Tuesday, December 14, 2010


How to set the scene for this entry? A few of our readers are brand new, knowing little of our background, so I'll start by saying that there is a bookshop in Montrose, CA which is the oldest children's bookshop in the United States. Impressive as that sounds, it's as simple as there having been 2 women and 2 supportive husbands who were willing and honored to work at a job they mostly loved for very little recompense, and thus the store survived through some very treacherous retail times. Mr. Bob and I are the founders of Once Upon a Time, having opened it in 1966. We sold it to Maureen and her husband and 2 daughters in 2003.

Suffice it to say that over the years I collected many things inspired by children's literature. Among the treasures, were a great many Christmas ornaments, made by Gladys Boalt. I discovered them on a quick trip to New York City with a friend (Mr. Bob doesn't DO New York), purchased as many as I could afford, later adding to the collection from a branch of Gazebo in Orange County.

Due to the press of business, we sometimes didn't put up a Christmas tree at home after the children flew the coop, but it was comforting to know that those storybook ornaments were packed away in the attic. I fretted sometimes about the possibilities of an attack by moths. Years went by without the decorations seeing the light of day.

In our hasty move last year as we went through the frantic motions of relocating, I kept an eye out for them.  Where were they? Were they all right? Did they survive the years of darkness? I never caught sight of them or any of the other boxes of Christmas ornaments that had been stored in the attic.

So, we moved from a household of 47 years of accumulation to a retirement home where we have 2 cages in the basement taking the place of a garage and an attic. Our belongings are hugely reduced, but we still don't know just what's in those storage cages. Maybe when our eldest grandson is here, we'll find out if he'll help me inventory the contents of the boxes there.

We moved at the end of July. I'd been vaguely aware that our friends had bought many of the things we parted with.........Nancy got the water jar, Lynne bought the shingle sign from our first shop, Dave took the CocaCola boxes, and so forth, but it was December before I knew that Diane had acquired the storybook ornaments, discovered in a box in the back yard. It provides much satisfaction to know that some of our most cherished things are with friends. But it's absolutely breathtaking to see all of the ornaments together on Diane & Roger's Christmas tree. It's the way it should be and it never was when I owned them. Our life has been full of great potential but there it seems to stop. Thank goodness for friends and the richness they add to our life.

the 2 Pinocchios, before and after lying

Tortoise from Alice, Wendy, Michael from Peter Pan

Queen from Alice, Scrooge, Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker

 Dorothy, Tin Woodsman, Caterpillar w/hookah, Little BoPeep


  1. It's so funny that you shared this today, Jane. Just last night I found a woman on the etsy website who handcrafts dolls of authors (and other famous faces), and I bookmarked a link to her author dolls: http://www.etsy.com/shop/UneekDollDesigns?section_id=5517162

    Your ornament collection is lovely and truly special. How wonderful that Diane and Roger have the ornaments now and have them displayed so nicely too. :) I love seeing all the people--It's like a treasure hunt on a tree. :)

    I myself am wanting dolls or figurines from Dickens' Christmas Carol, one of my favorite stories.

    And I'd love an entire book about all you and Bob's day-to-day stories and photos from your Once Upon a Time days--anecdotes about author visits, seasonal displays, memorable moments with customers, etc.

  2. Yes! There is a book with fantastic photographs just waiting to be birthed!

    Go for it, Jane!

  3. Wasn't it marvellous that they went to Diane, the one person who you knew full well would display them to their very best.
    BTW. The Wrinklies are on their way. Winging across the ocean as we speak! (Probably still fiercely gripping the armrests) :-)

  4. Oh, wow! It's good to know that someone who will care for them wound up with them all. I thought of you this morning on the way to work. NPR did a segment on independent books stores:

  5. Great story and photos !!!!! I ha eight kids so you know where I am at now with Christmas. Quiet quiet no shopping, decorating etc. YAHOO !!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can really celebrate Christmas !!!
    Anon Y Mouse

  6. That was a great trip. Glad the ornaments didn't end up in the hands of strangers.


  7. Would you consider a future entry about what you consider the most important children's books? If you had to name just one (or three), what would they be?

  8. Susan H writes: Ted, my favorites are: A tree for Peter, Search for Delicious and The Velveteen Rabbit. Yours? Christmas was pretty beautiful growing up with Once Upon a Time as my younger sibling. I am thankful!

  9. Wow... My first thought was i wish i was first in that backyard!! As a helper involved in the move, i can just say that Bob and Jane's house was full of surprises!! What came down from the attic seemed never ending and it was always exciting to see the treasures. Every other room had that quality. Like the hat rack i got that you never hung, these ornaments have found their display home. You were the keeper of these treasures till the items called out to their display owners-it's time!!