Crawford’s Used Books, 60km west of Saskatoon, might have one of the most overwhelming collection of used books we’ve ever seen
Perdue, located west of Saskatoon on Highway 14, is one of those sleepy Saskatchewan towns reminiscent of summer visits to rural relatives and pee-breaks in strange, odious gas stations. Cut into two neat halves via the railway, with a population of 375, Perdue has a smattering of businesses located throughout the town, along with some shambling houses, a school and a few mysteriously abandoned buildings. It’s a nice place.
But Perdue also harbours a magical, and unlikely, institution. Located within the brick innards of a former bank, the prairie town is the home of Crawford’s Used Books, an independent store that houses a baffling amount of novels, paperbacks, manuals, texts and tomes. Among other things.
Amidst the piles of publications, some of which seem in perpetual danger of toppling over into a tsunami of dog-eared pile of paper chaos, are various sundry items that paint a picture of small town life: old reading glasses, a landline phone, a crumpled corduroy hat, a cafe-style sugar shaker, a plastic fork. It’s bedlam to the outside eye. But, in reality, it’s a meticulous maelstrom that has been catalogued by Ralph Crawford, the owner of the store.
Gregarious and full of knowledge, Crawford was standing outside soaking up the sun as we pulled up. He welcomed us into the store, pointed us towards various literary genres, and almost immediately launched into his remarkable story, about his home back in New Brunswick and how he came to open his store in Saskatchewan in 2005. He also described in detail how he moved the bulk of his collection across Canada, via the train no less.
In case it wasn’t apparent, Crawford owns thousands of books.
“It wasn’t easy,” he said. I believe it.
The stock runs the gamut from books that look as though they could have been published over 100-years ago, to pulp novels that pre-date World War II, to more recent releases. Some of the books were hilariously outdated: I’m still kicking myself for not purchasing that 1960’s-era dating manual. Hot tips delivered steaming fresh from half a century ago.
Tthe building also comes with a great story. And, unlike most of the stock within, I am certain, there’s no real ending. In any case, not sure what else you’ll find in Perdue, but Crawford’s Used Books is worth the trip alone.