Now and then we will upload material that future contributors or readers have sent us. The goal is for contributors to post their content but I am open to uploading for them on a case-by-case basis.
I asked Chuck Taylor if he could share some of his El Paso stories. Taylor is a prolific writer and poet (a more extensive biography is forthcoming). Chuck has given us permission to run his work here. You can see his books at: https://www.thriftbooks.com/a/chuck-taylor/378494/
How I Lost My Teaching Job by Chuck Taylor
He was from Romania. He’d come in ‘38 and in ‘59 he’d joined the John Birth Society. In ‘64 he and his wife took the apartment above the garage back of their house and made it into a bookstore. Their property stretched through the block to the next street, so they were able to post a big sign on the side of the garage and provide an entryway for cars.
I’d come by to see if the bookstore might carry the books of fiction and poetry I’d published on an El Paso friend’s small press. The year was 1077 and I was thirty-four and ignorant, not aware that the American Opinion Bookstores were connected with the John Birch Society.
“Leave them here,” the Romanian said. “My wife and I will look them over.”
They took me into their house, showed me around, and offered a cup of tea. White hair shinning and in their seventies, they were trim and energetic.
“I was an accountant,” he said. “I never made big money. My wife and I did the restoration on this house. We hired Mexicans to redo the woodwork and install the stained glass. We never had children. It gave us a worthwhile project to carry out.”
“It’s beautiful,” I said. “When was the house built?”
“In 1894,” he said, “by the Kukendalls, an important pioneer El Paso family.”
I didn’t know if his history was correct.
“We’re worried about the future generations,” the wife said. “Andrei, he sends out countless letters a day to senators and congressmen, but you’re a teacher at the college. You could have an influence on the next generation.”
I did not say that I was having trouble reaching my students. To them I seemed a hippie thumbing his nose at society. All they wanted was to become part of society and make good money to help their families.
“We’d like you to read these books,” they both insisted. “People have the wrong idea about the Society. It’s a family. Members come and stay with us.”
“Oh,” I said. “Didn’t a big candy manufacturer start it? Welch?”
“We’re interested in what you have to say about our books,” she said. “Take these copies with you.”
“Yes,” he said. “We’ll give you a call next week.”
When he called three weeks later he told me he couldn’t carry the books the El Paso press had published. They had sex and some of them talked of adultery.
I told him I didn’t like his books either. The authors seemed shallow. They wrote as if the worst thing to happen was the death of their cats. I said that authors wrote about things like sex and adultery because they happen in life.
I continued driving by the small American Opinion Bookstore on the second floor of their garage. The bookstore was a part of The John Birch Society, which continues to this day but is less in the news.
It is known as a radical, far-right organization.
I don’t know if they approve of the current president, Donald J. Trump, or not.
But back then I never saw any cars in their customer parking lot.
Chuck Taylor has worked as a dishwasher, a hospital maintenance man, a laundry worker, as well as a professor. He has replace roofs, slept in his car, been a CETA Poet in Residence in Salt Lake City, worked in the NEA poets-in-the-schools program around Texas. Today he’s been listening to Chopin and reading the great El Paso writer Elroy Bode. He has published two novels, 3 memoirs, 2 short story collections, and 8 volumes of poetry.
You can reach Chuck at: firstname.lastname@example.org