Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Comic Book Memories

Ah, but this picture takes me back to those innocent days of yesteryear!

You see, once upon a time there were neighborhood stores, be they "variety" stores or pharmacies, that used to have big, wooden racks that held comic books. Some of the stingier stores had a simple rotating wire rack, but the serious comic-shopper knew that a plywood display rack was the best.

In Kenmore, NY, the place with the biggest comic book selection was Keiner's. It was run by two 100-year-old sisters that wore aprons, looked like they were sucking lemons and stood around with their arms in a permanent "kangaroo droop" when they weren't ringing the cash resister.

Now why two spinsters that hated children would paradoxically also have the biggest variety of funny books is beyond me, but they did.

Their racks were similar to the one shown here, with one very important difference! There was a solid front to each slot that would cover up all but the top 1/4" of the books' covers. This meant if you wanted to actually see which book was in any given rack space you had to pick up the book and lift it far enough past the divider to see the title!

Is that a Popeye or is it a Porky Pig? Uhhh, I can only see the top-most part of the letter P. I'll just lift it up a bit...

"DON'T TOUCH THAT COMIC BOOK UNLESS YOU'RE GOING TO BUY IT!!!" one of the Miss Grundy sisters would shriek.

"B-but, I-I can't see the title," little Craig would stammer.

"DON'T TOUCH THOSE COMICS UNLESS YOU'RE GOING TO BUY THEM!!!" the other Grundy would bellow.



That was Keiner's. Don't get me started on Romance's or Joe's...

Ah, those golden memories!


Blogger The In Crowd said...

Nice post! Yes, many memories...

My regular comic book fix came from the wire spin rack at the Rexall drug store near my elementary school. After school, on the walk home, my friends would be raiding the candy section, comparing and contrasting their vice of choice, while I was basking in the glow of that spin rack.

For me, my 'Keiner's' was Vince's News Stand in San Francisco, near the corner of Chestnut and Steiner in the Marina district.

My grandparents lived in SF, and on weekends, perhaps 2 or 3 times a month, my folks would load us up to go across the bridge and visit them. - - and so, 2 or 3 times a month, I'd be in the back seat of the station wagon begging my Dad to stop by Vince's.

They had a rack like the one you've pictured, way in the back of the long, dark, narrow and aromatic store. No solid front on the shelves, so you had to be careful, or comics would cascade off of them. They had a huge selection of 'funny books, and I'd swear that they received their new issues weeks ahead of the Rexall back home.

Vince himself was a fairly lovable, wiry and mustachioed old Italian-American gentleman, who looked as though he could have been quite dapper in his younger days. He tended not to stray much from the register and front counter, to my recollection.

He had a couple of women working there, though, who could be related to the sisters you've described, and yeah, you had to watch out for them. Mostly 'cuz they ran hot and cold. They could call you cute and engage in conversation one moment and be bitching and scolding the next. Scary.

Heck, maybe they were family of Vince's, or a spouse and in-law or something. They all bickered like family...

Vince finally retired, and the old newstand closed right around the same time that true and sincere newstands like that seemed to begin going the way of dinosaur. That was also around the same time that I'd just started getting interested in Underground comix, I think.

Everything changes. Thanks again for the memories!

May 30, 2007 6:28 PM  
Blogger whimsical brainpan said...

Well you can't say that they weren't clever old broads.

May 30, 2007 11:21 PM  
Blogger Craig D said...

incrowd: Wow - thanks for the response! It's pretty cool that you ended up owning that wire-spinner comics rack. Madcore, my friend!

whim: Today, I've no doubt they'd be hailed as "minority owned business enteprenuers!"

May 31, 2007 10:30 AM  
Blogger furiousBall said...

Mine was Jim's News Agency in Medford, NJ. The owner would smoke cigars in the shop all day. I never understood why, but the porn was right above the wrestling magazines and next to the kid's comics. After seeing a creepy guy read "Fat Asses" one day, I never went back.

May 31, 2007 10:32 AM  
Blogger Craig D said...

furiousball: Are you sure he wasn't just looking at a copy of "Archie's Pals 'n' Gals?"

May 31, 2007 2:47 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oh, ick. I recall facing my share of anti-child zealots at the neighborhood store. And they always had the biggest selection of toys or books around. It was like the college professor at my old school who HATED college students.

June 03, 2007 11:34 PM  
Blogger Craig D said...

Thinking of college, comic books and the like...

A pal of mine told me of a guy he knew that would pull the following scam at his college bookstore:

1. Go to the magazine section and grab any titles that looked interesting.

2. Go to the staitionery section and grab an over-sized shipping envelope.

3. Put magazines into the envelope, address it to himself and seal it.

4. Take the addressed envelope to the post office section of the store and have it mailed to himself.

5. A day or so later, open the envelope and read the magazines at his leisure.

Evil genius or what?!?!?

June 04, 2007 7:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Craig, As I recall, it was "LOOK WITH YOUR EYES, NOT YOUR HANDS"!!!!lets hear your memories about Joe's and Romances. What a blast from the past.

June 15, 2007 3:28 PM  

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