Bookstore Memories
Southern California

Memoir by
Robert Wilfred Franson
January 2019


A few personal favorite book stores, of happy immersion in learning, searching, & finding.


Herweg & Romine Bookstore Herweg-Romine Bookstore, San Diego 1960s
San Diego, California

Three floors of used books, with its secret hoards made visible when Joe Herweg learned you also were a true book lover: the dim basement shelves full of half-sorted books extending even under the sidewalk, and the upper floor jammed with the more-collectible goodies. One day the main floor seemed unusually crowded with stacks of books hindering movement, and Herweg admitted to me that he'd just bought out another bookstore. He didn't like hiring assistants to put away books because then he wouldn't know just what his stock consisted of and where each volume was shelved.

Sometimes Herweg would forget I was browsing down in some far corner of the basement and turn out the lights, and I would have to holler at him to leave the lights on so I'd be able (later) to find my way to the stairwell again.

1960s postcard.



Acres of Books
Long Beach, California: 1934-2008

Several generations of readers loved this store. Bertrand Smith's Acres of Books was big, crowded with bookcases, jam-packed with used books. They never seemed to throw out anything, no matter how unwanted or untimely. Instead of a handful of books on a favorite subject, they'd have shelves. They had multiple copies of decades-old bestsellers that no one else bothered to stock any more, used British books, bookcases heavy with odd books you'd never seen elsewhere, even never heard of. Their used hardcover prices were lower than for new paperback reprints of the same titles. When you're looking for a particular early- or mid-Twentieth Century title, and you find a half-dozen first editions of it from $2 to $5 so you can cheaply choose the one in best condition according to your standards — it's hard to match that by any other means, and there were lots of such opportunities. An immense treasure-trove for book lovers.

In 1990 Acres of Books was designated a cultural heritage landmark by the City of Long Beach. We are now in our third generation of family ownership and have grown to over 1 million books in stock, making us the largest used bookshop in California and a destination for book lovers from around the World.

In 2008 the City of Long Beach forced a sale of Acres of Books to the Long Beach Redevelopment Agency (since dissolved), demolishing the store as part of redevelopment for a new Arts District. The irony.

Ray Bradbury visits "City-Doomed" Acres of Books, June 2008

Long Beach's Famed, Redevelopment Doomed Acres of Books Closes, October 2008



Wahrenbrock's Book House
San Diego, California: 1935-2009

As a teenager, this was my first favorite bookstore. Three floors, with deep shelves of Astounding Science Fiction as well as tens of thousands of books.

Final chapter for a local treasure, July 2009

Vernon Wahrenbrock's grandson maintains the tradition at Maxwell's House of Books, La Mesa, California.



Adams Avenue Book Store
San Diego, California: 1965-2018

Our most local favorite. Two floors of good books, guarded by cats.

Who killed Normal Heights' iconic book store?: There's a rogue's gallery of suspects, June 2018

See Mr. Bookish Blows His Horn: The Call to Reading.



Collectors Book Store
Hollywood, California: 1965-2008

The famous film-business, scripts, movie-star photos and memorabilia, and (originally) comic book store.

Here are friends' and customers' reminiscences of Malcolm Willits and co-founder Leonard Brown, other early comic book collectors, and Cherokee Book Shop — one of the neighboring bookstores along the wonderful booksellers' row on Hollywood Boulevard. There's a reproduction of a 1957 letter from Walt Disney Productions to young Malcom Willits, answering a query about the uncredited lead artist for the Donald Duck comics with the name and address of Carl Barks.

Malcolm Willits died Monday 4/15/2019

Paul Hunt's memoir includes an embedded video tour of the Collectors Book Store with an interview of Malcolm Willits.

Hollywood Boulevard Bookstore Follies, Part 3: Continuing the Survey of Hollywood Bookshops in 1976

© 2019 Robert Wilfred Franson

D. G. Wills'
Bookstore Questions and Answers
(no, not what you're thinking)

R. W. Franson's
Buying Books Online
Used-Book Standards and Surprises,
or Ploys Pleasant and Unpleasant

Vera Howe Franson taught me this.
Instructions via Forgotten Bookmarks:
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