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Darrell Huckaby - Tattersalls keeps thrill of reading alive

I love books. Always have. At a recent gathering at the Newton County library, a lady asked me if there was a particular teacher who mentored me and led me in the direction of becoming a writer. Actually, there wasn't - although I loved and appreciated all of my teachers. My father, Homer Huckaby, probably did more than anyone to provide the inspiration for my writing career - such that it is. He always made sure that there were lots and lots of books in our house - even when there weren't a lot of other things. And we always had the Atlanta Constitution delivered to our doorstep each morning - back in the days when the Atlanta Constitution was worth reading.

And we subscribed to magazines, too - especially the Reader's Digest. My love for short, funny stories and humorous quips comes, at least in part, from reading sections of the Reader's Digest like "Life in These United States" and "Humor in Uniform." And I always read the section "It Pays to Increase your Word Power" and I can readily testify that it really does.

We subscribed to the Reader's Digest condensed books, too - which helped to introduce me to a lot of popular literature, although now I realize that condensing an author's work is a terrible thing to do.

The point is, I learned to love reading at an early age and read everything I could get my hands on. Of course, it wasn't always easy to get my hands on the material I wanted to read when I was growing up in Porterdale. There was the school library, of course, and I checked out every book they had except the ones that were about "girly" subjects and the ones that insisted that the Yankees won the War Between the States.

And we had a town library. It was in the Anderson Building, and my next-door neighbor, Miss Mae Hardman, opened it a few afternoons a week. She always made sure that I would get first dibs on the books they got in that she thought would be of interest to me. So there were books to be borrowed in Porterdale, but none to be purchased. We had to go to Covington for that and, even there, pickings were decidedly slim.

There was no book store in Covington. They sold magazines at the bus station - the Sporting News and Mad Magazine were my favorites - and paperback novels - I read every Perry Mason book and every Louie L'Amour western I could get my hands on - but that was about the extent of the literary offerings at the bus station. There was a jewelry store on the Square called Ray's Jewelers, which was run by a man whose name was not Ray, but Herb Katz. His slogan was "If you don't know jewelry, know your jeweler. (Funny aside here. Herb's son, Gerry, was a high school friend of mine. He is now a photographer out in the Pacific Northwest somewhere. I found his Web site online one day and his slogan is "If you don't know photography, know your photographer." Now that's pretty cool.)

But anyway, Mr. Katz eventually added some books to his inventory, which I appreciated, and if you needed a book that he didn't have, he could get it for you - which I appreciated even more. But as long as I lived there, you couldn't buy a book in Porterdale.

Well you can now.

Kim Harper, with whom I go way back, has opened a coffee shop and bookstore right in the heart of Porterdale. It's called "Tattersalls at the Mill" and is really quite upscale. Y'all ought to give it a try.

Now, you might be familiar with the name. Tattersalls was a longtime institution in Olde Towne Conyers. It was a delightfully cluttered little store - a book lover's paradise - with squeaky wooden floors and books and magazines of every description. Eventually, Tattersalls opened a second store in the Honey Creek shopping center, which Kim managed and eventually owned. The Honey Creek store remained open long after the original Olde Towne location closed its doors for good.

Last summer, I was horrified to see a sign in the window of that Tattersalls announcing a going-out-of-business clearance sale.

"Not to worry," I was told. Tattersalls would rise again. And now it has, and it is a delightfully cozy place. It is not cluttered at all and the main focus appears to be on coffee and pastries and the like - a place where folks can gather and visit and pass the time of day, but there are also lots of books - including mine - and magazines. You can probably get Reader's Digest there. And if Kim doesn't have it, she can get it for you.

If you don't know books - or even if you do - you should know your book seller, so go by and say hello to Kim. You won't be disappointed. I promise.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.