Monday, November 07, 2011

A Life in Four Colors (Part Thirty-Five)

One of the problems that every comic book collector eventually has to deal with is the question of storage--that is, where do you put your comic books?

When you consider that my room was basically an 8' x 11' square with a small closet, that became a real problem as my comics collection grew. When I was aggressively trading comics with friends, my collection diversified without growing. By the mid-1960s, though, I was saving every comic I bought, and that meant that I had hundreds of comics.

Today, storage is no problem--a collector can go into any comic shop and buy a long box or a short box or a drawer box or whatever other means of storage he prefers. Those choices didn't exist in the mid-1960s, though. In fact, there were no comic bags, no comic boxes, no boards--none of the storage supplies we take for granted.

Like almost everyone from that era, I relied on discarded grocery store boxes to hold most of my collection. I preferred boxes with grips cut into the side, because they made it easy to move boxes around. Boxes with lids were even better, because they made stacking much easier in my small closet. One thing I learned the hard way, though: avoid waxed boxes that were sometimes used to pack fruit, vegetables, and meats. The wax, which stopped moisture from seeping into the cardboard, would adhere to the comics that were stacked into it, and even if the books could be peeled away from the wax, the oiliness stained the books wherever it touched them. (Even worse, if you were unlucky enough to get a wax box that had been used to ship whole fryers, you ended up with unpleasant smells in your closet and in your books... and yes, I learned that the hard way...)

One day, I came home and found a new addition to my room: a tall, dark-finished bookshelf with sliding doors at the bottom, 12" deep so that comics could fit behind those doors, and wide enough that three stacks of comics would fit behind the doors. I was thrilled; not only did it offer me a more attractive means of storing my comics, it was another verification that my parents not only accepted the fact that I bought a lot of books but were willing to help me in finding a way to store them. (I suspect that Mom had a lot to do with the bookshelf purchase--she had commented more than once that I didn't have room for all my clothes and toys in my closet because of the boxes of comics.)

The bookshelf wasn't real wood, of course--it was the laminate-finished cheap stuff that is often used for office furniture today. The sliding doors were actually plastic, and they didn't slide very well at all when books were stored on the shelf above the sliding doors, because the weight made the shelf sag slightly, and it pressed on the slides, making it tough to move the doors. But as far as I was concerned, it was the finest furniture I had ever seen, because it was all mine. It was large enough that it filled the space between the door to my room and my closet door, and it took up several square feet of precious floor space--but I didn't mind losing those square feet, because I now had a bookshelf of my very own!

A few years later, when I moved to Cedartown, I left that bookshelf with Mom and Dad because it fit the space in the room so well, and our tiny Cedartown house had no room for a bookshelf that large. Mom and Dad kept it in the room that had been my bedroom; it stayed there until a couple of months after Dad passed away in 2007, at which point it finally came to Marietta with me. There wasn't room in the house for the shelf, so I put it in the back room at Dr. No's, where we use it to store supplies. And every now and then I take a moment to really look at it again, and to remember the excitement I felt when I first got a bookshelf of my very own.


paul howley said...

My Dad, who was NOT handy with a screwdriver and hammer, installed shelves on my bedroom wall to store my massive childhood comic collection (about 1000 comics by 1967) It meant so much to me that he spent the time and money to help me keep my collection in great condition and keep it out of reach of my younger siblings!

cliff said...

My dad was not handy with tools, either; he had many, many skills, but he was not a builder. I remember how pleased he was when, in the mid-1970s, I built a set of bookshelves for my parents' living room; he said that they were exactly what he wanted, and he seemed genuinely pleased to know that I had built them for him. (The fact that they turned out so well was amazing, since I'm not very handy with tools, either!)