Coffee shops with books: A personal connection

As you know, many coffee shops and small restaurants want their customers to feel at home, so they have comfortable chairs and shelves with random books on them. The intent, I suppose, is to create an ambiance like a living room or den. And where do the books come from? I assume that they buy the books by the linear foot from estate sales and the like.

Anyway, I’m in a Caffe Nero yesterday (yes, it’s a chain, with over 1000 locations, but it’s still to be preferred over S——-s) and I kept staring at the nearby bookshelf, because I was getting more and more annoyed by a large book that been shelved backwards, with its spine toward the wall! Clearly this problem had to be corrected without delay. So I seized the book and saw that it was a 1968 edition of Who’s Who in America, the genuine article, not one of those fake versions where you have to pay to be listed. It listed only genuinely notable people (plus all members of Congress, some of whom are notable only by courtesy). So I had to look up someone meaningful to me from 1968: my father, of course.

Indeed he was there:

(You may be wondering about the plethora of abbreviations. Those were necessary because the book was already far too big and far too heavy for anyone to carry. If you read my piece from four months ago, most of the info in this entry is already familiar to you. I do note that my dad must have prevailed upon this publisher to change the title of his 1964 book, which the publisher of that book had insisted on calling Opportunities in a Psychiatry Career, over his objections.

So the next question was who else I knew who might be in a 1968 Who’s Who. The obvious person to try was Dudley Fitts, my distinguished and inspirational AP English teacher in 12th grade. Sure enough, there he was:

As you can gather from the above, he was a polyglot, a poet, and a classical scholar — and we read a lot of Greek literature in English translation in his class.

OK, who else could I think of? One more came to mind, J.C.R. Licklider, a founder of AI and the internet and the father of my roommate Tracy:

Did you notice that they published the home addresses of all these people?

And one final remark, coming back to the question of where these books came from. I was astonished to see the following inscription in this one;

What’s up with that? I taught in Weston from 1997 to 2018, and I would have heard of Weston College if it had existed. A random sample of 20 other books on the shelves counted 15 more from the putative Weston College!

It turns out that there really used to be such a place. It’s a little hard to research it, since the obvious searches lead to Weston College in England or perhaps to the Cambridge School of Weston in Massachusetts. But the answer is that Weston College is the erstwhile name of the theology school at Boston College. Here’s what Wikipedia says about it:

Boston College School of Theology and Ministry was founded in the merger of Weston Jesuit School of Theology and the Boston College Institute for Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry on June 1, 2008.

Weston College opened in 1922 as a faculty of philosophy for the New England Province of the Society of Jesus in Weston, Massachusetts. The faculty of theology was added in 1927 to prepare men for ordination. The school was incorporated by an act of the Massachusetts legislature in 1929, and in 1932 was empowered by a papal charter to grant pontifical degrees.

In the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, in 1967, Weston College joined with Boston College and five other theological institutions to form the Boston Theological Institute (BTI). For the first time, Weston College matriculated students in its theology programs who were not members of the Jesuit order.

In 1968, Weston College moved its campus and residences to Cambridge, Massachusetts, adjacent to the Episcopal Divinity School. Weston College also became one of the first three Catholic schools accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in 1968.

So it was long gone from Weston by time I started teaching at Weston High School in 1997.

Categories: Books, Dorchester/Boston, Life