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Stumptown Stumper

by: JIM CLARK, Cameron’s owner Jeff Frase stands among the shelves in his downtown Portland store, where nostalgia junkies can get their fix of old Life magazines, among others.

Every Friday in Stumptown Stumper, the Portland Tribune offers a trivia question and answer to help you boost your Rose City IQ.

Q: Where in Portland can you buy an original copy of Life magazine from the week of your birth?

A: Many Portlanders are familiar with Cameron's Books and Magazines (336 S.W. Third Ave., www.cameronsbooks.com), since it's been around practically forever. Established in 1938, the shop buys and sells 'good used books,' as its sign out front says.

The bulging stacks, shelves and boxes inside are any bibliophile's dream and claustrophobe's nightmare; books, comics and magazines occupy every inch of not only the front of the store but the back, too, all the way up a precariously winding wooden scaffolding that the previous owner built in the 1970s, according to the current owner, Jeff Frase.

Besides its extensive - and cheaply priced - books, the shop is most famous for its old magazine collections. Life is one of the favorites because 'it was the best newsweekly of its time,' Frase says. 'It had the best pictures, best articles; they're still fun to look through.'

As far as Frase knows, his shop is the only one in town that stocks a complete collection of Life magazines, keeping a couple of each on hand until they're sold and reordering through a Life catalog.

The Life collection begins in 1936, the year the magazine began publishing, and runs through 2000, when Life dwindled to a monthly publication and then a special edition, as it is now. The oldest copies are $15, drop to $10 in 1949, $7.50 in 1959 and $4 from 1979 on.

Of course, there's more in stock than just Life. Cameron's also has old editions of The Saturday Evening Post, Time, Colliers, National Geographic, Playboy, Vogue and numerous others.

While many shoppers come in search of nostalgic birthday gifts, others come in searching for particular magazine covers or articles about famous figures in history or loved ones.

One woman, Frase recalls, was a flight attendant whose plane went down in the Mediterranean decades ago. She came into the shop to look for The Saturday Evening Post that featured her effort to rescue the other passengers. She and her family bought every copy on the rack, he said.

Frase doesn't do anything special to promote the store; it's survived for 70 years by word of mouth and people walking by. And after they visit once, they tend to come back again - even if it's decades later.

'People come in and say, 'I haven't been here in 20, 30 years,' ' he said. ' 'And it still looks the same.' '

Next week's Stumper: On what old downtown building can you find the busts of dozens of famous composers including Mozart, Beethoven and Bach?

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