When my brother and I were kids, before we were collectors, comics were a great way to amuse ourselves and keep us busy. Young boys reading are not running around getting into trouble or bugging their parents for things to do or eat. They were also a great diversion when we were away from home, away from our toys, and the TV. To that end bags of comics sold in two or three packs at drug stores, stationary stores, or places like Woolworths were cheap and meant volume. A bag each for my brother and I could keep us busy for a weekend as we swapped issues, reading and rereading them.
Our parents separated and divorced when we were around 6 and 8 years old with me being older than my brother. Our parents were both ministers so the weekends were not days off, they meant writing sermons, preaching on Sunday morning, or other various things they had to do for work. We visited our dad every other weekend. Our dad’s job at that time was not as a minister preaching every Sunday in a church, instead he worked in the New York Conference offices. Without going into all the details, what it boiled down to is that he did a lot of traveling, quite often on weekends we visited.
I think you can see where this is going. Kids on car trips need distractions while they are in the car and they need things to keep them busy while dad is doing his job. A stop Saturday morning at a drug store to pick up some comics, maybe a deck of cards or a coloring book, and some packed lunches were how many of our weekends started in those days. Whitman made those stops much easier because we could pick up four to nine comics for three dollars or less and be happy, content, and quiet kids on a journey to wherever my father had to be.
Our favorite comics at that time were Whitman Disney comics; Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck, and Mickey Mouse. Sure we’d get things like Bugs Bunny and the Looney Toons books too, but the Disney Ducks were our favorite. We probably developed this early bias because our father was a big fan of Carl Barks when he was growing up, so if these comics had a reprint of one of those stories he’d want to read it too.
Going through the bags of comics hanging on store pegs or on a spinner rack was great fun. We’d make sure to not get duplicates, carefully checking the comics displayed on the front and back. If the bag was loose enough you could even see what the middle book was by carefully wedging a finger behind the front book and get a glimpse of the hidden treasure in between. As the pictures above show, there was even a volume discount, making it easier to convenience our father to buy a third bag.
I recently bought the bag pictured here from someone on ebay. I don’t plan on opening it despite the fact that I don’t have the Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories, or Scamp (the middle comic), outside of this bag. I bought this for the nostalgia of it. I wanted to own a piece of my past again, to be able to hold it in my hand and remember what it was like to fish those bags on the racks like I did so long ago. I’ll try to clean some of the dust and dirt off the bag and put it on display on my spinner rack, another purchase for nostalgia’s sake. I hope to add a few more if I can find them at a price I’m willing to pay, but these days re-living the past can sometimes be pricey.
As a man going through middle age and who is still collecting comics, I look back at those candy store visits and weekend’s with our dad with great fondness. We got to see our dad who was no longer at home with us everyday. We got to travel with him and go to lots of different places and meet all kinds of nice people. Finally we got to share in the happiness of reading stories with great characters going on fantastic adventures together, all for seventy nine cents.