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Two Long Weekends on the Coast, Part Three: Streetcar Village, Depoe Bay, and Newport

This is the latest in a series of columns about various places we found rare old books and comics and stuff on our last two trips south down Highway 101, on the Oregon coast. The first installment is here; the second is here; and the third is below the fold.

*

We’ll pick up our journey down the coast highway just south of Lincoln City, at Streetcar Village.

Here's a map, for the Pacific Northwest-impaired. Streetcar Village is maybe a mile south of Lincoln City. The Monkey Business Joke Shop, a novelty place right at the front, is actually in a converted streetcar.

It’s a large-scale antique mall, ten different shops anchored by AA Auctions in the back.

Here's a wider view. The place is sort of kitschy and weatherbeaten, but in a good way.

Of those nine shops, two are of interest to us.

The first is North by Northwest, the last of the ‘official’ list of Lincoln City’s five incredible antiquarian bookstores that our friends had exhorted us to check out.

There's a lot of good stuff in here. Cash only, though, and bring lots. You'll spend it.

It is a very cool place, and full of all sorts of beautiful old hardcover Westerns. What I walked away with, though, was a first edition hardcover of Steve Englehart’s The Plain Man, the latest Max August novel. In fact, I’m pretty sure it was an advance review copy because there was a publisher’s press release tucked inside the flyleaf.

THE PLAIN MAN, and the nice gentleman who sold it to me: Sheldon McArthur of North By Northwest. He has two specialties-- rare old books, and apothecary glass, both of which you can see here.

The proprietor of North by Northwest is one Sheldon McArthur. He deals in both rare books and apothecary glass — the place is full of weird old bottles and other antique pharmacy glassware, and I was terrified of knocking something over, but Mr. McArthur assured me with a chuckle that the really good stuff was safely out of the way. He had The Plain Man priced at fifteen dollars, very reasonable considering it’s brand-new in hardcover, and then he let me have it for fourteen because that was all the cash I had on me (he doesn’t take debit or credit cards.) A very nice man.

Across the parking lot, though, was a place much more of interest to us– and to you folks as well, probably, if you ever get down that way.

This was a great place.

Suzy’s Pop Culture Collectibles would have had me just with the name, but the word COMICS in big blue letters leaped out at me. So far on this trip we had not found any actual comics shops, and I was wondering if there were any comics retailers at all on the coast south of Astoria.

Suzy’s wasn’t a true comics specialty store, but as far as back issues were concerned, it was more than close enough for me.

There were some seriously cool back issues here.

In particular, there were a great many magazine-sized 1970s comics from Marvel and Warren, and they’re almost the only exception left any longer for me when it comes to buying single issues of anything. (When Secret Society of Super-Villains, the Gold Key Time Tunnel, and The Legion of Monsters have all made it into some kind of hardcover trade, you know that anything is fair game for a collected edition… and I’m really trying to stay away from buying any more single issue comics that end up in a longbox, not being re-read.)

Aside: It’s a pet peeve of mine that the Marvel magazine stuff– especially the oddball, short-run books– are among the very few comics yet to be collected in book form in any kind of systematic way. (Though the occasional single issue shows up in books like the Blade: Black and White collection or Essential Marvel Horror.) In a world where hugely undeserving current titles are available in hardcover or paperback collections hardly before the ink is dry on the monthly book, you still don’t get real collections of titles like Marvel Preview or Unknown Worlds. Which is a damn crime because those books are AWESOME.


I know we finally got Vampire Tales, and those books were okay, but... What I would LOVE is ESSENTIAL MARVEL PREVIEW, ESSENTIAL DEADLY HANDS, and ESSENTIAL UNKNOWN WORLDS done the same way they did ESSENTIAL TALES OF THE ZOMBIE. Articles and everything. That would rule. Truthfully I want ESSENTIAL PLANET OF THE APES too, but I know THAT'S just crazy talk. Sigh.

Rights issues be damned– Dark Horse worked it out with the Robert E. Howard people for their reprints of SAVAGE SWORD and the other Marvel stuff, and Marvel figured out how to get Toho to play along with ESSENTIAL GODZILLA. It’s not like it can’t be done. They just don’t do it.

…Anyway, digressing. The point is, Suzy had a ton of those magazines. I love that stuff and I was in heaven for a few minutes until I realized that most of the really good stuff there, I already had.

Then I noticed there were books as well– in particular, more vintage juveniles, including some of the Whitman Authorized Editions we’d been after lately.

I was tempted by some of the older ones, but twelve to fifteen dollars each was WAY too high for a ragamuffin row of garage sale books like these.

