It was noted in the Winnipeg Free Press Obituaries of Feb. 5, 2016 that a woman named Myrtle “loved to entertain, was a voracious reader and would never miss the St. Vital Book Sale.” I never met Myrtle but I can tell by her obit that I would have liked her.
Myrtle was 83. The Children’s Hospital Book Market is 56 this year. They obviously had many good years together. Perhaps she attended during the early days when the used book sale began in 1961 in Polo Park.
There is just something about someone who loves to read. And by braving all types of Winnipeg weather to get to the mall, Myrtle supported the reason for the book market, namely the Children’s Hospital. The fact her family mentioned Myrtle’s dedication to the used book sale is a tribute to the difference one person can make.
Myrtle is to pediatric research what book market volunteers are to children. Both symbolize hope for the future. For every scientist toiling in a lab there is a book market volunteer working tirelessly to support that research and programs at Children’s Hospital.
All those books don’t just happen. They are lovingly sorted, inspected, priced, packed, transported, unpacked, displayed and then sold from mall opening to mall closing three times a year.
Shift crews of volunteers in identifiable blue aprons are at each station ready to answer questions, point folks in the right direction and to fill empty spaces when a book leaves with a happy reader.
I wonder if Myrtle came with a list of books she was looking for. Many St. Vital Book Market devotees do. I wonder if she filled a basket with books. Perhaps she bought books for friends. Was she in a book club?
Her obit said she entertained. I wonder if the latest best sellers were part of her dinner party conversations. Obviously a voracious reader since this was noted in the newspaper, I wonder if she had bookcases full of her favourite titles.
Did she like mysteries? Romance? Biographies? Was that her in the craft section? Was she one of the many who lined up at the cookbooks?
I hope she stopped a while at the Canadiana tables. Myrtle had so many kindred spirits at the book market. I wonder if she chatted with folks in line about her good reads.
Was she there opening day, even before the plastic sheets covering the tables of books were removed? Did she attend more than one day of the sale? Like many of her counterparts did she lose all track of time in the aisles of book heaven?
I’ll bet she was one of the kind folks who thanked the volunteers for attempting to categorize the tens of thousands of books by alphabet.
I cannot help but wonder if Myrtle perused all 60 categories of books, if she bought a rare edition or an autographed copy by her favourite author. Perhaps she made a day trip of it, enjoying a tea break. Perhaps she donated back some of the books she had enjoyed.
I’ll bet she posted the bookmark on her fridge with the dates of upcoming sales. Did she match the colour coded balloons and map on her treasure hunt?
The extensive book selection that Myrtle and all book aficionados are able to choose from is possible thanks to the efforts of the Winnipeg Firefighters and Paramedics. Not only do they store donated books until volunteers can pick them up from all the city stations, they also donate off duty time to the pre-sale set up.
Equally important is staff at Dufrense Furniture Stores, who accept book donations throughout Manitoba and who work the sales.
Myrtle probably saw Carol Irving, volunteer in charge of the entire operation who works tirelessly day and night during the sale and has done so for more than 25 years. They could have crossed paths as Carol is everywhere in the mall during the sale making sure things are working smoothly.
To honour Myrtle, I intend to cull my closet full of books and take them to a Winnipeg fire hall where book donations are gratefully accepted.
And when I’m at the next St. Vital Book Market Apr. 26-30, 2016, I will be thinking of Myrtle – a book lover who made a difference in the lives of sick kids.
* Children’s Hospital Book Market cannot accept general magazines, text books older than five years or books that are water damaged, missing pages or have highlighting or writing in them. Likewise, readers will not buy moldy books or books that smell heavily of smoke.
** Another way to support the Children’s Hospital Foundation is to donate and shop at the Nearly New Shop, 961 Portage Ave. which is also run totally by volunteers.