They Made It

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My nearest second-hand bookshop is in a small town five or six miles away. Like many traditional small-town shops it wears many hats. Downstairs at the front are stationery and artists’ materials, upstairs are second-hand books, while the downstairs back is devoted to a small, private, pleasantly ramshackle printing museum. It was there, in a shop of a kind she would have recognized and loved, that I found my copy of Charlotte Paul’s Minding Our Own Business. In it she wrote about the first five years during which she and her husband Ed owned and ran a small American country printing firm, the Falls Printing Company, and its associated newspaper, The Snoqualmie Valley Record. (She was Charlotte Paul Reese by birth, Charlotte Groshell by marriage, Charlotte Paul as a writer.)

Minding Our Own Business reads like the script for an early Capra movie and one of the pleasures of reading it is in trying to cast it from the Hollywood actors of the day. Jimmy Stewart would certainly be Ed, the idealistic, unrealistic, disaster-prone innocent of a hero, who nevertheless eventually triumphs. Katie Hepburn might just about – but less certainly – be Charlotte, whose vulnerability is masked by sharp observation and acid one-liners. There would also have been relishable parts for dozens of character actors, from Elisha Wood Jr to Sydney Greenstreet, and even two heart-tugging, scene-stealing parts for whichever child-actors were hired to play the Groshells’ small sons, tough little Hi (clearly the young Micky Rooney) and his even tinier sidekick, Johnny.

The Groshells were working in Chicago as, respectively, a successful journalist and a successful journalist who was tentatively turning herself into a short-story writer and novelist when in 1949, on impulse and almost overnight, they changed their lives completely. When they moved to rural Washington on the other side of the continent, and from safe pensionable jobs with

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About the contributor

Tim Longville knows whereof Charlotte Paul wrote. He once bought a part-share in a magnificent but temperamental old Albion press, by doing so became a junior partner in a publishing firm (not at all magnificent but certainly temperamental) and served his time dissing type and putting books in envelopes. He did not make it and he doesn’t recommend it.

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