MCC book sale under new management
They could have passed a torch, but they'd have incinerated the inventory.
The book sale, a pillar of the West Coast Mennonite Sale & Auction for World Relief, has new proprietors: In 2009 the Nick and Lydia Reimer family made way for Ray Winter (BA '98) and Jeff Jones (BA '01).
Jones, left, and Winter serve a customer
Even before "The Sale" moved to FPU in 1982, the Reimer family has overseen the books. "My parents got involved and dragged the kids in," Dalton Reimer says.
Dalton says "dragged" with the same sly humor familiar to generations of students and colleagues who knew him as professor and dean from 1960 to 2002. Whether there's an underlying truth to his choice of words, Dalton won't say. He will gladly talk about the Reimers and others ho have helped with the books over the years.
Nick is 98 and Lydia 95. Their children are Dalton and his wife Beverly; Wilbert, math professor emeritus, and Luetta, English professor emerita married to Wilbert; Rosalie Carter; and Eldene Farrar and her husband James. All of the eight grandchildren have participated.
Books account for $8,000-9,000 of the $200,000-ish raised each April by the MCC Sale, but the book sale has built a following figures can't capture. East of the food booths and just north of the quilts, the atmosphere in the Special Events Center racquetball courts radiates quiet intensity as bibliophiles work their way up and down rows of tables, perusing, pondering and eventually pouncing on finds in hardback and paperback books, record albums and CDs. This year for the first time colorful banners and light background music leavened the scene, but most eyes stayed glued to the lines of spines.
For Jeff and Ray, taking over the books sale was a case of two customers moving to the other side of the cashbox to keep a treasured tradition alive—and feed their own reading habits. "It was something Ray and I had in common," Jeff says. "We'd go to the books sale the first day; the first hour."
Quantities of books are not measured in numbers. "We took seven and one-half truckloads over," Jeff says. Another 40 or so boxes were contributed during the sale.
When not pricing, hauling and selling books, Jeff is FPU institutional research coordinator. After seven years of teaching high school, Ray is working on his doctorate in literature at the University of California at Merced.
There's no predicting what people will contribute, which is both exciting and challenging. "You never know what will be in that box," Dalton says.
All or parts of the libraries of such Mennonite Brethren luminaries as J.B. Toews, Robert Vogt, Henry Schmidt and D. Edmond Hiebert have found their way to the tables. Still available through the online service Beverly Reimer oversees is an 1890s edition of the novels of Alexander Dumas, including the 48-volume core set and all but one volume of two six-volume supplementary sets.
Not every contribution has such merit. "What do you do with romance novels? Good heavens," Dalton asks.
Ray and Jeff recycled them, along with one and one-half tons of titles they have extra copies of or that have gone unbought year after year. But shredding is the last resort. "We'd love to have the books be a blessing," Jeff adds.
What did the rookies learn? "How dependent we need to become on the concept of team, and building team," Ray says. "We were overwhelmed."
Team—or family—was the Reimer way. Books were stored in Dalton and Beverly's garage and sorting and pricing became Saturday reunions. Customers also became friends. "It's not just about books. It's about people—and books," Dalton says.
Already in awe of Dalton as a teacher, Jeff and Ray are now convinced he can bench press 250 pounds. For his part, Dalton feels that at 71 it's time for someone else to take the load. Still, he recognizes an irony: "We're transitioning out at about the age my parents started," Dalton says.
The generations eagerly honor each other. "This story is about Dalton and the Reimers," Ray says. And Dalton compliments Ray and Jeff's work. "You always have to leave room for someone to do better than you did," he says.
"We had fun doing it and we're going to continue to do it," Ray says. "The physical experience of holding a book is probably timeless."
Timeless for 27 years, and counting.
This article, written by Wayne Steffen, was originally published in Pacific, July 2009.