by Peter Freyne
A Queen City institution. Everyday. Since way, way before the Internet, before cell phones, before Church Street became a bricked pedestrian mall, there were books in Burlap...everyday, seven days a week. And a healthy selection of out-of-town newspapers, too. [In fact, the only spot we found The New York Times yesterday.]
When yours truly dropped roots in the Queen City in 1979, Elizabeth Orr and her former husband owned and operated the Everyday Book Shop on Burlington, Vermont's car-jammed Church Street.
They’d originally opened it on College Street “next to where Stone Soup is now,” she told us. The couple split up when the book shop was on the Church Street Marketplace in the spot now occupied by Yankee Candle. A few years later she moved the business back to College Street, directly across from The Burlington Free Press.
Burlington’s Queen Elizabeth was born and raised in a tiny village in the British Midlands in Stoke-on-Trent. She emigrated to Canada in her twenties. Met the man she married and then emigrated again to the United States and Vermont in the late 1960s, something many English-speaking Canadians did at that time of Québécois upheaval.
She’s been on her own for many years and last month turned 80. The ol’ legs are starting to go, she told us yesterday - from the knees down. For the past year, Elizabeth’s been taking a taxi to work from her Spear Street home. Before that, she walked, yes, walked to and from work everyday.
A healthy walk up and over the hill, eh?
No computer screen at Everyday Books. The adding machine works just fine, thank you very much, indeed.
“I use an adding machine the way I was taught to in school,” she said.
No Internet, either. And, ready for this, no TV in her world either. Ever!
“I haven’t got time,” she told us. “Why add problems?”
Elizabeth does have a radio at home, but she’s working at the book shop all day and into the evening. For almost four decades, in her inimitable quiet, polite, but firm British way, Elizabeth Orr has arguably been the most reliable and hardest working person in Burlington, Vermont. And her book shop is a testament to what “one-of-a-kind” truly is.
Also told us yesterday that she’d stopped going to church about 5 or 6 years ago. They’d changed their hours for services, she explained.
“I work everyday,” she said. But Burlington’s Queen Elizabeth assured us, “I say my prayers. It keeps me in touch with myself and what I believe in.”
Now, excuse me, while I go write a political column.