The Summer of 1973 - Part I
As the beginning of July rolls around, we're frantically preparing our exhibit for the 2003 San Diego Comic-Con International. At the end of last year, I gave significant consideration to blowing off San Diego this year for a variety of reasons. As the time draws near to once again pack up for the convention, however, my old excitement has again returned. In reflecting on why going to San Diego makes me so happy, I cannot help but think back to the summer of 1973. The story doesn't start with San Diego, but it will get there eventually...
The summer of 1973 was a very strange one for me. I was in the middle of completely changing my view of life, transforming from a hard-core conservative, into the radical liberal that I am today. A part of that transformation was distancing myself from my very conservative parents. I had already essentially moved out of my childhood home, hauling all 12,000 of my comics (and what few clothes I owned...) into my tiny dorm room at the University of Colorado. I had an ROTC scholarship that paid my tuition, books, and fees. I supplemented the very meager living allowance provided by the army by selling comics out of my dorm room. The sales of comics to local fans were pretty slim, however, so that by the time May of 1973 arrived, I was completely broke.
My choices at that point were very simple. I could move back in with my parents for the summer, or I could try my luck at selling comics at comics conventions. I choose the latter path, basing my decision on the $1800 in sales that I had generated at the previous year's Multi-Con '72, in Oklahoma City. That one convention had provided me with enough in my savings account to cover all of my school costs that the army didn't pay. It seemed logical to me that if I could attend 3 conventions during 1973, that I would have to earn at least as much again.
The biggest problem I had in the beginning, however, was that I was flat broke. I think I had about $30 to my name. I knew from reading the old ROCKET'S BLAST COMIC COLLECTOR, however, that there was a Detroit Triple Fan Fair over Memorial Day weekend. If only I could get there, I was sure that I could generate enough working capital to get to my next two shows. The solution I arrived upon was innovative, but dangerous. I decided that I would hitchhike the 1,000 miles to the show, with expensive comics wrapped in plastic in the bottom of a backpack. This would only work, however, if I had a place to stay when I got to Detroit. Out of sheer desperation, I wrote to Dr. Jerry Bails, and asked him for help in finding a cheap place to stay. To my amazement, he not only wrote me back, but insisted that I stay with him and his wife in their Detroit home. I was deliriously happy!
With the problem of a place to stay resolved, I hauled off my comics (excepting the most valuable 50 issues) to my parent's house, and stashed them in the garage. I then returned to Boulder, packed up my green aluminum frame hiking backpack with my 50 best books, and stood by the side of the road with my thumb out. During those far more innocent days, hitchhiking actually worked very well. I caught a couple of quick rides with very fast drivers, and by the end of that day I was just south of Chicago, near Gary, Indiana. That's when my luck ran out. That stretch of I-80 was very busy with truck traffic, and the rapidly decreasing daylight made it impossible for me to continue standing on the entrance ramp to the highway. With great reluctance, I decided that I was going to have to sleep by the side of the road that night.
The good news is that I had my sleeping bag, my comics for a pillow, and managed to find a large piece of discarded cardboard to use as a ground pad. The bad news is that it started to rain about midnight. I awoke to find that my cardboard had slid down the side of the highway ramp in the rain, and that the bottom of my sleeping bag was now resting in a small drainage culvert full of water. Between the rain sneaking in my plastic sheeting, and the water soaking my feet from the culvert, I was totally soaked and cold. My greatest concern, however, was for my comics. These were the best issues that I owned, and if they were wet, my chances of making any money at the convention were nil. Blessedly, the plastic wrapped around them worked, and all the comics were completely dry. I was a miserable wet mess, however, and had to spend the rest of the night huddled under the freeway bridge, listening to the huge trucks roar past. When the damp gray dawn finally lightened things up enough to see, I headed back to the ramp to see if I could catch a ride to Detroit.
After a couple of hours of eating back spray from trucks, I finally found a sympathetic soul willing to give a soggy boy a ride to Motown. I must have been pretty aromatic (think wet dog...), however, as he was pretty anxious to get me out of his car when we reached Detroit. So anxious, in fact, that he didn't even pull off of a ramp to let me out. He simply slid over to the side of the road on an elevated portion of the highway near the middle of the city, and told me that I could walk down the ramp by myself. He then disappeared on the road heading north.
To be continued...
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