riverrun - Christopher P. Stephens

     Chris Stephens has been a book dealer since 1965 - earlier if you count childhood buying and selling.
Stephens has sold major collections to university libraries all over the world.   He is an expert bookman. 
     Chris Stephens owns and operates the two riverrun bookshops on a steep street just north of New York City.
Most of the inventory at riverrun comes from the houses of readers and collectors.   If you're ready to let go of your books, call Chris at riverrun bookshop.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Theron Palmer - publisher's rep

photo July 1976 - Frank Scioscia & Theron Palmer - in Stephens' backyard







In the 1970s Theron Palmer was a sales representative for Dial/Delacorte and also represented Harper & Row and Atheneum. It’s not supposed to be that way. Usually one person represents one publisher. Theron’s territory – Texas and Oklahoma - had a lot of open space between bookstores. Theron was able to work out a joint arrangement.
In 1975, when he drove those long open stretches, oil prices and import problems led congress to pass a national speed limit of 55 mph. Many people complained. Theron didn’t. He cut his speed 20% - down to 55. Theron was patriotic and law-abiding. He said if he could do it on his long drives, then anyone should be able to keep to 55.
Theron grew up in Oklahoma. He talked about the difficulty of farming poor soil during the depression. He remembered that he only had onions to eat as a child. Those onions sustained him well though. He became a tall, broad man with a wonderful singing voice. I met Theron Palmer in the early 1960s, not long after my father met him. This was before he returned to OK/TX. In the early 1960s he just represented Dial and his territory, like my father’s, included southern California. Many evenings Theron brought his guitar to our house. His strong voice sang out in our book-lined living room. My father could never get enough of Theron’s songs. Theron had a wide repertoire of country songs but most memorably he sang a powerful version of “The Tennessee Stud”.

The Tennessee stud was long and lean,
the color of sun and his eyes were green.

     Theron twanged it out loud and hearty. The song is basically about a cowboy hero who loves a beautiful girl with golden hair.

I had some trouble with my sweetheart's pa,
And one of her brothers was a bad outlaw.

    The cowboy had to ride away on his very fine horse, the Tennessee stud. He rides into all sorts of dire situations, but he always gets out safely because of this exceptional horse. Time passes and he misses the girl. As it turns out, the stud’s in love too. He misses the Tennessee mare. They return. The cowboy whips the girl’s brother and pa and rides away with the girl who – coincidentally I guess - owns the Tennessee mare. Not all of Theron’s songs had happy endings, but this one did.

Pretty little baby on the cabin floor
Little colt playing around the door
I love the girl with golden hair
And the Tennessee stud loves the Tennessee mare

Sometimes Theron brought his wife, Violet, to our house too. My parents, Frank and Mary Scioscia, became friends with Violet and Theron Palmer. Both men travelled, selling books to stores far and wide. It's a special kind of life.  They both loved books. All four of them did. Whenever Theron wasn't strumming his guitar and singing, the adults were talking about books.

2 comments:

  1. What a wonderful write-up! Theron and Violet are my godparents. I'll be sure to send this link to Violet.

    I LOVE that you wrote about Theron's singing. In the 70's, he released a 45 of a song he wrote to support the publication of a book called "Their Tattered Flags." I've always thought some country artist should do a remake of it.

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  2. This comment is mostly addressed to those who I know through the stories my Aunt Violet has shared with me, the last of which I heard just this morning. (She told me about your wedding cake.) Louisa, I’ve never met you or any of your family but most visits that Theron and Violet made to your house were accompanied, either before or after , by visits to ours. Theron often played his guitar and my favorite song was “The House of the Rising Sun. “ I remember being intimidated by his commanding presence and at the same time wanting him to notice me, the shyest of his Maryland nieces and nephews. The greatest impact that my aunt and uncle had on my life, however, was helping me to choose my career. When I was about 18 years old, I visited Texas one Christmas, and stumbled on dozens and dozens of children’s books. I read as many as I could each day. I returned home knowing that I wanted to work with children and books. I’m currently finishing my 24th year as a school library media specialist and I have worked with children from preschool through high school. In August, I’ll start a new job at my 6th school, a middle school in Westminster, Maryland.
    I’ve been told “Little Warrior’s Mom” is Joanna. We met during a summer I spent with the Palmers; it was the summer your older sister was dating Theron. Jr. You were just a small child. During that summer, we travelled around the country with Theron as he visited bookstores, but we also spent a significant amount of time in Spring, Texas where you all lived. That summer was one of the best summers of my life and that’s considerable since as a teacher I have had most summers off! My husband is an amateur musician and hopes to rerecord Their Tattered Flags in our basement recording studio this summer based on your blog comment.
    Tom and Jackie Fontaine and Frank and Mary Scioscia were names I’ve heard throughout the years, too numerous to count. And the love and joy in my aunt’s voice when she speaks of these people in unmistakable.
    Violet and Theron Jr. are coming to Maryland in late June for a family reunion. Theron Sr. is no longer able to travel. Both the blog and the comment have delighted Violet as she reflects on her life. She is one of my dearest and closest friends. We’ll be spending a week in Texas together in July which is says includes surprises.

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