When I was a 10-year-old boy living in Wamego, my favorite place to go when we visited Manhattan was a real estate office in Aggieville.
But I wasn’t looking for bargains on new homes. I wasn’t seeking my own apartment.
Instead I was in search of the ‘‘latest’’ Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny, Archie or Little Lulu comic book. I was after another ‘‘giant’’ Sad Sack publication. I was pursuing an additional Dennis the Menace paperback for my collection.
And I didn’t have much money to spend.
So whenever we came to Manhattan to see my grandmother or for Mom and Dad to conduct business or run errands, I always begged them to take me to Boyer Realty Co., at 11041⁄2 Moro.
Forget that Boyer Realty was located behind a nondescript storefront that blended in with all the other businesses in Aggieville. Forget that it was a real estate office. Forget that it was anything but what it REALLY was for a 10-year-old kid: a used-comic-book shop (that also sold used ‘‘pocket books’’ and used magazines).
For us kids, back there in the ‘50s and ‘60s, Boyer Realty (and Used Comics) was a palace. The place was about as big as your kitchen, but it was a palace nevertheless.
THE REASON was one B. Owen Boyer, a gruff, white-haired, semi-retired (at least that’s what I always thought) man who sold used comics as a sideline. He could be found sitting at an old roll-top desk taking in nickels and dimes from kids who had just chosen their treasures from his stacks of musty old magazines.
Besides a table in the middle of the room that held the piles of funny books, I recall that there was a magazine rack that displayed used magazines like Look and the Saturday Evening Post. Toward the rear of the store, as I remember, were shelves and shelves of paperback books, or pocket books, as they were sometimes called then.
I’m sure Mr. Boyer had paperback books on all sorts of subjects, but I was only interested in the ones that held cartoon collections like Dennis the Menace, O’Malley’s Nuns and Brother Juniper. (I always called Mr. Boyer ‘‘Mr. Boyer.’’ With his stony expression and advanced age, it was only proper.) Additionally, I only liked ‘‘funny’’ comic books, so I would peruse Mr. Boyer’s shop for those, to the exclusion of so-called adventure comics.
MY COUSIN Tom Maguire, who grew up in Manhattan, was another one of Mr. Boyer’s many young customers. And Tom, who now lives in Arizona, also has fond memories of Mr. Boyer and his shop.
‘‘Didn’t you love that smell?’’ Tom asks, speaking of the dank odor that hung in the small shop as a result of all the used books and magazines stored there.
‘‘I remember he kept his money in a cupcake pan in a drawer of that old rolltop desk,’’ Tom says. ‘‘I remember him being a quiet man. I remember wondering how this guy could be a realtor when he was always in the office. He must have been semi-retired.’’
In fact Mr. Boyer, who was born in 1888, according to his obituary published in the Mercury in September 1981, would have been in his 70s when I visited his shop in the early sixties. So semi-retired status seems likely.
THE MOST unusual thing in Mr. Boyer’s shop was a large ball of string that confronted the customer when he walked in the front door. The string, apparently collected strand-by-strand by Mr. Boyer, comprised a ball probably three or four feet in diameter. ‘‘It was bigger than the door, I remember that,’’ cousin Tom says.
What drew kids to Mr. Boyer’s shop, besides his variety of used publications, were his prices. I recall that regular comic books were 5 cents each, ‘‘giant’’ (or double) comics a dime, and paperback books 10 cents as well.
So I ended up with lots of comics — every one a treasure.
Somewhere along the way, though, they disappeared. Were they sold to someone or just (shudder) thrown out? I don’t know.
I only wish I had them now.