Remember When: Comic books live on in my memory – Wilkes Barre Times-Leader

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So, there I was, sitting in St. Anthony’s office while the great saint stared at me with a look of dismay on his face.
“No, that’s not how it works, Tom,” he said to me, with an audible sigh. “My specialty, true, is finding lost items – like your old comic book stash from the early 1950s. But that doesn’t mean they’ll actually be restored to you on Earth. Study up on your theology.”
Talk about feeling deflated.
Perhaps I should explain how I came to this impasse.
Every year when the excitement of Christmas and New Year’s begins to fade and I pick up my reading matter again, my thoughts turn to the magnificent collection of comic books I had back in the early 1950s. Many a cold winter day and evening I spent reading titles like “The Crypt of Terror” or “Weird Science.”
Then one day they were gone – thrown out by Mom when we moved to smaller quarters in 1955.
Finally unable to restrain myself after decades of suffering silently, I put in a few phone calls and – thanks to my journalism background – was eventually ushered in to see the saintly finder of lost items Anthony himself.
“Wonderful and creative they were,” I sighed.
“True,” he said, hitting a few keys on his laptop and turning the screen toward me. “Here’s one of your old mags that actually had a story by the great Ray Bradbury,” he nodded. “Remember that one? It was about nuclear war. Fantastic illustrations, too.”
I think the saint sensed my frustration over having lost not just great reading matter but old comics that could fetch really good bids at auctions – maybe hundreds an issue, which I’d kept in mint condition.
“Ah, will I ever see them?” I asked.
St. Anthony pursed his lips. “As I said,” he replied. “Study up on your theology. In a way, yes, provided you meet the qualifications, but the originals are dust in a landfill these days.”
I winced, thinking of happily traipsing home from the corner grocery and its fabulous magazine rack.
“By the way,” said St. Anthony. “If you’re worried about your collection of baseball cards that met the same fate, I urge you to stop wasting time. You had really terrible judgment about which ones to keep or trade. There’s not one of the guys on your cards who ever got into the Hall of Fame without buying a ticket.”
“Thanks,” I nodded, trying not to sound snarky.
“Boy, oh boy,” he said, leaning back. “Remember when even the U.S. Congress got into the act and threatened to ban a lot of your favorite comics? Mind-rotting communist propaganda, they were called. And that’s why they disappeared from the newsstands.”
When I sighed, St. Anthony must have realized my discomfort.
“Hey, look,” he said, “a lot of those old stories are available in paperback today, and they’re in many libraries. They also live on in your memory. I realize that’s not the same thing as picking them up off the newsstand when you’re 12 years old, but isn’t that pretty close to ‘finding’ them again?”
I had to admit that he was right. You can’t really recapture the past, but if you’re lucky you can review it and enjoy it a bit.
“By the way,” I said, “isn’t your feast day coming up in June?”
“Sure thing,” he grinned, closing the laptop. “And you wouldn’t believe some of the requests already pouring in. Why, there was one this morning asking me to find …”
Tom Mooney is a Times Leader history writer. Reach him at [email protected]


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