Ah, comics!

When I was growing up in Olney, Ill. (population 9,000), in the 1970s, there were a half-dozen places you could buy comic books: three or four grocery stores, a convenience store and a newsstand, plus a used bookstore and a five-and-dime that had some pre-bagged comics. I don’t think you could buy a new comic within Olney’s city limits today. You certainly can’t in many Inland Valley cities. What kind of a world is this??

Chris Peterson, owner of Claremont’s Comic Bookie, started reading comics in 1972 while growing up in Claremont. He rode his bike to the 7-Eleven in La Verne to get his comics and often stopped at the Mount Baldy Drive-In’s swap meet next door (now a Target) where vendors sometimes sold older comics. He had an allowance of $2 per week, which would net him 10 new 20-cent comics.

He also patronized two stores in Claremont.

R.U.R. was a used bookstore on Yale run by two hippies in the space that became Claremont Books and Prints, and it sold new comics and some older issues. (“R.U.R.” was a sci-fi play from 1921 that introduced the word “robots.” Shades of Android’s Dungeon!)

There was also a newsstand at Indian Hill and Arrow whose name Peterson never knew. The sign’s biggest word was Paperback, except the B was missing. Peterson and his friends would routinely say, “Let’s go to Paper Ack.”

In the 1980s, there were comic shops. Pomona had Funny Business (and still does) and also Fun Time Comics on Antique Row, run by an older couple who, surprisingly, kept up on Watchmen and Wolverine. Upland had The Comic Room downtown; the store later had a satellite store in the Claremont arcade near today’s Viva Madrid. Claremont’s packinghouse had a small vendor space named Packinghouse Books, a used bookstore with old comics run by Dwain Kaiser (of today’s Magic Door Books in Pomona).

Comic shops popped up in every valley city during the 1990s but virtually all of them are gone. Er, the shops, not the cities.

The current generation has pretty much given up on comics, if they even know comics exist. But for older generations — anyone over 30 or 40 — comics were part of childhood. Even if you didn’t read them regularly, you probably got one as a treat at some point.

Young or old — where did you buy your comics?

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