Jock and Pete opened their shop in 1946, moved it frequently and grew it to become a leading American specialist in books about the Philippines and South East Asia. My mom recalled when they put out their first catalog on the Philippines they had five times more orders than they could fill. When the Viet Nam War came along there was a big increase in demand for books on South East Asia.
By the time they had been in business for 25 years they had clients in 70 countries, a mailing list of 2,000 people who demanded their wares, and corresponded in English, French, German, Portuguese and assorted Filipino dialects.
Both of my parents worked at being “dealers” in the very best sense of the word, and neither of them had an easy time adjusting to life in 20th century America. From the very beginning they were both a long way from home.
My mother was a teen age Jewish refugee when she arrived in the US. My dad was on the last leg of an extended trip from his home town Manila when the war caught him in Lincoln, Nebraska where he met and married my mother. She was 18, he was 30. Throughout their married and business life they split the work.
He Bought and She Sold
Jock bought and Pete sold. He cataloged, wrote the blurbs and set the prices; she ran the staff, kept track of the paperwork, issued the catalogs, schmoozed the librarians and kept the want lists of hundreds, even thousands of clients in her head.
What they could not or did not remember was all recorded in my father's minute handwriting on little 3x5” slips of paper. There was a “slip” for each and every book that passed through their hands and a date and notation for each and every time it made its way to and from our shelves.
On the book side they were each perfectionists in different ways. On the personal side our house, no matter where we lived, but especially in Detroit, was an open door to every Filipino scholar and Asian librarian who could find the way to Six Mile Road.
My parent’s lives had many dimensions: they traveled, exhibited, lectured, published, imported and exported. They sponsored and introduced this one to that one. They got and sent mail by the ton. Our mailmen hated climbing the steps.