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Remember the slogan, ‘Reading is Fundamental’?

It’s too bad I didn’t subscribe to that theory. I wasn’t very fundamentally sound in basketball so how the hell was I going to learn the fundamentals of reading?

Opening a book was never one of my favorite activities growing up in the neighborhood (but boy if Miss Lynn, my 3rd grade teacher can see me now). When Miss Monzillo, my 7th grade teacher assigned us a book report, I watched the film, ‘The Towering Inferno” and tried to submit a report. Miss Monzillo, being an outstanding teacher, knew very well I didn’t read the book.

I’m thrilled to say that these days I consume one book every couple of weeks. Currently I am reading 3 different books at the same time. My former teachers at Holy Name are all smiling now. “See, I knew you had it in you,” they are all saying to themselves. Hey Miss Mauro, think I can get that star now?

Today I want to bring to light a bookstore that was in our neighborhood for many years. I’m not talking Barnes and Noble either.  I purchased my first paperback there titled, ‘FOUL’: The Connie Hawkins Story written by David Wolf.

I also picked up, ‘Have Jumpshot Will Travel’ by Charley Rosen.

I never finished either of them. Chalk it up to the lack of fundamentals.

The store I’m speaking of is, The Bookshelf.

The small, but very popular bookstore with hundreds of titles was located on Windsor Place, right around the corner from 9th avenue.

It was owned and operated by Mrs. Cregg. The Cregg’s were a great family who lived on Horace Court.

There was Jeannette, John, Mary, Elaine, Terrence, Kathy, Patrick, Gerry and Philip.

Here is an essay sent by Gerry Cregg on her time spent while working the store.

The Bookshelf was a cozy little book shop owned and operated by my mom, Joan Cregg, for 20 years.   It was located just off the main drag, Ninth Avenue, on Windsor Place.

As the name suggests, The Bookshelf sold books but on occasion it had some other action to offer.  My mom had many, many regulars.  People came in for their fix of books and talk.  My mom was the psychologist in residence, keeping the neighborhood’s secrets as she dispensed sound advice along with some sought after literary recommendations.
One of her “regulars” turned out to be someone quite different from what he said.  This “regular” was a “nice guy” who lived on Ocean Parkway, had a wife, a couple of kids and a Russian accent.  He came in every week and engaged in chats with my mom as her regulars often did.  He seemed innocent enough but the books he ordered didn’t. The titles raised my mother’s hackles.  They were all about our nation’s defense systems, weapons, where our military bases were located, stuff like that.  These books were upward of $150 each, a pretty hefty price for the average Bookshelf shopper back in the day.  My mom, having lived through the entire cold war, was wary of this seemingly innocuous man buying these heavy military books.
My mother contacted her brother, a former FBI agent who served in Robert Kennedy’s secret service detail.  He basically chucked her under the chin and suggested that maybe she was reading too many “Mrs. Polifax novels”.  She needed a second opinion. The next call was to her nephew who was currently in the FBI. He too, thought her imagination was in overdrive.  Still, she heard this little voice whispering that something was not right.  She contacted the FBI directly.  My mom told her story, the FBI agent listened, asked questions and informed her they would send an agent over within the hour.
Two FBI agents arrived at the Bookshelf armed with pictures of “Mr. Ivachenko”.  Turns out that wasn’t his name, he didn’t live on Ocean Parkway, he had no wife or kids.  He was a bona-fide Russian spy!
So, it turns out, our little Bookshelf, housed some action worthy of the many romance and spy novels it sold.
Well done Geraldine…
-Steve
Hoops135@hotmail.com