In 1993, McCall residents Marilyn Summers, Mary Boone, Pat Zenzic and Mary Clemmer had an “idea!” Our little McCall library was growing, right along with the population of this mountain town. “How about forming a Friends of the Library group to raise funds for children’s programs?” With the support of librarian Gloria Cantrell, the newly-formed organization held an annual book sale during Winter Carnival and began its life of financial support to the city library, providing e-books, art supplies, children’s books and games. Trouble was, there seemed always to be more books than they could peddle.
Summers remembers that just four years later, their energy and love of books suggested another idea(!) – open a year-round second-hand bookstore. She called her pals Boone and Bobbie Smyth and proposed a walk around McCall to look for a location for the Friends of the Library bookstore. After walking everywhere in town, they got to State Street, across from the hospital, and “there sat this little log building. We looked through the dirty windows…and said this is it.” The 14×14 square foot building is owned by the City of McCall and managed by the Central Idaho Historical Museum, which sits next door and rents the Pump House to the Friends of the Library.
The tiny building was originally a fuel pumping station built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1938, a prime example of Finnish log construction using saddle-notched logs with scribing. It was operated until 1990 by the Southern Idaho Timber Protective Agency (SITPA) as a gas station. Just outside the front door is a mark in the concrete where the pumps were located and a hinge where the gas hose hung. In the historic building behind is an authentic “smoke jumper” suit from 1950.
So, in 1997, the ladies and their friends Helen Porter, Dixie Lewis and Terry Avitable painted the ceiling and scrubbed away decades of oil and grime, while taking care not to “change the character” of the National Register historic building. The conversion not only restored for use this historic structure but provided a public service in our remote community – selling all kinds of gently used but affordable books, especially for those of us who move from bigger cities and miss the many bookstores. We even have a bookcase in front of the building giving away free books, popular with the visitors waiting at the hospital across the street.
Speaking of which, the hospital is undergoing construction from June to October this year. The bookstore is still open on State Street so don’t be intimidated by any detours. And, as a special treat, you can explore the Corliss Building behind the Pump House, which houses photos and artifacts from the McCall sawmill that once stood nearby. Thanks to our Friends of the Library (FOL) volunteers, the Historic Museum will have support while it seeks new staff.
The Pump House is open Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 3:00 pm in the summer and Wednesday through Saturday in the winter, or about 700 hours a year. Helen Porter estimates the tiny shop sells at least 6,000 books to about 1,750 customers each year. In addition, FOL holds book sales over Labor Day and Winter Carnival. And in partnership with the Idaho Community Foundation, they created a Library Endowment Fund which has supported the current Library Expansion Campaign.
Recently, the Daisy Scouts helped us out with plantings for spring. Want to volunteer with Friends of the McCall Library? To learn about volunteer opportunities and for more information, visit the Friends of the Library webpage and on Facebook.
(Written by Sherrill Livingston, based on a 2007 article by Christie Bayless Gorsline including portions reprinted with her permission.)