Sieg Lindstrom dies at 82; ran family's downtown L.A. bookstore
By By Valerie J. Nelson
Feb 26, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Sieg Lindstrom, the last proprietor of Fowler Brothers, a storied bookstore and stationery shop co-founded by his grandfather in 1888 in downtown Los Angeles, has died. He was 82.
Lindstrom died Feb. 11 at Foothill Presbyterian Hospital in Glendora of complications related to surgery, his family said.
When changing times -- and disruptive subway construction -- forced Fowler Brothers to close in 1994, it was the oldest family-owned bookstore in the city and, at 106 years old, a downtown institution. Lindstrom had first worked there in 1943, when he was 15.
"He loved Fowler Brothers like a person and mourned its closure," said his son, Siegfried, who recalled that his father used to slip away from their South Pasadena home to spend Sunday afternoons at the cozy shop.
Begun as a "Church and Sunday School Supply House," the downtown bookstore moved five times and was "cherished by politicians, movie stars and lesser mortals for fine novels, good pens and expert advice," The Times reported when the store closed. It had been on 7th Street since 1975.
One devoted customer was author Ray Bradbury, who met his future wife, a Fowler's salesclerk, at the shop in 1946 when she mistook him for a shoplifter.
"Every single person there was top quality," Bradbury told The Times in 1994. "They all had high IQs and knew their own subject. There are not that many bookstores left where you are going to get that kind of service or that kind of intellect."
A customer registry first signed in 1919 reflects a famous clientele. It includes signatures of composer John Philip Sousa, who scrawled notes from "Stars and Stripes Forever" next to his name; author Zane Grey "of Avalon, Calif."; aviator Charles Lindbergh; and actor Douglas Fairbanks. Later signatures included then-Gov. Earl Warren and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy.
The bookstore also was known for its tangential link to a Hollywood scandal. The night before film director William Desmond Taylor was found murdered in 1922, he had visited Fowler Brothers. Actress Mabel Normand, a friend of Taylor and one-time suspect in the murder, also visited the bookstore that night. The case was never solved.
Siegfried Francis Lindstrom was born Dec. 15, 1927, in Pasadena. An only child, he lived with his mother, Ruth Fowler Lindstrom, in his grandparents' South Pasadena home after his parents divorced.
In 1951, Lindstrom earned a bachelor's degree in political science at Occidental College and joined the Navy. During the Korean War, he served on the heavy cruiser Los Angeles.
Three years later, he joined the family business that survived the onslaught of chain bookstores when many independents did not. The "safeguard," Lindstrom once said, was its stationery business, which accounted for 75% of sales.
After his uncle, Ward Fowler, died in 1967, the store was officially Lindstrom's alone to run.
"He was always remarkably comfortable with who he was," his son said. "He was an enthusiastic person. He'd wake me up in the morning and play marching band music on the stereo."
The bookseller had little interest in fiction, preferring to read political and historical nonfiction, particularly about U.S. presidents and vice presidents.
In addition to son Siegfried Fowler of San Francisco, Lindstrom is survived by his wife of 51 years, Margaret; and son John William of Alhambra.
Services will be at 2:30 p.m. March 6 at Calvary Presbyterian Church, 1050 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena.