Pacifist Bookseller Roy Kepler and the Paperback Revolution
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: Syracuse University Press
Title Page, Copyright
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Honestly, I always figured I would write Roy Kepler’s story, or try to. It was a feeling I had, for many years. But it was only after talking with Clark Kepler in January 2005 that I truly engaged. Clark and his sister Dawn have been fantastically helpful, and they made this book possible. They opened their family records, shared their memories, and corrected...
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Closed. Kepler’s was closed. How could this be? All morning, off erings and memories mounted outside the locked doors of Kepler’s Books & Magazines in Menlo Park, California. Sunflowers and white roses were laid as at a bier. Mourners gathered in the nearby plaza, singly and then...
1 Opening Chapters
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War came calling, and the Kepler boys said no. One survived the whirlwind; the other did not. On December 7, 1941, Roy Cecil Kepler reported for work as a surgical orderly at Denver Presbyterian Hospital. He was twenty-one years old, prime fighting age, but he had already vowed to do no fighting. He and his older brother, Earl...
2 The Good War
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Roy did well in war. The provincial Denver kid grew up into the wider world. He would ally with America’s future peace leaders, the men and women who carried the flame through World War II, Korea, the Cold War, and Vietnam. Hard experience...
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Germfask opened May 12, 1944, as Civilian Public Service Camp No. 135. Or, as some preferred: the Alcatraz of CPS. The place appeared placid enough. No metal bars or armed guards surrounded the rustic Civilian Conservation Corps outpost bordering the Seney National Wildlife Refuge in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The 95,212-acre Seney refuge...
4 Resisting the Next War
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Roy reentered the free world ready for the fight of his life. Civilian Public Service had toned him. Hefting tools and hauling stones had flattened his stomach, erected his posture. Bunkhouse discussions had sharpened his tongue. His brother Earl’s death had seared him deep inside; neither...
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Roy was ready. Ready: To return home to the West and secure at last his college degree. Ready: To escape the burdens and bickering attendant upon keeping the peace at the War Resisters League. Ready: To catch up with his life. He was turning thirty, and still single. His cohort, the wave of World War II veterans and Civilian Public Service alumni, had largely swept through...
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Lew Hill burned hot. His eyes pierced. He was pale and spectral thin, painfully arthritic and usually wreathed in cigarette smoke. He spoke mellifluously in complicated paragraphs that could sound either brilliant or utterly incomprehensible. Some people, he enchanted. Eleanor McKinney, one of his chief allies...
7 Kepler’s Books & Magazines
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Paperbacks were a problem child. They were coarse, cheap, and morally soft. Proper books were hard clad, a firm handshake between High Culture and Dear Reader. Downtown Palo Alto, a fundamentally conservative university town in the mid-1950s, had several booksellers that maintained strict hardcover standards. The Stanford...
8 Paperback Revolutionary
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Word spread. Roy knew how to draw a crowd and get the message out. His War Resisters League flyers had once lured young men with headlines about sex. He had been the outside man for Jim Peck’s audacious White House staircase protest, calling reporters with the latest. He had marketed KPFA with cheap...
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The lovebirds met over music, at a Drew University dance. One fine fall evening in 1934, twenty-year-old Joan Chandos Bridge was enduring the company of a clod. A trim Scottish-born beauty, the daughter of an Episcopal minister, Joan let her mind drift as she shuffled about the dance...
10 The Sixties Begin
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Ken Kesey needs his bus driver. Naturally, he turns to Kepler’s. And so begins the sixties qua sixties. It’s a June day in 1964. Kesey and his clan cavort on the farthest side of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The former Stanford writing fellow’s first novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s...
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Grindstone was a do-gooders’ getaway. An eleven-acre island in Ontario’s Big Rideau Lake, Grindstone also provided the name for an institute that hosted intensive training programs for nonviolent civil rights activists. The first week-long session in August 1963, sponsored...
12 The Institute
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Some schools taught war. Now, one would teach Gandhian nonviolence. The idea of a peace institute had been circulating for years. Bob Pickus, founder of the Berkeley-based Acts for Peace, had suggested to Roy as early as 1962 that they establish a West Coast Peace Study Center. Pickus thought of seeking contributions from some of the pacifists’ Hollywood...
13 The Free U
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Roy had done his homework. The Phi Beta Kappa man and former Fulbright scholar had excelled in conventional schools, but he didn’t like what he had seen. University of Colorado administrators and professors had submitted to the state’s loyalty oath mandates. A fussy...
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The Peace Games reinforced Roy. He was no longer alone on the pacifist fringe; trained cadres were joining him. The war helped too. Whereas Roy’s tax resistance was simply eccentric in the placid 1950s, the escalating Vietnam War brought him more allies. On March 3, 1966, Joan told the San Francisco Chronicle that she too would not...
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The Oakland Induction Center was a dread portal. So was Santa Rita jail. Both initiated the young into a world of hurt. Civilians entered the induction center, also known as the Armed Forces Examination Station, at the corner of Oakland’s Clay and 15th streets. Many exited the other end...
16 Roots and Branches
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Stewart Brand started swinging by Kepler’s around the time he graduated from Stanford in 1960. Here, he thought, was a bookstore run for something other than money. Himself a venture some soul, Brand did a turn as an airborne qualified army offi er following his college graduation. He started making other leaps. By December...
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The war came home, as wars always will. October 1968. Violence was manifest, sheet lightning across the skies. Nearly half a million American troops were enmeshed in South Vietnam. Constant tumult shook Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue. Space cases and speed freaks haunted the streets around Kepler’s Books & Magazines, City Lights, and Cody’s...
18 Farewell to the Sixties
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Roy kept the books straight, in every sense. Others indulged, amid the gaudy excess of the 1960s. He abstained. “He would have one glass of wine to my twelve,” Ira said. Others would hug. The world, Kepler’s manager Betty Sumrall said, was suddenly full of huggers...
19 The New Revolution
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Steve Wozniak knew Kepler’s well before he was The Woz. In the mid-1960s, young Wozniak went to Kepler’s not for the counterculture but for the most conventional of reasons. He went for the books. The revolution Wozniak subsequently helped foment would, like others, have Kepler’s roots though Roy himself never took the full measure of it. Steve Wozniak was born...
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Kepler’s and its Bay Area bookselling kin staged history, every business day. They were Beatnik Central, Where the sixties began. Books could be bought anywhere. The Bay Area triumvirate of Kepler’s, Cody’s, and City Lights offered something more. They were living theater, for the reenactment of familiar scenes: Ira...
21 Book Wars
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Roy built the Kepler’s brand over half a century, in some ways eff ortlessly. He simply went about his life, embodying his principles, and Kepler’s Books & Magazines was the natural consequence. Roy was tolerant, curious, unconventional, and brave, and that is what his store became. Once manifested, though, Kepler’s Books & Magazines had a life of its own. After Clark took over, he had to sustain it while adapting to new circumstances. Cobwebs...
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Love and moxie resurrected Kepler’s Books & Magazines. But tears came first. Menlo Park City Councilwoman Kelly Fergusson could not believe her ears on August 31, 2005. As a Stanford undergraduate studying applied earth sciences in the mid-1980s, and then as a doctoral student in civil engineering,...
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Page Count: 416
Illustrations: 8 black and white illustrations
Publication Year: 2012