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The Book Store On Tu Do Street

While living in Saigon I spent many an afternoon at the book store down on Tu Do Street. It was kind of a gathering place for those of us who were engrossed in exploring the adventures of literature, poem, verse and writing – it was about as close as you could get to a ‘beat’ coffeehouse in Saigon … we felt ‘hip’ at the book store with Hahn and her friends reading poetry and playing guitars. I used to call it The Word Palace. I bought my first dictionary at The Word Palace. One of those HUGE unabridged ones – the kind you only found on pedestals in libraries. I still have it to this day – tho it’s pages are a bit worn and torn it has severed me well for over 50 years. Often when I refer to it, as I thumb though it’s pages looking for a word – I’m re-mined of Saigon as the memories seemingly flow from it’s pages like an endless monsoon river carrying me back to the days of my youth strolling along Tu Do Street.

Since starting our Blog we’ve learned that some Saigon Kids have written or are in the process of writing books about the adventures of their youth spent in Saigon – recording the treasured memories and history of Saigon Kids – telling the story which has, until now, never been told. Slowly with each word they write the missing link of Viet-nam era history unfolds through their words as they document the forgotten ones with our stories of the – life and times of Saigon Kids.

To make the writings of Saigon Kids easy to find and available to all, I’ve added a new area to our Blog – Tu Do Street Book Store – you’ll find it on the Blog Menu at, where else but – Tu Do Street. 🙂

I’ll be stocking the shelves with books written by Saigon Kids – some about Saigon and some about other topics but authored by Saigon Kids. As time goes on, I’ll be adding other books related to Saigon and Viet-nam that will be of interest to our Saigon Kids family. Please feel free to recommend books which you think would be of interest to everyone.

Dave Kotzebue’s new book, scheduled for release August 2nd, “Your Grandfather’s Sabre” is in Tu Do Street Book Store. Along with “Youth In Asia” authored by George Baggett; and, four of Paul Christensen’s books. For those of you who don’t know, Paul was the first Literary Editor and one of the Co-Founders of the very first Gecko Year Book. He went on to become noted worldwide as a writer and literary. And, just think his literary journey all started in Saigon at our beloved American Community School.

I hope you find many hours of memories and enjoyment at our Tu Do Street Book Store – just as I did down on Tu Do Street in old Saigon – 50 plus years ago.

As always, you are welcome to leave your Comments below.

Bob

Note: Some of you have emailed asking where the book store was located on Tu Do Street. There were two book stores. “Portail” at 109 Tu Do was a long established French book shop. “The Bookstore” at 33 Passage Eden carried a limited selection of American publications and had an American manager. Passage Eden was the arcade directly across Tu Do from the Continental Hotel.

20 comments to The Book Store On Tu Do Street

  • Ken

    Ahh Bob, when I read the above article, I thought “Wow, now we are going to be intellectual and highbrow.” Then I read “Journalistic Humor” and thought, well, back down to earth….
    Keep it up, big Bob. Ken

  • Randy Seely

    Another good add would be “My Father…The Spy” by John H. Richardson.

    • Admin

      Thanks Randy – I’ve put it on the list to add to our Tu Do Street Book Store.

      By the way, Randy, don’t feel too bad about not being able to fish from a camels back out there … in New Jersey it is illegal to sell a ‘tooth brush’ and ‘tooth paste’ to the same customer on Sunday! – LOL – OH, and be careful when you are in Alaska … don’t wake a sleeping bear to take it’s picture – cuz if ya do they’ll put you in jail! I really wonder sometimes … how and why … some of these laws on the books came into being and why they were needed in the first place. Who in the heck is going to wake up a sleeping bear … just to take it’s picture!! – LOL 🙂

      Bob

  • Mike Erickson

    Frederick “Cork” Graham wrote a book about his experiences as a civilian photojournalist imprisoned by the Vietnamese government after the war. The book is called “The Bamboo Chest: An Adventure in Healing the Trauma of War. It is available on Amazon. Cork was a student of the Phoenix Study Group, the Saigon school for American dependents and others that was created after the closing of the American Community School.

  • Mike Erickson

    There’s another book called “Frances Dorsey: Saigon”
    by Leah Garnett et al (also available on Amazon). The book features Ms. Doresy’s art and inludes some samll stories she write about her life in Saigon in the 1950s. In one of the stories, she relates the following:

    “The first school I went to in Saigon when I was seven was a French school, Les Oiseaux, run by the Grey Nuns. I did not stay there long because the nuns would tie energetic children to their chairs, and had other archaic ideas. The next school I went to was the American Community School. It occupied two or three Quonset huts and had several grades in each room. One high point was when my second grade teacher had a nervous breakdown and we had no school for a few weeks. Another was when the principal brought around a large dead poisonous snake that had been caught underneath my classroom. He showed it to us and we were allowed to touch it. The next was when our Quonset burned to the ground. Our pre-conflagration classroom also had a petrified log lying on the ground in front, and one could chip off little pieces of the wood turned to stone. It was from this that I conceived the great idea of sleeping on a piece of coal to turn it into a diamond. I could not understand why no one had thought of this before – I knew that heat and pressure and time turned wood to stone and coal to diamonds. Despite faithful efforts my coal remained only coal.

    “When we returned to Saigon I returned to this school. The school used the Calvert System. This was a program of books and lessons used by turn-of-the-century missionaries when teaching their children in deepest Africa. It was a wonderful education, I learned about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, how Nebuchadnezzar went mad and went around on his hands and knees eating grass, we memorized poems every month, and though sometimes I chose short poems like Fog I also could recite The Highway Man, and Ozymandias. We learned a lot about animals and plants and basic math. For science when I was ten I drew a large anatomically perfect anopheles mosquito using coloured pencils. It was the best thing I had ever drawn. It was hung in a case beside the principal’s office, but was taken down after my third detention. My mother kept it for years. I was very proud of the drawing because it looked just as I had hoped.”

