Bookstore owner honored with party
by Staff Reports
Earlene Strickland Scott, who ran a bookstore that was a downtown Newnan landmark for 36 years, was honored by friends, family and fans at a retirement bash.
The party – organized by friends and admirers of the longtime entrepreneur – was held at the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society’s History Center in the Atlanta and West Point Railroad depot on East Broad Street. A packed crowd of about 250 enjoyed refreshments, signed a guest book, chatted with Scott and others and picked up commemorative bookmarks.
At the April 21 event, tables were decorated with literary themes – such as Harry Potter. One table featured books by local authors.
Winston Skinner, assistant news editor at The Newnan Times-Herald, was master of ceremonies for a time of remembering Scott’s and reflecting on what the store meant to the community.
Skinner, who has worked for the newspaper almost 30 years, remembered meeting Earlene Scott early in his career. “Earlene Scott became a fast friend, and a dear one,” he said.
He related that her first store – on Perry Street – was “in the old meat market building where Earlene’s parents had made their living.”
“I remember the excitement when Earlene got the embargoed copies of ‘Scarlett,’ Alexandra Ripley’s sequel to ‘Gone With the Wind,’” Skinner said. “More than once, I thought up something new to ask Lewis Grizzard when he made his annual Thanksgiving visit to Scott’s.”
Skinner also relayed good wishes from author Dot Moore. “She always enjoyed coming to autograph – and we all remember her riveting talk at the courthouse about John Wallace,” he said.
He also recalled the times he interviewed “Murder in Coweta County” author Margaret Anne Barnes at Scott’s. “Margaret Anne held a conversation with each person in line,” he said, and she was known for writing long inscriptions in books.
On one trip, Barnes took books back with her to Decatur – and it took awhile for Scott to get them back. “I think Earlene almost lost her religion over that,” Skinner quipped.
Skinner said his wife and Scott are cousins, and he said his family will shared memories of several generations shopping at “Cousin Earlene’s.”
Newnan Mayor Keith Brady presented a proclamation from the city, and State Rep. Lynn Smith shared a resolution approved by the Georgia House of Representatives.
Brady said Scott’s retirement is “a bittersweet time” but also a time for celebration and congratulations. Scott, he said, is “an irreplaceable woman in our community.”
“All of us are here today because of Earlene,” said Smith. “She had a bookstore that brought us together. We’re all here because we share a bond, and Earlene established that.”
Also sharing thoughts were Jack McBride, Kelly Welden, Bette Hickman and David Boyd. McBride talked about what the store has meant to his family and their sadness at seeing it close.
“Driving through the square the other night, we passed her store. When we passed those dark windows, it really brought it home,” McBride said.
“It wasn’t just a place to buy a book,” McBride said. Scott herself “was an anchor in a small, roots-oriented town,” he said, someone who knew “who was sick, who was well, what kind of city projects were going on and how they were progressing.”
He described Scott as “a real steel magnolia” and said she served the community “with inspiration and diligence.”
“‘Miss’ Earlene and her store are a very special part of my childhood,” Welden said, stating that visiting the store was about “real relationships – about communicating with each other.”
Welden expressed appreciation to Scott for “the years of service and friendship she had given to the community.” She talked about the popular stickers Scott sold and about the rite of passage “the very first time she gave me my own scissors and let me cut off my own stickers.”
The bookstore offered lessons for young readers because buying a book involved “purchasing something you had to take care of,” Welden said. “Time and money spent at Scott’s Bookstore was time and money well spent.”
Scott held book signings for Hickman’s novelist husband, John. “We have such great memories of that,” Hickman said.
She said Scott was also an inspiration to many women. “She was the first woman entrepreneur I met. I marveled at her courage,” Hickman said.
Scott’s late husband, Dick, “was a great person as well,” Hickman said, and completely supportive of his wife and her business. Through all sorts of experiences, Scott “carried on with a smile and with great warmth,” Hickman said.
Political cartoonist Boyd shared a memory of Grizzard. “Lewis told me one time, there were two people he was scared of,” he told Scott. “One of them was you.”
He also related that Cile Smith told him she did not like “The Bridges of Madison County,” which Scott had recommended. Boyd said that when the reader complained, Scott told her, “Go read it again.”
Ginny Lyles, who helped plan the event, presented Scott with a congratulatory letter from one of her favorite authors, James Patterson. Patterson was reached through Andrew Harwell, who grew up in Newnan and is now a New York book editor.
Scott’s son, Henry Scott, and daughter, Mary Cunningham, joined her for a congratulatory toast. Henry Scott remembered that his mother many times had threatened to quit “usually at Christmas time after a very busy day.”
Henry Scott expressed thanks that his daughters had gotten to learn customer service from their grandmother. Earlene Scott reflected on her employees over the years.
“I’ve had great girls working for me. A lot of them are here today. They are just like daughters to me,” she said.
“It’s good to see all of my friends and my customers. I miss seeing everybody – but, of course, I’ve been in town just about every day,” Earlene Scott said.
The guest of honor was presented with a gift card from funds given by those attending.
“We are happy for ‘Miss’ Earlene and for all the happy memories – and books – she has given us,” Welden said.