Some of the Whitmans were kind of interesting– particularly the 1940s books based on the comic strips Winnie Winkle and Tillie the Toiler– but they were way too beat up for the price she was asking. I was tempted, but they’re not THAT rare…. especially since Robert’s, just up the road a piece where we’d been earlier, had many similar editions, some still in the dust jackets, in better shape for half that price.

Eventually I settled on Gerber and Colan’s Stewart the Rat, and also Marvel Preview #11 with the Claremont/Byrne Star-Lord.

We might have spent more money at Suzy's if we'd hit the place earlier in the day, but the budget had already taken a beating by the time we arrived here.

Stewart is one of those books I’d read ABOUT but never actually seen for myself, and it was priced at five dollars; that was less than it originally retailed for. I already owned the Star-Lord book, but it was in great shape for just a buck and I knew I’d be able to pass it on to a good home somewhere. (I’ve already done so, before anyone asks; one of my students got it.)

At this point we were essentially done with Streetcar Village, but since this was the first weekend of the month, AA was gearing up for an auction in the back. Mr. McArthur had mentioned it to us as being a lot of fun, and the reason all the stores were staying open extra-late. Julie wanted a look and I was curious myself.

Room was a little cramped but everyone was very friendly.

The auction was indeed a lot of fun– we could tell because after about twenty minutes we began to think about bidding on things, even though most of it was junk we didn’t need and had no room for. (Vintage kitchen appliances, wooden chairs, things like that.) The auctioneer was a fortyish balding man who had a great line of snappy patter and seemed to know half the people in the room, and we soon figured out that this was a monthly gathering of the tribe for Oregon antique dealers.

There was one antique globe with a wooden stand that no one wanted, not even for ten bucks, and I was about to raise my hand to bid five dollars when the auctioneer shrugged and gave it away free to a young lady in the front row who couldn’t point out where Germany was. “You clearly need this,” he told her, laughing. I didn’t begrudge her because obviously the auctioneer was right.

After about an hour it became clear that there were to be no books at all, and we really didn’t want to try and deal with furniture or appliances this far from home, so we took off. Shame though, because there were some amazing deals to be had. If we’d had a truck to haul things around in we might have stayed and bid on some things, but as it stood we were forced to admit that even the bags of books in the back seat were getting a little out of control. So we quietly sneaked out.

And that was Streetcar Village. Well worth your time, and if you should happen to be down there on the first Saturday of the month, you certainly should stay for the auction.

*

Downtown Depoe Bay is essentially a wide spot in the road as you go south on 101. It started as a fishing town, but like many of the Oregon coast towns, it’s as much or more about tourism as it is about anything else. Depoe Bay bills itself variously as “The Whale-Watching Capital of the World” and as having “The World’s Smallest Harbor.” (I think they mean smallest COMMERCIAL harbor, because there’s a bunch of smaller bays along the coast.)

Two views of the bridge at Depoe Bay-- looking east from the coast on the left, west from the harbor on the right. Admittedly, it IS a pretty tiny harbor.

The row of shops that run along the main drag ‘downtown’ are mostly saltwater taffy places, beer joints and chowder houses, and the occasional Gift Shoppe. Amidst all this tickytacky glory on the boardwalk, though, is a truly extraordinary bookstore: Depoe Bay Rare Books.

Julie browsing the cheap table out front.

One glance in here was enough to tell me that this place was out of our league. There were some SERIOUSLY rare books in there.

Under glass by the register.

Like we’d seen on previous trips to Langley and Sisters and Sydney-by-the-Sea, we’d found yet another hardcore book collector who’d retired to an obscure town and opened a bookshop. In this case it was Betsy Ogden, a wizened, white-haired lady who was sitting in a rocking chair by the front counter, looking pleasant and at peace.

This is the SUPER-rarities cabinet, normally kept locked, but the owner does allow photos. Depoe Bay is a tourist town, after all. (I didn't take this one; got it off another tourist.)

I mentioned this tendency of book collectors to retire to obscure small towns and open amazing bookstores there, and Ms. Ogden smiled and shrugged. “I decided I wanted to grow old here,” she said, “and so I packed up all my books and here I am.”

There was very little among the used books that was in our range, but we’d spent enough time there browsing and taking pictures that I thought, guiltily, that we should get something. I settled for two– a juvenile mystery from Keith Robertson, and a western called Rawhide Johnny.

Keith Robertson wrote the HENRY REED series, which I really like. Rawhide Johnny was strictly an impulse buy, a 1940s western that looked entertaining.

With that, we said our goodbyes and wished Ms. Ogden well. We hope her semi-retirement continues as serenely as it looked to be going when we were there…. I can only hope we get to grow old like that, in a place with congenial scenery that’s full of awesome books. Julie and I talk a lot about retiring to the Oregon Coast someday, and we could do a lot worse than Depoe Bay.