  • Mike Erickson

    Wish I had proofread my previous blog before I sent it for, but you get the drift.

    • Admin

      Thanks again, Mike. I’ll add this book to the Tu Do Street Book Store, also. … and “proof” your previous comment for you at the same time ….. 🙂

      Bob

  • Mike Erickson

    Thanks. Sheesh I couldn’t even get the comment right on failing to proof the previous comment.

  • Mimi

    Well, I went to “Le couvent des oiseaux” for my primary school…(from 1951) and was never tied to a chair,(and god knows if anyone deserved to be, it was me…lol)or heard of anyone being tied to a chair. True that there was an iron discipline, and that the nuns were bitchy enough to turn me away from religion forever, but it is not necessary to make them worse than they were-lol.
    That is probably on the part of the author what we call in french “une licence littéraire” which means that for the purpose of a book you can say anything-lol.
    And, the sisters were not “grey nuns” who are I think of franciscan obedience and usually run hospitals. They were sisters from the congregation of Notre-dame,(regina mundi)a very snobish order, most of the nuns coming from aristocratic french families- as most of their pupils.
    big hugs to all.
    xxx mimi

    • Admin

      LOL, Mimi … or should we just call you “Wild Child” … LOL 🙂

      I think the author is just using the ‘tie to a chair’ as an American – figure of speech – LOL – maybe she was color blind also, hence the ‘grey nuns’ … lol. But, then again, some of us have trouble remembering our teen years … let alone – when we were 7 years old … ROFL 🙂

      But, I do remember (when I was 6 years old) the – blue man dressed in the purple shirt and pants – who would walk around in the vacant field next to our house in the middle of the night. Many nights I saw him from my bed room window. He was really BIG and SCARY too!! BUT, my parents could never see him – LOL 🙂 – my pet dog saw him tho and would chase him away, across the field and into the woods – LOL 🙂 … it used to really puzzle my parents that I could see the man and my dog was growling and barking chasing something across the field … but, they could only see my dog … LOL

      Hugs ….
      Bob

  • Mimi

    Not smoking at THAT age!!!! lol
    But that is a lovely story!!!
    xxx mimi

  • Mike Erickson

    The Man on Whom Nothing Was Lost: The Grand Strategy of Charles Hill by Molly Worthen and Through Isaac’s Eyes; Crossing of Cultures, Coming of Age, and the Bond Between Father and Son by Daniel Barth Peters both reference the Phoenix Study Group. Worthen was not a SaigonKid to my knowledge. Peters’ was a SaigonKid and a missionary kid who felt out of place at the school because of his background and values (though I recall numerous MKs at the school who seemed to fit in just fine).

    Page 21 of The Absentee American: Repatriates’ Perspectives on America and Its Place in the Contemporary World by Carolyn D. Smith (again, not a SaigonKid to my knowledge) contains the following about ACS:

    “[T]he image of Marine machine gun emplacemnets on the roof of the American Community School in Saigon is familar to all who watched television during the mid-1960s; those who attended the school vividly remember the chicken wire stretched over the windows to keep out grenades and the Marine guards on the school buses.”

  • Amazon has now adjusted the date by which I should receive my copy of Dave Kotzebue’s book, so that its delivery should occur in the span from Aug. 21 until Sept 15.

    I just ran across mention of another book that sounds pertinent to the Tu Do Street Book Store: “Memoirs of an Insignificant Dragon” by Marjorie Doughty. She was in Saigon 1962-65, her husband worked for USIS, and their son was 5 when they arrived in Vietnam. Barnes and Noble offer it for $5.50 as an ebook.

  • Kerri

    I am trying to find my house on google earth, I was so young. Left Saigon in 1963. My brothers were sent home earlier. I was sent to Les Oixseau (I hope I’m spelling it right, long time since I wrote in French or spoke it.)My parents were not happy with the American Community School. The address…and I’m sure my spelling is off….57 Trung Minh Yang, it could be 75 instead of 57, I just remember I related it to Heinz 57 back then. I think there was a family named Rousseau next door (Americans). I have very fond memories of my home there….I would like to show my daughter and my grandsons where I lived.
    Thanks all….
    Kerri

    • Kerri – You might find it on the 1963 street map located here
      Click Here To View Map

      Bob

    • Kevin L. Wells

      Kerri,

      In this day and age, you may be able to combine a search of the 1963 map with Google Earth. With a little work and patience, you can get a good image.

      If you will send me your address I will send you my overhead image of the house where we lived.

      klwells(@)globalvision.net

      Don’t forget to remove the parenthesis!

      Cheers-Kevin

    • Kerri,

      I’m guessing that your street name back then was Truong Minh Giang. It is shown on the 1963 map with the final “g” missing. (Phonetically, Giang sounds a lot like Yang.) Find the graphic for Independence Palace, and go up one block from the left edge of that graphic. The street labeled Truong Minh Giang is descending nearly vertically. Today that street is called Tran Quoc Thao. If the house numbering remains unchanged, just use the search box for Google Earth and key in 57 Tran Quoc Thao, Ho Chi Minh City.

      I have a 1960 directory published by the U.S. Embassy that shows Donald Aschom living at 57 Truong Minh Giang with his family. He is identified as working for the MSU group (Michigan State University advised the police department in Saigon, as I recall).

      The address for the school Les Oiseaux given in the 1960 directory was 288 Cong Ly. That street parallels Truong Minh Giang two blocks to the right. Today Cong Ly is called Nam Ky Khoi Nghia.

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