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Easton's Books, Charlie Easton
Dave and Dianna Cornelius

(Charlie Easton)
Charlie Easton

Easton's Used Books opens 1976
Undated Skagit Valley Herald story
      The C. L. Easton Used Books and prints store has opened its doors this week at 1010 West Division in Mount Vernon. On hand are about 10,000 used books, both hardback and paperback, and an assortment of etchings, engravings and lithograph prints
      Easton, retired music and social studies high school teacher in Mount Vernon, said, "Our stock ranges from popular paperbacks to rare old books. The fiction goes from current mystery and spy thrillers to the masterpieces of the past, while the non-fiction ranges widely through science, psychology, philosophy, religion and poetry. We also have many books on how-to-do things such as gardening and cooking. There is a special shelf on just the Pacific Northwest.
      "We have something for everyone's taste, and all our used books are in good condition, our prices are reasonable, and we will add to our stock from various sources." One of their methods of adding to their stock is by trading one paperback for two used ones brought into the store.
      Easton has a "silent" [partner, Dave] Corne1ius, who is a social studies teacher at Mount Vernon High School and will continue teaching. Easton will operate the store. Both men were involved in getting the physical setup of the store under way. "We both like books, and have done a lot of reading in our lives. So we are enjoying our new endeavor very much. We invite the public to come in and look over our large stock." The store is located in West Mount Vernon, just across the street from the westside Thrifty Foods Market.

Dianna Cornelius remembers Charlie Easton
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      Charlie went to school in Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in music. While there he met his wife Edith. After graduation he served in the military during the war as a photographer.
      He taught school in LaConner, later moving to Mount Vernon where he taught music as well as being band director. Later in his career he taught sociology and psychology. Since he knew everything, he was often asked to teach different classes that were needed. One year he taught algebra. [One of his fellow teachers recalled that he was also asked to teach Skagit County history at the high school.]
      He was an avid mountain climber and violin player. At the beginning of the 1950s he was the second to the last person in Skagit County to get polio. His right arm was paralyzed as a result. His violin playing ended but not his mountain climbing. He said he would have his ice ax in his left hand and cigarette in his mouth and up he would go.
      Charlie retired from teaching in 1976 and opened Easton's Bookstore with his colleague Dave Cornelius. Each put up $1,000 and after six months both had their money back. Charlie got cancer in 1981 and decided to sell his share of the store to Dave and Dianna Cornelius. He worked at the store often until his death [in 1985].
      Charlie was known to his friends to be a true Renaissance Man. Any day a visit to his home would find him sitting in his over-stuffed chair reading, next to his cement ashtray full of sand and cigarette butts. Around his chair would be piles of magazines from the library for which he served on the board for years. The topics would range from astronomy, art, literature, music, current events etc. Anyone could have a conversation with Charlie on almost any subject.
      Charlie was fond of making up aphorisms. He was quoted often. One of his favorite aphorisms was "Evolution is a failure." When he retired the walls of the hall were covered with his quotes. A good time was had by all. Charlie had two children, Margaret and Charles. Edith, his wife, survived him a few years and died in a house fire.

Memories of Charlie Easton
      "I started collecting and trading books when I was 14," Dave Cornelius recalls, "and Charlie and I had that hobby in common, so when he suggested that we open a bookstore where people could trade and buy used books, it sounded like a good idea."
      That original store started in an old retail building on West Division Street in West Mount Vernon which the WireFab business occupies today. Charlie Easton had just retired from teaching and Dave was still teaching Social Studies at Mount Vernon High School at the time. Dianna, Dave's wife had been trained by IBM on an important business machine called the MTST and she was hired by attorney Paul Luvera at this Mount Vernon office.
      The new partners ponied up $1,000 apiece for beginning capital and they made a decision that still stands today: only used, no new books. Dave remembers that they used to drive as far as to Seattle to buy books and that when they put up a sign advertising that they would buy books, people began lining up.
      "We started on a lark but we apparently timed it right," Dave notes. He agrees in general that demand usually drives production in business, but he contends that sometimes product drives demand. At the same time that prices in first-run, hardbound books soared in the 1970s, Easton and the Corneliuses provided a venue for people to trade, which was especially a boon to customers on a fixed income and to students. Many used-bookstores have followed in the Northwest since then but chances are that few will last 30 years, especially under the same owner. Charlie invested his brain, his time and his almost inexhaustible energy into the bookstore, just as he did back in the 1960s to help give birth to the Skagit Symphony.
      In the interim, the store has moved twice to accommodate more books, roughly doubling shelf space. In 1982, Charlie took ill and was unable to work full-time anymore, so Dianna began working at the store. A year later, Dave and Dianna moved the store to First Avenue, a block west of their present location on Main Street, and they moved the last time seven years ago. They have a special rare-books room and with the help of their son Phil, they launched an online ordering program via the Internet. Dave estimates that they have 50,000 books at the store and 10,000 titles available online.

Charles F. Easton
(Charles F. Easton)
Charles F. Easton

      Meanwhile we still some questions to answer about Charlie Easton. We have not yet found his obituary and we especially need that to solve a puzzle about his genealogy. We initially assumed that he might be related to another Charles Easton who also made a name for himself as a writer and as a mountain climber. Now we are unsure. Charlie's middle initial is L. The other man is Charles Finley Easton (1858-1931) from Bellingham.
      Charles F. Easton was a jeweler who became a self-educated expert about Mount Baker after the turn of the 20th century. In 1909, the Mazamas Club drafted a proposal to create a Mount Baker National Park that would encompass Mt. Baker, Mt. Shuksan and their environs. Charles became an active participant in the newly formed Mount. Baker Hiking Club that spearheaded the park campaign, and helped the Club and the Bellingham Chamber organize the first Mt. Baker marathon in 1911. The marathon became famous nationwide until a fatal accident shut down the celebration after the 1913 race, but it was the forerunner of Ski-to-Sea, which began 60 years later.
      Easton also assembled an extensive collection of materials dating back to the first successful ascent of the mountain by Englishman Edmund T. Coleman, John Tennant and two others on Aug. 17, 1868 (see this Journal website). With the help of his wife, Ada Hamilton Easton, and photographer L. Adelbert Sprague, Easton went one step further and created a special promotional scrapbook which he took with him on a special promotional tour to the East Coast in 1916. After he lobbying at Congress, a bill for the park was introduced but it died during the lead-up to World War. The park was finally created in 1967. You can see Easton's collection at the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies, located in the Washington State Archives Building in Fairhaven
      We have not yet made contact with Charlie Easton's son or daughter to confirm any collection with the Bellingham Easton. We hope that a reader will know how to contact them and that someone will have an obituary. Update: we checked with the Bellingham Easton family and determined that there was no relationship between the two men, no matter how many coincidences between their activities and interests.

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Story posted on July 17, 2006. moved to this domain Oct. 12, 2011
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