The first guy in line for the Times Colonist Book Sale arrived before midnight.
Sascha Martens hunkered down in front of the Victoria Curling Club with — what else? — a good book more than nine hours before the doors opened. Wife Emi arrived with sleeping bags and lawn chairs a couple of hours later.
Next in the queue was a family of four who set up their hammocks on the sidewalk at 12:30 a.m. “We’ve been getting here earlier and earlier each year,” said Mom. It’s the girls, ages 9 and 12, who urged them to do it. The older one gets more excited about the sale than she does about Christmas.
Yes, well, this weekend really is Christmas for Victoria book lovers, who were lined up around the block by the time the doors swung open for the TC’s 20th anniversary charity sale.
They packed the curling rink all day long, searching for buried treasure. One of the great things about the annual event is the serendipity that somehow matches just the right reader with obscure titles, that needle-in-a-haystack among the hundreds of thousands of books.
Karin Chiu was almost dancing after finding Natascha, a long-sought-after German-language book by Theodor Kröger. “I was absolutely delighted to find this book. It’s like a gift from heaven. Now I can finally finish the story.”
Similar exclamations could be heard throughout the day. Somebody found a signed copy of Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road. Someone else picked up a Frank Mahovlich biography that was signed not only by the author, Frank’s son Ted, but by the Big M, too. A woman clutched a 1914 edition of Jane Eyre as closely as Mr. Rochester held Jane.
Then there were the discoveries made inside the books themselves: Four old $1 bills and a $2 bill slipped out of an Anne of Green Gables. (When asked what the banknotes were, several 20-something shoppers at the sale had no idea. Remember that Canada stopped printing dollar bills in 1987 and $2 notes in 1996.)
Others were just happy to pick up nearly new bestsellers. While used, the books that made it to the tables after being donated by TC readers really are in good shape (with the possible exception of those in the Western section, some of which appeared to have been rode hard and put away wet; fans of Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey appear to be full-contact readers, breaking more spines than a rodeo bull).
What’s the attraction? The price, for one thing. All books cost between $1 and $3.
Then there’s the cause. All the money raised goes to literacy projects on Vancouver Island — a total of $5 million since the first sale in 1998.
As is the case every year, not enough can be said about the volunteers who make the whole thing run. The name might say Times Colonist, but the key to this sale is its 300 or so volunteers, most of whom have no connection to the newspaper, apart from being readers.
Leading them is Mark Taylor, picking up the torch from his dad, Bob, who has been in on every sale since the beginning. “We have been blessed to have both Bob and now Mark as our volunteer co-ordinators,” said the Times Colonist’s Bruce Cousins, who has done much of the TC’s share of the heavy lifting. “They’re such good people.”
The sale resumes at 9 a.m. today and ends at 5 p.m. History shows there usually isn’t much of a lineup to get in on Sunday, though plenty of good books remain.
What else do you need to know? Payment is by cash, debit, MasterCard, Visa or American Express, but no cheques. If you get hungry, the Good Fellows café inside the curling club will be open.
Pay parking is available in the lot that serves the curling club — it’s at 1952 Quadra St. — and Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre. There is also free parking along Quadra, but be aware that parking on some of the nearby side streets is for residents only. You can also take the No. 6 bus, which goes along Quadra Street.
Teachers and representatives of non-profits can take away as many leftover books as they want, for free, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Monday.