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Greenwoods' Bookshoppe in the Tipton Block on Whyte Avenue, Edmonton, AB.

Greenwoods’ Bookshoppe is Gone: My Favorite Bookstore from my Life in Edmonton

RIP Greenwoods. Photo by Glenn Eilers
RIP Greenwoods. Haunting photo of the empty shelves by Glenn Eilers

Greenwoods’ Bookshoppe in my hometown of Edmonton has closed. Greenwoods’ was a refuge for me.  I’d go inside while waiting for the bus, in the early 1980’s, and browse.  Browse means to feed on buds, and shoots, and I browsed my way through the shelves, discovering books on keeping a journal, the poems of Alice Walker, as well as having my copy of Not Wanted on the Voyage (a re-imagining of Noah’s Ark, narrated by a cat named Mottyl) signed by Timothy Findley.  Greenwoods’ was a welcoming place for authors, and for readers.  My copy of Good Night Willie Lee, I’ll See you in the Morning, by Alice Walker, still has the Greenwoods’ sticker on the back, $6.95, and one of the first books I remember buying at Greenwoods’.

Greenwoods’ Bookshoppe was founded in 1979 by siblings Brad, Gail and Laurie Greenwood. They moved into the newly renovated Tipton Block building on Whyte Avenue in the Strathcona section of Edmonton, AB.  Whyte Avenue was also a refuge for me when I was in high school, with the bookstore, cafes, and the Princess Repertory Theatre.  It was a part of Edmonton built to walking scale, and I felt independent taking the bus there and then having a whole world open up to me as I walked.

Greenwoods' Bookshoppe in the Tipton Block on Whyte Avenue, Edmonton, AB.
Greenwoods’ Bookshoppe in their first location at the Tipton Block on Whyte Avenue, Edmonton, AB.

I discovered that since I left Edmonton in 1985, Greenwoods’ moved to another location in 2001, and then back to Whyte Avenue just a little while ago, and sadly, Brad Greenwood died in his office at the Bookshoppe at age 57 just a few months later, and then Gail announced the closure. I remember reading a line in a book in Greenwoods’ about information being the new wealth, that it will be the new currency.  That line stayed with me, and perhaps was part of why I became a librarian.  Many of the bookstores I have known and loved are gone.  Ironically, browse  is related to the term web browsers, and most of our browsing now happens online.  There are two bookstores in my area that I can still visit, and I am grateful to find their refuge.  Both are relatively small, but that doesn’t preclude serendipity and discovery, as the personality of their owners is expressed in book choices.

The Doylestown Bookshop

Joseph Fox Bookshop

What bookstores have you known?

25 Years in the United States: My Journey as a Expatriate-Semi-Canadian

Margaret Almon circa 1985 with Hercules the Cat.
Margaret Almon circa 1985 with Hercules the Cat.

The summer of 2010, I reached a milestone 25 years of  living in the United States.  I left Edmonton, AB, Canada, in July of 1985, to go live with my mother and sister in Bethlehem, PA, the Moravian Mecca, where my mother was attending Moravian Seminary to become a minister.  I was 17, almost 18, and couldn’t imagine ever becoming comfortable in my new home.  Seriously, I didn’t understand flag worship, and my husband tried to explain it to me when I met him at 19.  I felt like an alien.  Now, after moving to several states, including Massachusetts, Oregon and Illinois, I have lived in PA for longer than anywhere else in the US, and it is my home.

I’d never heard of a rowhouse when I moved to the Philadelphia area, and now I live in one!  As my husband says, it’s our 1 bedroom-2 studio house.  There are still ways that I feel like an outsider, but this is where I have friends, where I know the back roads, where I make art, and now I can’t imagine going back to Canada.  But growing up there did shape me, and I am grateful for the perspective it gives me.  I always was a kind of alien, being born in the US, and moving to Canada when I was just a baby, and becoming a resident alien, a “permanent resident” which becomes impermanent if you leave for more than 2 years, and dont do arduous paperwork.

This photo is from the week before I moved to the US.  The back of the photo is labeled, in my stepmother’s handwriting, “Hercules and Margaret Almon, June 28th, 1985.”  Obviously, the most important person is listed first!  Hercules was a big lug of a cat who wandered around my father and stepmother’s condo complex, in search of superior victuals, and found the smoked salmon at their place suited him fine.  My haphazard buzz cut was from a woman at a $6 haircut shop, who watched tv while loosely interpreting Annie Lennox, left some bare patches, but overall, 6 weeks in, things were evening out.  Finally, I am wearing a Brave New Waves t-shirt that I received after writing many letters mentioning local bands to this late-night indie music radio show from the CBC.  I am taken aback by how currently “retro” it looks, with the old-school headphones emblazoned on the front.

How do you know when you are home?  I’d love to hear your stories.