Memoirs of a Comic Book Dork
or How I became a Master Comic Book Connoisseur
When I was a wee lad of around 8, my mother's friend gave me a stack of old comics she had. I was immediately mesmorized by these colorful books with pictures of funny animals and superheroes and all kinds of different characters. I remember some Walt Disney books, Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney's Comics and Stories. There were also some Richie Rich, Little Dot, Stumbo, the Friendly Giant and Little Audrey also. But my favorites had to be the hero books, Superman, Batman, Action Comics, Adventure comics with Superboy, Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane. There were also some miscellaneous hero books, Sea Devils, Tomahawk, Blackhawk and Mystery Into Space. Best of all of them was the one Marvel comic in the bunch, Sgt Fury And His Howling Commandos! I was hooked!
Once I read and reread every book, my next goal was to find more of these wondrous books, where could they be? I asked my Mother and she directed me to the only newstand in Cedar Rapids at the time, Kiebel's. This was located in the downtown area right next to the railroad tracks on 2nd Ave. As soon as I got a couple dollars together, I hoped on the city bus and rode the 10 blocks to get off at Armstrong's located at 3rd Ave and 3rd St SE. I then walked the 2 blocks over to Kiebel's and went inside to a poorly lit super messy old shop. There were racks all over the place, but barely half had anything on them. There was a comic spinner rack right near the door, so it was easy to see what they had available. I spent a good half hour perusing the merchandise trying to decide which books to get. After making my choices, I went up to this old gnarly gentleman with a permanent scowl on his face. This was old man Kiebel, he owned the store and made most of his money delivering newspapers with his brother, who was a twin to his gnarliness. After growling "Would that be all?", I gave him what was owed and put my treasures into a paper bag made for magazines. I had never seen them before and was duly impressed with it. I walked back over to the bus stop and waited to take my bus back home so I could enjoy my new additions to my stack of gems.
Whenever we would go out and about I would be on the lookout for more comics wherever we shopped, there weren't many places that carried them back then in my town, so it was slim pickings for a while.
I can't recall the reason for doing so, but I would turn in pop bottles at the store to get money to feed my habit, it took quite a few bottles to make it worthwhile. The local grocery stores would not take a lot at one time so it took some time to get enough cash to make it worthwhile to go buy comics. So I got a whole bunch at once and would haul them over to the supermarket located 12 blocks away on Mt Vernon Rd. This was a major feat to accomplish at 9 years old. At first, I used my brother's newspaper bags. I would pack as much as I could into each bag and then hang them on me like bandoliers and trudge the whole way by myself. I had to make many stops between home and there. Them suckers were heavy! Sometimes I would bust a couple because they were packed so tightly together. But I made it eventually. Once I received my bounty, usually less than 2 bucks. Bottles back then only had a 3 cent deposit on them. I was ready to go buy myself some more comics! My luck, the store I went to didn't carry comics. But lo and behold I discovered a treasure trove spinner rack at the pharmacy across the street from the supermarket, I was saved!