“ACORN OWNER DEDICATES BOOKSHOP TO HIS AUNT”
by George Cowmeadow Bauman
In our hometown of New Castle, PA, my mother had a sister named Margaret Cowmeadow. Her nickname growing up was “Sunny”, for her outgoing disposition, and her red hair.
After graduating from Slippery Rock State Teachers College, Aunt Peg taught highschool English for 33 years, also serving as the school librarian. She retired and taught English at Geneva College for 15 years.
She never married. Of her eight nephews and nieces whom she doted on, I was the only one who thrilled to the discarded library books she brought me each June, when the school made room for new books.
So she bought me books each Christmas and my birthday the next day. While the other kids played with their new toys, I sat in the corner under the tree and read the latest Bobbsey Twins or Hardy Boys books.
She was responsible for helping me understand how cool it was to own books, to have your own library at home.
When I attended Geneva College to prepare for becoming a minister, my mother had just been hired as the Bookstore Manager. Aunt Peg had been teaching there for several years.
I began hanging around the bookstore, helping Mom out from time to time unloading truck deliveries of textbooks and sweatshirts. Eventually she signed me up for the work study program, saying, “You might as well get paid for the work you do around here.” My first job getting paid to hang out in a bookstore. Aunt Peg was pleased for me.
I took a course in 18th century Literature from Aunt Peg, one of the toughest A’s I ever got, because she had pulled me aside and said, “As my nephew, you have to work twice as hard to get an A as the other students, for I don’t want them thinking I’m giving you preferential treatment.”
Halfway through my Senior year, I decided not to become a minister for several reasons, including not feeling called to the profession. I worked for the Pittsburgh YMCA for a few months, but that didn’t work out. I went back to working in the bookstore Mom managed, treading professional water.
One evening Aunt Peg invited me up to her house, overlooking the campus. After dinner we were sitting in her living room, talking about what we were reading. She loved mysteries, especially Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers.
Finally we got around to discussing my “career”, and I was expressing my frustration over a lack of direction.
Aunt Peg said, “You know, dear, that I’ve never tried to tell you what to do with your life – other than prepare for the class you took from me. But I’d like to ask you a question: If you could do anything you wanted to do, what would that be?”
Without hesitation – which surprised both of us, I think, I replied facetiously, “Get paid to hang out in a bookstore!”
She looked intensely at me and drawled, “Well………”
47 years later I’m still getting paid to hang out in a bookstore – my own bookstore, which was my dream all along.
Aunt Peg died in 1995 at 89 years old. I’ve been wanting to do something to acknowledge the enormous debt I owe her.
So I dedicated my bookstore to her, with deep gratitude.