Built in stone in 1962
The open street from the top of what used to be the Armel’s Transport Service office down pass the petrol station and on to Oke-Eda is still open but overcrowded. If one is not careful, one would miss the building. And the building was more important than my grandfather’s house. All along that street, the buildings were six bedroom houses with space in front of the houses for additional sunning of cocoa. There were two stores for weighing and sorting cocoa seeds. The two buildings, one of stone the other of mud, will engage me in my time during that street.
Today, one is likely to ‘waka’ pass without seeing this magnificent building because of the crowd. The shop is still a bookshop with a solid cement floor. There are other officers, inner officers, inside where those who worked inside had their own existence. The matter into the future is how to expose the building to the world. The front has never been paved enough to permit easy access to the C.M.S. BOOKSHOP.
Passengers across the road, seeing a bookshop would dash across only for the Armel’s to call to them hurry up for the Queen’s mail must not be delayed.
One does not know now but it does not matter if the Lagos C.M.S. BOOKSHOP is the original for the bookshop in Akure. It is agreed that 1932 was the year of construction of the building. The story of how the building got to the lady who owns it now is a private story.
From the St. David’s School down to half-way the road only bookshops, like today. It would feel like always teachers, clerks and aspiring teachers always lived in this area.
What year did I come to live in Ipalefa? It would seem to be soon after we came back to town. We still did not know how to behave to each other. Olu was the oldest and he took his studies serious. He could also carve wonders on a stick. He carved rubber stamps for which he was paid money. It seemed as if his mother was dead and we had his side. Julius was another one, fat and growing fatter. His mother was very alive and filled him with sweets chocolate. I was the third person. Hillary was brought from the schools and we would walk to school. There was Omoregie. He must have been in the senior classes the way he spoke to Olu or Jide. There was a small boy next door but he was not in school yet. There was a photographer who wasted a lot of material, tore up a lot of pictures and must have sought another profession.
There is no settler history of Akure. Everybody could not have arrived in the town at the same time. Ipalefa was a later settlement, put between the white civil servants and the rich natives of the town. One of these days, we will be able to determine what date that was.
C.M.S. BOOKSHOP carried the price of books. Therefore, there was no bargaining. Yet women and children as they went round the stands would touch an item and say: how much? The price is written there. Is there no room for bargaining? There is none. Do you need the book or you don’t need the book? I will ask my son.
The books in the shop were most useful for reader buyers. There were writing materials – exercise books, big note books and other fancy letter writing apparel. Pure blue writing pad are for lovers. Light blue could be used but it would have to be at the early part of the relationship.
The main market of the C.M.S. BOOKSHOP was the Bible in its various forms. Wedding Bible in red, blue, whatever color you liked. Bible as present, Bible for converts, Bible for whatever purpose you will find in the shop.
The various songs used in the Protestant religion would be found here too. Along with the items, the complete dresses of the clergy of the various churches and the denominations are to be found in the shop.
The place can be said to jump every time and any time.
But the C.M.S. BOOKSHOP sold novels. At a time when Nigerian writers that nobody read any books in Nigeria millions of copies of Silas Manner were being sold as well as, I don’t remember its title but its first page begins: “I that write this I am dead. Dead absolute proof. I was one of the victims of the cholera of 1854. But I live …”
The first novel I bought at the Bookshop was a straight forward novel whose title I do not remember and the author has too common a name to make a difference. But then I came across a set of novels set in Northern Nigeria. They were so refreshing, so new. We read and re-read them.
Niyi Akinnaso will get his opportunity to tell his story about that building.
It was a difficult system to keep going. We had limited money. The shop was not a charity and it was bookshop selling books, not lending them to readers. There was no form of reading delay that we did not do to get a free read in that bookshop. There was one where we paid in installment. Everyday we read so many pages and paid for so many pages. Wherever we came back the reading continued. There was a time we would clean the bookshop to be allowed to spend our miserable pennies.
How did it all end? If you can shoo away the crowd from the building and see its structure, you will wonder why so much strength was put in such a structure. A new manager was appointed and he needed to deliver for the shop owner and so, no freeness. There was no tolerance for innocent children. There is so much entertainment in a fraction of a bookshop.
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