred them to an even bigger box. We moved our upstairs office about a dozen times during those early years. As we organized and evolved, we sold, discarded and gave a way a lot of things—but no matter what—I guarded that box as if it were gold. That’s when my employee and manager Charlotte started calling them my treasures.
One wintry night when a blizzard hit the U.P, I sat with the box and sorted them into little piles, feeling like a bit of a voyeur reading old Christmas cards, grocery lists, and prayers. There they sat for another few years…
Coming Together Naturally
I first met artist Alexa Kus in 2014 when she began working in Jeff’s office at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. I took a look at her website and her art. I knew she was special and talented.
One night during a 3 am insomnia episode, I emailed her and told her about my treasures and asked if she would like to create something out of them to put on display in the café and bookstore. She said as soon as she read the word “treasures”, she knew she wanted to be a part of this project.
I delivered the box to her through Jeff the next time he went down state to work.
Then summer came and I was in the heart of tourist season with endless lines of customers, stacks of latte and waffle cone tickets, long hours and dreams of TripAdvisor reviews. I never got back to her with any details. But I did not need to worry. She took the commission and went with it, creating a dozen garlands, attaching the found items to a string, and securing them with small clasps.
She arrived on a rainy Thursday afternoon on her way to a trip to Menominee. The café was swamped with campers trying to stay dry, families playing games, locals in for their lunch, and coffee klatches and a backpacker hiking the North Country Trail.
I tried to help but mostly was needed behind the counter scooping ice cream, taking sandwich orders and helping browsers find books while Jeff and Alexa installed the exhibit. They stood on ladders and climbed furniture but mostly let the art “find its way”, coming together naturally in the space by the windows.
So the next time you are in the Falling Rock Café for your favorite ice cream cone or latte, take a look in our bookstore at this beautiful piece of history found in old books!