*

Newport was our actual destination. I don’t normally bother to mention the hotel unless they treat us really well, and this one did. We’d opted for a place called the Whaler, which was not actually on the beach, but nevertheless had a splendid view of it.

Not a lot in the way of ambiance, admittedly. But it was cheaper than everyone else with an ocean view by around thirty bucks a night and we got a terrific view, a refrigerator, free internet and HBO, and complimentary newspapers, bagels and coffee in the morning. That's all we need. And the balcony was a great place to put my feet up, gloat over the book pile, and read.

The staff was uniformly helpful and pleasant, and it always tickles me how hotel people perk up when we explain that we are on the prowl for old and interesting books. Mindy the desk clerk was no exception to this and made me promise to tell her where the good spots were so she could recommend them to other guests.

So where are the good spots in Newport? We didn’t find them all, I daresay, but there are a couple of good ones.

Newport Book Center
was a very cool place, half a block east from 101 on Hurlbert Street.

You have to work a little to find it, but it's worth it.

The layout of the place is a little counter-intuitive, and the proprietor seemed to be… well, let’s say not a people person. Of all the book people we met along the coast, he was the only one that was less than effusive in his greeting when we walked in, and did not make it a point to engage us in conversation or introduce himself.

The layout of the place emphasizes display rather than easy organization; if you are looking for a particular book you have to either ask or browse everything. I'm sure there is some sort of system to it all but I couldn't suss it out.

But we didn’t mind that he was on the gruff side; we are more than capable of looking around on our own. Within about two minutes Julie came up to me and whispered, “This guy knows what he’s doing.”

I nodded. Prices were fair but I could tell he knew what he had. (I admit it made me smile that Julie bowled it out so quickly; books are usually my department, but I guess she’s picked up something being married to me all these years.)

Maybe on the high side of fair. But he knew to keep the John D. MacDonald first printings-- with the Robert McGinnis covers-- under glass.

We kept looking. I found the juveniles, finally, but nothing was jumping out at me. Meanwhile, two teenage boys had come in with a box of used books they were hoping to sell, and I edged over to where I could hear a little better. Yes, it was very rude, but you can tell a lot about a bookstore by what they are buying and what they offer for it. The proprietor was still a bit gruff but he treated the kids fairly and even gave them a couple of pointers. This pleased me.

Julie was beckoning me to join her at another shelf. I quit trying to eavesdrop and joined her. She was pointing at a shelf labeled Media.

What had caught her interest was a hardcover first edition of Aljean Harmetz’s Making of the Wizard of Oz.

A terrific and fascinating read, by the way.

“We have that,” I told her.

“But it’s a first! And only twenty dollars.” Clearly Julie had learned a LOT.

So I put it under my arm, and then I noticed the licensed paperbacks next to it. A glance at prices and they both went under my arm as well.

“Don’t you have those?”

“I never knew they existed,” I told Julie. “And with 1960s spy stuff, that never happens. These are super rare, have to be, and probably we’ll never see them again. Certainly not for TWO DOLLARS EACH.”

Whoa.

Finding both a James Bond book and a Man From UNCLE book that were new to me was awesome all by itself. But the ‘media’ shelf find that I liked the most was actually a weird little licensed novel by William Johnston.

It's embarrassing how much this delighted me.

The Young Rebels was a show that aired, very briefly, in 1969. It was essentially the Mod Squad in 1776, except instead of a hot blonde girl they had a plump nerdy guy. (Notably, Isak, “the black guy,” was played by a young Lou Gossett.) The idea was to find relevance to the then-current youth rebellion by telling tales of the American Revolution and portraying that, too, as a group of disaffected youth banding together to stick it to The Establishment.

My little brother and I were big fans of the show when it was on, though the heavy-handed allegory was completely lost on us. We just liked the action and the young people that got to make as important a contribution to America as George Washington and Lafayette had.

I hadn’t thought about it in years– not since it aired, really– and then the previous week I’d stumbled across #2, The Sea Gold Incident, also by Johnston.

This one was from Pegasus Book Exchange in west Seattle.

I’d been tickled to find it, the childhood memory had come flooding back, and I’d resolved to see if I could find the first one. (There were only two books in the series.)

And here it was. From not knowing they were out there to the complete set, four days later. And new James Bond and new UNCLE. For two bucks each.

Some days, even if you are dealing with a store owner that’s dry behind the ears, the bookscouting gods are with you. We bought our books and departed.

*

We’re edging up to the 3000-word mark here, and that’s probably enough for one day. We’ll pick it up next week with the rest of Newport, as well as a bunch of cool stuff we found on the way home. See you then.

12 Comments

In fairness, depending on the age, there might not have BEEN a Germany on the antique globe.

Cool stuff, as always.

