Robert D. Hale, a bookseller and a former ABA president, died last month at age 85. Among his many roles in the book world, he served as the longtime master of ceremonies for the children’s breakfast at the industry’s annual ABA convention. Valerie Lewis, co-owner of Hicklebee’s Children’s Books in San Jose, Calif., offers her earliest memory of Hale.
Sometimes you come in contact with a person you know will have a lifelong effect on you. When Hicklebee’s first opened in 1979, my partners and I knew nothing about the business of selling books. It was at our first ABA that we discovered other children’s–only stores existed, although not many. It was there too that I attended my first children’s breakfast. The banquet room filled and I wondered who all these people were, when Bob Hale walked up to the podium, paused, swept the room with his eyes, and said with great pride, “Good morning, I'm Bob Hale and I am a bookseller.” I remember our excitement. We were a part of this world.
Years later as the enthusiasm about children's bookselling swelled, we used the annual convention to exchange ideas as we pushed the edges in creative survival. And for many years it was Bob Hale who greeted us on that first day of the convention with, “Good morning, I am a bookseller.” The audience would break into applause – the loudest from booksellers, who sat taller in their seats. It was our moment, in the midst of the insanity of our chosen profession.