My sister Christine and I share a common formative book loving experience from our youth. When I was about five or six years old, and my sister eleven or twelve, our parents and grandparents would sometimes take us to visit old family friends who lived in Morrisburg, Ontario, a small town on the Saint Lawrence River between Montreal and Kingston. The Clarkes owned a huge old Victorian brick place on a tree-lined avenue a few blocks from the river. Borden Clarke (“Prof” to friends and family) was also the owner and operator of The Old Authors Farm, a bookstore that my father had worked in as a young man.
The store consisted of a series of creaking additions that seemed to be growing out of the back of the Prof’s house. As one room became filled with used and rare books, the store would expand into another addition.
Whenever we went for a visit, my sister and I could hardly wait for Prof to lead us back through the dark, musty smelling little rooms jammed with books. We would always pass through a doorway overhung by a giant moose head. I loved the old moose head for some reason I’ve long since forgotten. On the left, inside the first room, sat Prof’s huge old wooden desk; dominated by a massive steel typewriter. To the left of the desk was a glass-fronted cabinet with some of Prof’s more valuable collections—rows of identical leather-bound volumes.
To the five-year-old me, the store seemed like its own self-contained little world. A world filled with thousands of other smaller worlds lining the walls.
On each visit, Prof would present each of us with a book as a gift. He would hand it to us or sometimes let us choose our own. Each book was a small treasure to us.
Many things have contributed to Christine and I becoming avid readers and lovers of books—beginning with our parents reading to us perhaps—but Borden Clarke and his lovely, rambling bookshop has to take a large measure of credit. And certainly, Prof and The Old Authors Farm was our first and most formative exposure to the world of booksellers.