Monday, September 28, 2009

Ern's News Stand!

My sister gave me this greeting card manufactured as part of a celebration in my old hometown. They apparently did a few of these featuring old places that were warm in the nostalgic memories of the folks who live and lived there. Sadly it's a town that is mostly about the past now, but that's another story. Ern's News Stand was where I went to get my comics. I know it's hard to see it in this pastel image, but it was a classic news stand on a sidewalk. It was small (though gigantic in my memory) and crammed top to bottom with magazines and the comic treasures I craved. 

I actually started getting my comics at a local drugstore, a more "civilized" place, more amenable to kids. But Ern's had the real booty, the mildly salacious stuff that you really wanted alongside the comics I knew I could get. The trouble was that Ern was blind and had only one arm. That's not something he seemed to struggle with though, but it made him unusual, and he held fort in a somewhat ferocious way to guard his tiny business from those who might think a blind man an easy mark. He wasn't, but his gruffness spooked me when I was young. 

Later the drugstore went out of business, and I had to use Ern's but by then he'd gotten a regular storefront and was working with his son. They blended the magazine business with medical supplies and scratched out a living. One thing they did was put in lavish wooden racks for the comics which were displayed in beautiful rows. It was the best layout I ever saw for comics for many many years even in places officially dubbed "comics shops". 

 And another thing, I became a valued customer. I was the regular kid who came in every week for his comics and I became a trusted aide from time to time. I'd tell Ern who had just rung the bell when they came through the door, and I'd move stuff around a bit here and there when he wanted. His gruffness never went away, but I came to regard it as merely his way. Ern has long ago passed away. When that happened my Mom made a point to call me, because she knew how much that store meant to me, how much that man had meant. I don't want to overstate it, but in some ways Ern was the first guy not a member of my family to trust me, even if I was a kid. That's not small stuff. 

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