By all accounts, Charles Elder was one of those lucky people who get to live a lifetime working at a job that is more pleasure for them than it is work. Mr. Elder, who passed away at age 100 on June 27, owned various bookstores in Nashville for over 60 years.
The bookstore, which traces its roots to a shop Mr. Elder opened on Fifth Avenue in the early 1930s, has become a Nashville landmark, mentioned with Ernest Tubb Record Shop and Tootsies Orchid Lounge as one of "Nashville's greatest hits" in the November issue of Vanity Fair magazine....
"There's a sizable remnant of people around Nashville who love books, and all of them know Elder's Bookstore," said John Egerton, a friend and author.
Mr. Elder's love of books was nurtured by his wife, Dorothea Calhoun, a minister's daughter who came from a cultured and educated family. They met at David Lipscomb, now Lipscomb University, and married in 1934....
During the Depression, Charles Elder opened bookstores in Chattanooga and Knoxville, as well as Nashville, but they didn't last long. He eventually took a job with the U.S. Postal Service.
"He was a grouch and irascible post office clerk," said Egerton, whose books include Speak Now Against the Day: The Generation Before the Civil Rights Movement in the South.
Mr. Elder "made a bad post office clerk," Egerton said, "but he made a great bookstore owner."
Besides running the bookstore, Charles Elder was a publisher, reprinting 30 books on Tennessee and Southern history in the 1970s and '80s.What a lucky man. So few of us are able to find real pleasure in what provides our living. Mr. Elder was one of those fortunate few.
Mr. Elder continued to work after his wife died in 1996. He retired in 1999, at age 92. "He wouldn't have felt comfortable outside the world of books," Randy Elder said. The younger Elder now operates the bookstore with his wife, Anita.