by Guusje Moore

#60, 23 January 2006

The Malt Shop Era

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One, two, three o'clock, four o'clock, rock,
Five, six, seven o'clock, eight o'clock, rock,
Nine, ten, eleven o'clock, twelve o'clock, rock,
We're gonna rock around the clock tonight.

Bill Haley

Once upon a time when Russia was the Red Menace, we hadn't yet gone to the Moon and everyone liked Ike, a genre of teenage girl novels nicknamed "Malt Shop Books" reigned supreme. Compared to today's YA (young adult novels) they personified innocence, and the problems the typical heroine encountered were comparatively minor. Back then the causes of teenage angst were not AIDS, binge drinking or premarital sex; they were attracting that cute boy, whether or not to go steady or finding the right dress for the prom. Boys were men and girls were girls. Everyone was white, middle to upper-middle class, Mom was always in the kitchen, and Dad's only contribution was to tease the girls about their dates or pay for a frou-frou formal. The settings vary between high school or college but the end result is the same: The acme of a girls life was to wear "his ring".

You would think that no self-respecting 21st century woman and feminist would ever read these books, but they were read and still are. Baby Boomers in search of their fast departing youth make up one part of a large audience, and home schoolers the other, mainly because these books express the wholesome family values of conservative or protective parents.

Most of these books are series books - 3, 4, 5 stories or more about the same family with the same cast of characters. As is true with many series, the first book and the last book are the scarcest and the most desirable. The books were frequently rebound in stout library buckram with pictorial covers, but you can still find them with dust jackets under mylar. Librarians will tend to weed the entire series, not just a couple of the books, so if you find one in a box, dig down; chances are you'll find others.

All of these authors wrote many, many books - too many to list - so just deposit their names in your flashpoint memory bank and pick up any title you come across. Sell them singly or in lots, depending on how the market is doing. A bit of research into eBay's completed auctions really pays off when it comes to the Malt Shop novels. Almost all of these books culminate with a wedding book, in which our heroine, clad in misty white goes off into the happy future with her college educated husband (Malt Shop girls always waited till their men finished college before they snagged them). By the time the wedding rolled around, many libraries stopped buying the books, so they are the hardest to find and of course command the best prices. One hint: don't waste your eBay title characters with the words "Malt Shop." It's a term only hard core fans are familiar with. Include the name of the main character instead.

A few Malt Shops were reprinted up by the Junior Literary Guild and other book clubs but most were available only from libraries. This is yet another case where ex-library is all there is. Scholastic Paperback books printed many in paperback editions in the late 1960s, and even these are collectible.

ImageCascade Publishing has recently reissuing many of them in good quality trade paperback bindings, and the result has been a major drop in values (as I have said before, reprints are the bane of my existence). However, there is still a market for the hardbacks because reprints just don't have the same feel. I've bought some of the Image Cascade books, and while the text is identical, the reading experience isn't. I would rather read one of my well-loved ex-library copies. Do cruise over to their website. They used the original cover art, so you will get an idea of what to look for in vintage copies.

Note also that some publishers issued new cover art in the 1970s (with the identical text). Copies with original cover art command better prices.

Lenora Mattingly Weber

Lenora Mattingly Weber, author of the Beany Malone series and, later, the Katie Rose & Stacy series, was the one of the most prolific Malt Shop writers. Her long career began with Meet the Malones in 1943 and ended in 1972 with Sometimes a Stranger, the year after her death. All are all set in Denver and recount the adventures of two large and loving Irish-Catholic families. The Beany Malone series officially ended with Come Back Wherever You Are, in which Beany is a young and harried wife and mother, but all the Malones make guest appearances in the subsequent Katie Rose & Stacy books.

Weber's books have a bit more depth than many of the Malt Shop books. Beany and her older sister Mary Fred struggle with how much loving to allow, main characters die, and religion plays an important role. Weber also wrote some adult novels and stand alone titles which are elusive, out of print, and worth a pretty penny. Rocking Chair Ranch, Wind on the Prairie and Podgey and Sally Co-eds will command values of $200 and up - even in ex-library. She is also the author of the The Beany Malone Cookbook, which tends to show up in the non-fiction or cookbook section of library sales. Be sure to put "Beany Malone" in your eBay title.

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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