When I was in fifth and sixth grade my teachers would read aloud to the class, often times from books they had purchased at the Smith County Medical Society Alliance Book Fair. (Back then we called it simply the Doctors Wives’ Book Sale). They would attend once in the fall and once in the spring. I recall one teacher in particular who would come to class late on those days with a box or paper bag full of old books. Those days were exciting for us as students for a couple of reasons. First of all the teacher’s tardiness would allow us a few more precious moments of conversation, and secondly, when the teacher did arrive he would often dig through his stacks of purchases with us. In elementary school any departure from the routine is something to be savored.
Every so often our teacher would find a volume that captivated us. After a busy lunch spent on the playground or throwing a football, he would read aloud to us from one of these new finds. We began to day dream about our own trips to the book fair. We fantasized about digging up old copies of books he had read to us. “If only I could find my own copy of this or that author! I would be the envy of the class!”
Well, today I am a teacher myself; I still shop at the Tyler book fair and yes I still find myself on the lookout for some of the same books and authors recommended to me by my fifth and sixth grade teacher, Mr. Evans. My tastes have expanded over the years of course, but whatever the subject matter the “Doctors Wives’ Book Sale” has furnished my needs with some really wonderful reading at very little cost. On more than one occasion I have walked out with books of real value. Sometimes their value lay in the books obscurity, sometimes in its popularity.
As a young man on a trip to the book fair, I would buy in bulk. Anything remotely interesting would wind up coming home with me. Today however, lack of space and a touch of frugality have made me more selective. Unfortunately even my time is a constraint.
I still enjoy my visits to the book fair though. I still peruse the aisles hoping to find that stray copy of Booth Tarkington or Howard Pyle. I don’t often find much of the former that I don’t already have by the way. Over the course of my own teaching career I have introduced my students to some of these very same writers that my teachers introduce to me. In fact I’ve ended up passing out and replacing some of the books which became my favorites.
Today my personal library contains quite a number of titles that I picked up at the Doctors Wives Book Sale. This bi-annual event has become a local institution over the years. Having started in 1968 and 69 the Smith County Medical Society Alliance Book Fair (as it is now known) is celebrating its fortieth year. There have been fat years and there have been lean ones, but the show goes on like clockwork. Collectors show up every time to crowd into the little building or browse under the outdoor awning for bags of books.
The fair sells literature of all kinds, new, rare, and used books. Modern and classic fiction, history and biography religion and philosophy are all here. They even have a wide variety of textbooks, though they do tend to be older editions.
The Society Alliance Book Fair is a not for profit organization whose proceeds benefit health related scholarships and community projects.
Mr. Evans would not have been able to guess at the influence his choices of literature would have on us. Twenty plus years later we’re still enjoying the books he exposed us to, and we’re still attending the Doctors Wives’ Book Sale.
The fall session of the book fair will be held on November fifth, sixth and seventh. It is located on the loop behind Goodyear Tires and Bosworth and Associates insurance agency.
Whether you’re a teacher, a student, a parent, or anything in between, consider making this local Tyler event a tradition in your family. I can guarantee a lifetime of enriching reading and experiences.