https://discussions.apple.com/thread/5661857 This is where I found my answer to my own question (benefit of finding new ways of wording to describe dilemma)
I did like brunoigloo's suggestion (via Barney 15e's 'fix')
it worked! (Using iMAC OS X 10.7.5)
Export contacts (archive) (it is CRITICAL that you have backup of your contacts) (I had 1680 contacts in my file)
then go to Address book folder via FINDER by using the OPTION button on GO menu which reveals the parthenon lcon (library) (((I tried EVERY other way to find this file and could not!!)))
click on FINDER
click on 'GO' at top (leave menu down)
hold OPTION key and watch for appearance of the parthenon icon and click on it while it's displayed
click on APPLICATION SUPPORT
click on ADDRESS BOOK then expand column to read all file names
Find AddressBook-v22.abcddb file and drag it to trash (I'd ONLY do this after a backup!!)
When testing the address book search feature, I had instant success when searching even without emptying my trash! I emptied the trash, rebooted and checked again.
I'd been manually finding contacts by scrolling for so long now that this is like finding cool water after too long in the desert!!
Thanks to you Barney and Brunoigloo!!