Monday, August 1, 2011

Kay's Bookstore

One afternoon in June, 1955 my father was downtown looking for a summer job. Picture a street teeming with men in hats, suits, skinny ties. On this date like so many others he may have ducked into Kay's on Prospect near East 6th Street.

Owned and operated by Rachel Kowan (Mrs. Kay) Kay's was a three-story bookstore, and its mosaic tiled floors and walls were stuffed and stacked with books. The more I hear it described the more I imagine Lucien's library in the Sandman series, the one that contains every book that was only ever dreamed-of or never-completed. Esoteric and odd, you could find it, and much more, including arcane philosophy, anarchist manifestoes and a surprisingly collection of porn.

Like so many of his generation, you could find Dad perusing "health" magazines espousing the life-extending benefits of nudism. He recently described to me on thought-provoking photograph of a young woman grilling in the rain, wearing only a waist-length slicker.

And, you know, a smile.

On this particular day in question, my father was having little fortune lining up any kind of summer gig. He eventually stepped around the corner up to Euclid and into the Cleveland Trust rotunda, and applied. For his efforts he was hired as an alternate teller and general dogsbody (his words.)

Later my grandfather reported his surprise when a manager approached him in the commissary a few days later to rib him about not telling him that my Dad was now working as a teller. My grandfather replied with equal surprise that he didn't know either!

Anecdotal Evidence
Read this extended report on Kay's, including more great stuff in the comments section.

1 comment:

  1. I have such good memories of Kay's. First, I discovered the Beat writers there, as Kay had a shelf of them located adjacent to the cash register. Second, the day I walked in to hear Kay telling a caller that the only way she could have seen pornography in the store was to go upstairs and deliberately seek it out, therefore, get off the phone and stop whining. A true lost jewel.