The Captain's Veranda by Joe Sarno


THE CLARK STREET STORES: I paid $5 for a Wonder Woman #3 about a year after I got out of the Army at ACME. I'd never paid more than a buck for a comic up to that time but I HAD to have that book. And that was the begining of many purchases made over a ten-year period at the Clark Street stores. THE GALLERY BOOKSTORE was run by a bespectacled, almost dapper "bookman" known as Tony. He ws Italian, and his last name was a long one that I believe began with the letter "G". THE GALLERY carried original art and prints, as well as rare and limited edition books, thus it's name. The store was very clean, and roomy, with many rare,, leather bound books behind glass paneled cabinets. Tony usually had a small stack or two of very early G.A. comics behind the counter, but also carried some scarce pulp magazines from the 1930's and 1940's. I can remember aclose friend buying some mint copies of 1920's and 30's Weird Tales from Tony for $10 a piece. He usually bought them one at a time, would read them then resell them to another friend for what he paid. It is my feeling iat they were file copies he got from the advertising company that sold ad space in the magazine. Chuck Wooley would make a similar buy from the same company that included a couple of original Margaret Brundage cover art pieces and (for some odd reason), six original Flas Gordon Sunday pages--four by Mac Raboy and two by Alex Raymond. Ahhhhh, the Clark Street Stores!

Later, when the neighborhood was undergoing restoration, Tony would move his store to Irving Park Road not too far from the Ravenswood "el" station. He had the origianl cover art from Oriental Stories magazine displayed in the window, which ostensibly came from the same ad agency.

Acme though, was another anchor store when it came to collectibles. Sam (known as a comicologist, and later a panelologist) and co-owner Noel Roy ran a strict ship, but was hard to tell who was it's Captain, Sam or "Noel-the-human skeleton", as we liked to call him. Sam, unlike other owners on Clark Street, really knew comics, and hers was the only store where you could buy both Golden-Age and Silver-Age books. Of course we didn't know them as Silver-Age at the time as we often referred to the period of the 1960's as the Second Heroic Age. But Sam carried those early Marvel comics, each title in a seperate box, and her rule was, if she pulled out a box from under the counter for you to look at you had to buy at least one comic from that box. If you didn't you were banished from the store. I'm not being apologetic, but one thing you have to understand about ACME is that in their time it was mostly kids that wanted those Marvel comics from under the table. And kids could be a pain in the neck!

It was a slightly older crowd, guys like me and Ray Beldon in their late 20's and 30's, that went in there looking for Golden-Age comics, and we usually had money to spend. But with kids, very often their eyes were bigger than their pocketbooks, and what they would like to buy and what they could buy were two different things. Sam, and especially Noel Roy, begrudged the time they had to give them--which is not to say there weren't kids that had money to burn--after all ACME wasn't too far from a real upscale neighborhood.

There ws another article about ACME that appeared in one of the other Sunday supplements a few yaers after the Midwest article wherein Sam related a story about the Golden-Age collection of Norman W. Hilton Jr. Norman was the son of the founder of the Hilton chain of hotels and at one time he had a huge collection of early 1940's comics, many of which he obtained from ACME. He had faded from the store, but after several years went by his books (onwghich he had stamped his full name) started to pop up at the Clark Street stores. Sam, not one to be shy, took the bull by the horn and called Norman and asked him what was going on? It turned out that he had recently married and his wife had thrown out his entire collection. Somehow they had made their way back to the junkmen, from whence many of them had come in the first place.

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Originally published in the C.B. WEEKLY (Comic Book Collectors Bulletin) Vol 3 #45 November 8, 2000 copyright Joe Sarno and respective copyright holders 2003.