Tom Lymbery says he’s always had a very good memory.
“And I have always been a great newspaper reader too, and I am usually reading two books at once. I am always interested in everything. I always wanted to know how things work and where they come from. I was always interested in people and meeting a variety of people.”
That good memory and natural curiosity are evident on every page of Tom’s Gray Creek Part II: Years of Change, 1946 to 1980, just published this month by Lymbery and co-author Frances Roback.
Anne DeGrace, in her introduction, sums up the lively design and content of the book:
“What makes Tom’s Gray Creek so rich is the free flow of recollection — told with insight and humour — accompanied by a treasure trove of photographs, maps, sketches, diaries and ephemera. Pull up a chair and hear the story of George Oliver’s downhill horse, learn about the Gray Creek one-cent stamp solution, and discover the tale behind that famous and somewhat ethereal gold boulder. For those who see the past as black and white or sepia, Tom brings forth the full spectrum of colour.”
The photo on the front cover bears this caption: “Tom Lymbery pumps gas by hand at the Gray Creek Store, 1990. This vintage gas pump filled gas tanks for 50 years until it was retired in 1994. In the background is Tom’s legendary Gray Creek Store.”
Legendary because entering the store is like stepping back in time to an authentic general store from decades past.
Founded by Lymbery’s father, Arthur Lymbery, in 1913, then taken over and expanded by Tom, the store has served as a cultural and commercial focal point on the East Shore for a close to a century.
On the back cover, another photo of Lymbery, this one from 2015. He’s working with a pitchfork at a Gray Creek Community Hall work bee. Always active in the community, contributing, living in the present.
Asked by the Star what he misses about the old days, he says, “Not much. Gray Creek Community Hall has an enthusiastic committee, and we keep improving. We are going to put a new roof on this fall. From June through September we have a wedding every week, so it is an attractive hall. My dad worked on it 1912, and that is where I went to school.”
He says the spirit of community on the East Shore just as strong as in the early days, and he’s too involved in the Chamber of Commerce and other activities to be nostalgic.
The first print run of 1,000 sold out and he had to print 500 more. He says that for the past year, people from near and far have been asking when the second volume will be coming out.
He sells the book to locals, to families elsewhere with an East Shore past, to libraries and museums, and to tourists.
“Our store is an interesting stop. There is nothing like it anywhere else, so we get a lot of tourists in the door and we sell a lot to them.”
He said many of them left their email addresses at the store to be notified of the publication of the second volume.