Murray and His Book Store

A Murray’s Book Store printed bag. MDM Collection.

I was delighted when my friend, Jason, presented me with the bag shown above, a year or two ago. Murray’s Book Store wasn’t then known to me. It had gone out of business a few years before I’d started to visit or live in Vancouver.

Murray Gordon Hughson (1908-1971) was born in Harrow, ON to Gordon Hughson and Ethel Duncan. His first career was as a school teacher in the Windsor area. He later was appointed as inspector of schools in Kitchener (Windsor Star, 2 July 1942).

This bookmark was a generous gift from my friends at The Paper Hound Bookshop, Kim Koch and Rod Clarke.

Hughson’s marital history is a little hazy. He married Mary Letitia Isabel Bradish, another school teacher, in London, ON in 1935. Together, Mary and Murray had a daughter in 1943, Nora Kathleen. She died just two years later. Murray and Mary were divorced in January 1970. Assuming his divorce was according to Hoyle, he must have married his second wife, Edith Annie (1914-2009), sometime in the 1970-71 period (I cannot find any documents pertaining to his second marriage; I’m relying on the grave marker for Edith Hughson which is next to Murray’s in Mountain View Cemetery, and on Murray’s death year, 1971).

Hughson’s first appearance in Vancouver was in 1952 (in the City Directory). That same year, he bought the Scenery Shop, a book and souvenir shop at 856 Granville. The Scenery Shop had been in business since the 1920s under different ownership. He owned/managed the Scenery Shop in 1952-53. In 1954, Hughson changed the name and nature of the Scenery Shop to Murray’s Book Store, a ‘new book’ shop.

The following year, Hughson bought Pender Stationery and Bookstore (728 W Pender for most of its life, but at the time Hughson bought it, it was at 810 W Pender), a shop that had been in business since 1915 (Province 26 July 1955). The Pender shop wouldn’t last long. By 1960, the stock in that shop was moved to Hughson’s Granville store and Pender was closed (Sun 23 Jan 1960).

Murray’s advertised itself from the outset as catering to “unusual reading tastes.” In fact, it claimed to have “a tremendous stock of non best sellers” (Province. 30 Jan 1954). Murray’s Book Store became notable for having a strong section of books on technical subjects.

Hughson and Bill Duthie (of Duthie Books) were named directors of the national Canadian Booksellers Association in 1961 (Sun 17 May 1961). 

Murray Hughson died in 1971 in London, England. What he was doing in England isn’t clear, nor is it clear how/why he died at such a relatively early age — he was about 62. It is possible that he was there to marry Edith, as he had received the divorce from Mary the year prior. In any case, his early death in England made for a very brief marriage to Edith.

Murray’s Book Store continued in business for about a decade after his death. In 1972, Peter C. Lawrence became the new owner of Murray’s.

In 1973, there was a fire at the Commodore Cabaret (a business nearby Murray’s) and the books in the shop had some smoke damage. In 1974, Lawrence announced that the shop would be moving from 800 block Granville south to 942 due to rent increases. Murray’s rent at 856 Granville had nearly doubled — from $6/square foot to $14 (Sun 11 Feb 1974).

The shop closed its doors for the last time during the final quarter of 1980. Pity. I feel sure that I would have enjoyed browsing Murray’s.

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4 Responses to Murray and His Book Store

  1. jmv says:

    Love the connection to the Scenery Shop! I’m glad I rescued this bag from the infamous warehouse, before it was torn down!

  2. I’d come across Murray’s book store in research for my book on the Commodore Ballroom. Murray’s was just below the Commodore, right in the centre really of the span of the 2nd floor.
    It’s interesting about the 1973 news report of the fire however. Drew Burns would have taken over the building by then, and he never mentioned it in my conversations with him. The Commodore Lanes must have sustained some water damage too, but I’d never heard anything about it. I suppose nearly 50 years later it’s been largely forgotten. But perhaps in the end the damage wasn’t too bad that repairs were quickly made and it simply went forward.
    That the Commodore is named the Commodore Cabaret in the news report is interesting as well, that had really been the old name for the Commodore. Burns had thought the name “Cabaret” sounded a little too sleazy for what he was trying to do, and the Commodore Ballroom really becomes named henceforth by him.

    I suppose Murray’s Books Store lived on for some years after it closed in the Granville Book Company store. Vancouverites of a certain vintage will recall going into that bookstore at night while a show was happening upstairs, and while that dancefloor upstairs was taking a pounding, down in the bookstore it sounded like the roof was going to cave in. You could always tell in the store who were the native Vancouverites and who were the tourists; as the tourists would be panicking and looking upstairs wondering what was happening, and those who ignored it and had heard it all before went on with their book browsing. I do miss the Granville Book company, it was great to browse some books and magazines in there before one popped upstairs to see the show.

  3. mdm says:

    Yes, the fire seems to have been on January 20/73 and it started in the Richard & Farrish clothing store. Total damages came to over $100,000. Damage to the cabaret consisted of water damage to the dance floor and some broken windows (Province. 22 Jan 1973).

    PS – But you are mistaken in assuming that Murray’s location in the 800 block of Granville was the site of the Granville Book Co. GBC and its predecessor, the Mall Book Bazaar, were at 850 Granville. Murray’s was at 856.

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