For about an hour, Tom Hoskins forgot he was at a book signing.
Not just any book signing, either – his book signing.
The former Manteca Unified School District teacher and Stanford alum stood near the front door of Manteca’s The Book Exchange on Wednesday afternoon, locked in deep conversation with Sue Jackson-Gabales.
The two had worked together at Sequoia Elementary School for years – Hoskins as a middle-school teacher and Jackson-Gabales a librarian.
The two traced their way through the years, recalling old names and memories. “I’m going to give Theresa a call,” Jackson-Gabales said at one point, pulling her iPhone from her purse.
It wasn’t until another old colleague interjected that Hoskins snapped back into author mode.
“You’re not going to let me get away without signing this,” said Stella Hester, handing Hoskins a copy his first book, “When I Was a Kid.”
The bouncy 64-year-old – wearing a floral button-up and watermelon-sized smile – searched his pockets for a pen, nearly spilling a large soda as he handed it to Jackson-Gabales.
“When I Was a Kid” debuted at The Book Exchange to a familiar crowd. Most of the clientele Wednesday came to catch up with a popular school teacher who had retired to a life of ease in Northern California.
The book was a bonus.
Copies of the paperback were stacked on the table facing the entryway and a newspaper article introducing the author hung behind the counter.
“Hopefully, this is a springboard for discussion. ‘What’s it like being a kid growing up today?’ You know, the pros and cons,” he said. “I want people to know it’s not about Tom Hoskins.”
Instead, Hoskins uses his upbringing as an example of life in the 1950s and 1960s. The contrast in culture, community and relationships today as opposed to 50-60 years ago is stark, said Lois Colvin, an employee of The Book Exchange.
Colvin was raised in the Bay Area.
“We would walk to Foothill Boulevard and never think anything about it,” she said.
Times have changed, Hoskins says.
His self-publication addresses the hot-button issues of today: marriage, friendships, relationships and the influence of modern media. The children of today, he says, face challenges that didn’t exist when he was he a child in Davis.
The book leans on practicality and observation, rather than science and hard numbers. Hoskins didn’t bury himself in literature and studies and interviews with specialists and doctors.
He simply trusted his eyes and ears, using information culled together from a long career in the classroom.
Hoskins is retired now, living in the shadow of Mount Shasta with his wife Dorothy, also a retired school teacher.
“This is not a intended for a doctoral program in child rearing,” he said. “It’s just practical ideas. These kids really don’t have it made.”
The book is also being on Amazon for $9.51. Hoskins’ mini-Northern California book tour began at The Avid Reader in Davis on Tuesday. Hoskins said the book’s initial debut was a success, despite only two sales. “I left with two bottles of wine,” he said with a grin.
The tour will continue today at Stanford University, where Hoskins received his teaching credential and Masters.
Even if his book never approaches a best-sellers list, Hoskins is content. He’s enjoyed the writing and editing process – one of his copyeditors was his 7-year-old granddaughter Madison – and getting a chance to share it with old friends.
Hester purchased the first copy on Wednesday. Like Jackson-Gabales, she too was a librarian with the school district. She was also a member of the Presbyterian Church choir with Hoskins, when his family lived in town.
“When they moved, I cried,” she said.
Hoskins will always have a home on the shelves at The Book Exchange.
“It’s about acknowledging that Manteca has individuals who have made these kinds of accomplishments,” Colvin said.
To contact James Burns, e-mail jburns@mantecabulletin.