MUSKOGEE, OKLAHOMA — For years he was the ‘go to’ guy if you wanted to find old books on topics that touched on Oklahoma history.
Pointing to one side of his Abalache Books, Jim Edwards says, “this whole side is the Old West.”
He still knows every title, and most of the authors.
“I made it a point to get to know these people just because I wanted to meet them,” says Edwards.
Jim even published his own book series in the 1970′s and 80′s called “Vanished Splendor”.
But, for the most part, he has always been a collector.
In his small, one room business sit hundreds of books and other antiques.
Somewhere along his journey he started collecting old tins.
Tobacco tins, coffee tins, even marshmallow tins line another shelf.
Jim really likes the very small tins that grocery stores once gave as free samples.
He opens a small drawer in the back room of his business and reaches for a small tin of paprika manufactured nearly a century before.
“This is an Oklahoma City company,” he boasts.
He never intended to leave his Abalache Book Shop in Oklahoma City, but his aunt got sick, and just as suddenly, he was gone with almost no chance of telling anyone he was leaving.
Edwards never had much use for computers or cell phones.
When he left it was like he disappeared.
“I still have customers in Tulsa who think I’m dead,” he says.
“I’m sure a lot of people will see this story on TV and say, ‘so that’s where he is.’”
Misplaced but not lost, Edwards and his books found a place in Muskogee after he moved there.
It’s an add-on room to a Stop-N-Go Shell station off a busy street.
Abalache Books is tucked away, almost hidden.
“Do interesting things still walk in the door,” asks a visitor?
“Yes,” answered Edwards. “Very interesting.”
At age 81 he’s still collecting.
Edwards opens a drawer behind the counter to show a recent addition, a 1905 edition of the Muskogee Democrat newspaper.
He was drawn to it because of the lynching headline on the front page.
It reads, ‘Negro Murderer Is Executed At Southtown This Morning’.
Abalache books is smaller but still alive in Oklahoma.
The man and his dusty volumes are an open book to those who still care enough to look.
Edwards book and antique store is located on North York Street in Muskogee.
It’s open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 to 6.