On the map I see Rockaway Beach (which I made the Ramones ref before), Astoria, and some other towns that sound like towns in the NYC area. Any idea if there’s a particular reason these towns share names? I ask more because it’s not like it’s “Springfield” or “Washington” or something like that.

Man, you bagged “Stewart the Rat,” something else I’ve been wanting to get for the longest time. And I see on the picture from Suzy’s issue #3 of Supernatural Thrillers (with the Howard’s Valley of the Worm story), among other things. I think I would have broken my budget right then and there. (And I agree with your rant, by the way: Marvel should have started putting out Essential editions of the b&w magazines, esp. Marvel Preview/Bizarre Adventures, a long, long time ago – and Vampire Tales should have been released as a single Essentials volume, rather than three over-priced digests!)
And wow, you guys actually stopped and spent time in Depoe Bay – whenever traveling down the coast with family or friends, we always treated that place like a speed bump. Nice to know there’s something worth seeing there besides that bridge.

Any idea if there’s a particular reason these towns share names? I ask more because it’s not like it’s “Springfield” or “Washington” or something like that.

I honestly don’t know, but Julie and I have puzzled over that one too. It’s not just New York City. Traveling through Oregon we have seen the towns of Detroit, Albany, Toledo, Nashville, and a bunch of others. Our guess is that a lot of the lumber workers and fur trappers that founded those places in the 1800s were homesick. Or perhaps just lacking in imagination.

Never heard of YOUNG REBELS, but the pitch of MOD SQUAD 1776 makes me want to hear the MOD SQUAD THEME done on a harpsichord.

Never heard of YOUNG REBELS, but the pitch of MOD SQUAD 1776 makes me want to hear the MOD SQUAD THEME done on a harpsichord.

Well, hell, now I do too!

Here’s a YouTube clip of the show that should give you an idea of what it was like. Henry the nerd (“the smart one”) improvises an automatic firing device using Leyden jars to fool a band of redcoats into thinking an entire platoon of rebels is ambushing them, so they can save a captured Lafayette.

Well, Travis, to add to Greg’s point, there’s also Milwaukee, Dallas (not to be confused with The Dalles), Springfield (how could there not be one?), St. Paul, St. Louis (okay, that’s not really a town anymore, just an unincorporated community, but I had to mention it since I grew up there) and the really obvious ones: Salem and Portland (which, as I understand it, got the name in a coin toss – the other choice was Boston). And like Greg, said, it’s usually just a case of unimaginative settlers from other parts of the US naming their new homes after the towns or cities they came from.
Astoria, however, got its name from Ft. Astoria, which was established by John Jacob Astor’s expedition a few years after Lewis & Clark camped out nearby. And the towns with “Saint” in their name were usually founded by French-Canadian furtrappers who were among the first non-natives to settle there. And that’s it for today’s Oregon history lesson…

nice that once again you and julie scored some unique treasures. though also have to say i have never heard of the young rebels either and given its brief tv run proably not enough episodes for a dvd as for some of that marvel stuff unprinted in trade yet. some of it as you pointed out is due to rights issues. like the big one being owner ship of Rom the space knight. but give it time sooner or later maybe marvel will reprint the stuff and you will have it finaly .

Yeah, I guess it was just a bunch of unimaginative trappers and stuff. Didn’t think of the Astor connection, thanks Edo. (Now I’m wondering if Astoria Queens is named for him…). Did they think up any original names? (I’m guessing something like “Tillamook” is from a native tribe, but was kept because it sounds awesome.)

I got a copy of that FOR BOND LOVERS ONLY book recently. It’s a fun read.

(I’m guessing something like “Tillamook” is from a native tribe, but was kept because it sounds awesome.)

In the NW, pretty much anything that’s not from somewhere else is probably from a native tribe. Tillamook, Clackamas, Wahiakum, Simnasho, and so on.

By the way, it’s a little hard to tell in the auction photo, because it’s blurry, but I’m pretty sure the man walking on the left, dressed in blue, is Dean Wesley Smith, author of multiple Marvel Comics tie-in novels in the Berkley/Byron Preiss line featuring Spider-man and Iron Man, and also the novelization of the X-Men movie, to name a couple of his numerous comic connections. (He’s also scripted several Star Trek comics over the years.)

You really can’t swing a stick without hitting a writer in Lincoln City.

The auction sounds like fun, kinda similar to a weekly one that’s not too far from my house. Our local one has a lot more junk than it sounds like the Streetcar Village one has, though. And people at this one bid on literally EVERYTHING. Broken appliances(not antigque ones, contemporary stuff you can find in any department store), baskets full of rags, an air conditioner with no casing, you name it! A cool old globe wouldn’t have lasted long, and I know I would have been all over it! Always loved old globes, for some reason.

I’m totally jealous of the Bond book. That’s one for which I’ve kept an eye out for years now, and never come across a copy.

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