Captain's Log: History on the Cedar River - the Trilogy
Cedar Rapids, Iowa (USA)
August 20, 2023
History on the Cedar River
This was the third consecutive year, that I have travelled to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to sell books by the river during the annual "World War II Remembered" event. Every third weekend in August, military reenactors from the Midwest gather at Seminole Valley Farm Museum. My time-travelling bookselling tent travelled back to around the year 1939 when the Third Reich occupied Czechoslovakia. Book sales were initially a bit slow, while the German military occupation force patrolled the area. Bookselling in occupied Czechoslovakia started out- a bit rough before the local partisans stood up and began harassing the occupation forces. The book trade then began to thrive. How we as society remember the past is a fascinating subject for me. This essay highlights how some people choose to remember, teach and learn about the resistance to brutal authoritarianism.
Historians study how our historical interpretations change over time. The history of history is called historiography (the study of historical writing). Not everyone learns from a book. There are various types of learners. Some are visual learners. Some learn by doing. I had the opportunity to meet once again with some military history reenactors and enthusiasts this weekend.
One of the first challenges of the weekend was THE CAPTAIN'S BOOK SHOPPE sign. The intense heat had weakened one of the plastic fastener attachments to the banner. The sign fell, and the event was about to open to the public. I needed a knife to make a field expedient repair. I borrowed a Russian field knife from a guy in a foreign uniform (you can buy a book(s) about uniforms, weapons, or vehicles to figure out which side the fighter was on from Captain's Book Shoppe). Who would have guessed that I would be borrowing Russian gear to fix my capitalistic sign?
The Russian Partisan Fighter Chris loaned me his knife so I could fix my sign. I then watched his rifle as he moved his modern car off the grounds before kick-off to the event. (Re-enactors don't like mixing modern autos with original Volkswagens.)
The Volkswagen Kübelwagen "is a military light utility vehicle designed by Ferdinand Porsche and built by Volkswagen during World War II for use by the Nazi German military (both Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS)." [Source: Wikepedia: Volkswagen Kübelwagen - Wikipedia] (Accessed August 22, 2023).
Some oppressive occupiers met their fate near Captain's Book Shoppe on the Cedar River. I was reading a book and therefore did not see what or how it happened. Somebody reported to the military occupation investigators that Joe Chill was seen running away after the sound of gunshots. Partisans reportedly took some military documents from the dead soldiers. (You can learn more about Joe Chill's other crimes in Batman Graphic Novels currently on sale at Captain's Book Shoppe. Many believe Joe Chill is responsible for the murder of Dr. Thomas and Martha Wayne in Gotham.)
The occupying military force reacted by raiding a local partisan camp. Despite the modern-day strike by the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) along with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) everybody seemed able to follow the plot line without any trouble. It is the age-old story of one side attacks, so the other side makes a bigger attack. This video was smuggled out of the occupied territory and was made by non-union writers and actors.
A U.S. military patrol liberated the area. (Historically, the Soviets liberated much of Czechoslovakia, but not many Midwestern re-enactors were portraying Soviet soldiers this year. Thus, artistic license means the Americans saved the day, again.) Knowing what really happened is an interesting aspect of the human experience.
The Allies secured the area bringing back bookselling prosperity.
Each year has proven to have a high concentration of book browsers interested in military history that are in a buying mood. Buyers' habits change over time. Last year, people used debit cards on Saturday and paid in cash on Sunday. It was the opposite this year, which was all cash on Saturday, and debit card purchases on Sunday. Last year, people were extremely interested in books about U.S. Navy SEAL exploits fighting modern terrorism. Despite many such books in near fine dust jackets, there was little interest in those items this year.
Every year the event has various types of military vehicles. Some automobile enthusiasts have one or many military vehicles. People researching the feasibility of collecting are often looking for references such as books to understand the authenticity of the item. The high concentration of military history enthusiasts makes the event worthwhile for a bookseller.
The history of the interwar years (between the First and Second World War) is not only about weapons, industrial might, and advances in technology. Female reenactors / collectors were looking for books about women of that time period.
All walks of life frequent the Captain's Book Shoppe Time Travel Tent. A British paratrooper from the Second World War and U.S. Soldiers from the Vietnam era make an interesting temporal dynamic.
Selling books in the open elements has risks. "The early morning rain" which for the past two years hit right before dawn, was surprisingly- not a factor, but the heat was. Temperatures were in the 90s. The humidity meant the heat index was in the low hundreds. The elemental adversity seemed to build comradery. Book sales were surprisingly good, considering the weather. Meaning the capitalist in me says I will be at the river again, next year- selling books.
It was an enjoyable weekend of non-traditional bookselling (which in my opinion is the best kind). I look forward to the next third weekend in August, plotting out how I will sell books in the elements. I deal in recycled thoughts (used books) and the rare original thought (rare books).
The Book Showroom is open Monday - Friday 12 noon - 5 PM.
Saturday the store is open 10 AM - 2 PM.
Closed on Sundays.
Captain's Book Shoppe LLC
1570 S. 1st Ave, Suite H
Iowa City, Iowa (USA) 52240
Store Phone: (319) 351-3166
The Second World War ended seventy-eight years ago. This means the surviving 18-year-old combat veterans of that war, are now in their 90s. You can watch a local TV News report about the event at the following link:
You can read about two Second World War veterans that attended this year's World War II Remembered at the following link:
“Rock Star” Iowa veterans honored during World War II Remembered – Homegrown Iowan (Accessed Aug 21, 2023).
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