The Summer of 1973 - Part III
Continuing the saga of the three conventions I attended in 1973, I have now returned to Colorado from hitchhiking to the 1973 Detroit Triple Fan Fair, and am making my plans to attend the upcoming Dallas convention. While I was perfectly capable of also hitchhiking to the Dallas show, I had a scheme in mind that would make this convention much easier to attend. I would ask my friend Bob Conway to talk with his parents about letting us use their old 1962 Dodge Polara to drive to Texas!
To give you some background, for the previous three years I had been blessed to know Bob Conway. Bob was my only real boyhood friend, and the very first Mile High Comics customer. Bob was just as much of a comics crazy as I was was, having filled the crawl space under his parent's house with thousands of great old back issue comics. I still remember with enormous fondness sitting with Bob during hot summer days on the cool dirt floor of that very cramped space (illuminated by just a single light bulb), lovingly perusing the wonderful old comics Bob had managed to accumulate.
Blessedly, Bob still has most of the comics he bought from me during that very innocent (and inexpensive) time. The one wrong turn he made in those days was when he turned me down when I offered him an equal partnership position in Mile High Comics. You see, I desperately wanted to open my own comics shop when I was 16 years old (1971), but didn't have nearly enough working capital. With Bob's comics as a beginning inventory, I thought we could at least get a running start at business, which I felt would eventually lead to good things. Being the ultimate collector, however, Bob said no, as he just couldn't part with any of his comics. Upon reflection, while entering into that deal would have cost Bob some of his precious books, the compound rate of return of being a 50% owner of Mile High Comics, Inc. for the past 32 years would have been pretty good...
While Bob didn't sign on as my partner, he did manage to talk his dad into letting us use the car for our trip. The deal was simple: Bob provided the car, and I paid the gas and other expenses. We would haul my books to the convention, and then we would find a nearby KOA campground. Since it was Bob's car, he got the back seat, while I would sleep on the ground. While that was uncomfortable (the morning dew in Texas can be very cold...), it was pure pleasure compared to the misery of my hitchhiking adventure to Detroit. If nothing else, the ecstasy of being able to shower each morning more than made up for the hardness of the ground.
As an aside, we almost didn't make it to Dallas. While driving through the Texas Panhandle I made the unwise decision to match speed with the local traffic. Since cars had been passing us on those lonely 2-lane roads at 90 MPH+, I soon found myself flying (almost literally...) down the highway. Being 18, and curious, I soon got an itch to see just how fast a 1962 Dodge Polara could go when pushed. I floored the car going into a long shallow depression in the prairie, and was delighted to see that we were going 106 MPH as we topped the rise! Glancing up, however, I just about peed my pants when I saw a Texas State Trooper parked on the left hand side of the road about 1/4 mile ahead. In complete panic, I did the only thing I could think of, which was to punch to Polara from "drive," into second gear. I say "punch" because the Polara was an extremely weird car, with a push-button automatic transmission. The minute I hit that second gear button the car instantly started slowing down, while simultaneously putting out a terrible high-pitched whining sound. I barely heard the noise, however, as I was trying to keep the car under control, as it also immediately pulled dramatically to the left.
As we passed the trooper, his lights lit up, and he quickly pulled a u-turn in order to get behind us. As I pulled to the side of the road I was genuinely terrified. Not only because of the potential for a nasty speeding ticket, but also for the little black cassette case that was under Bob's seat. That case contained ample evidence that I not only inhaled, but also experimented with a wide variety of illicit substances. Given that I had read in the Colorado newspapers that the Texas judicial system was giving out life sentences for some forms of minor drug possession, I knew I was totally screwed if the trooper decided to search the car.
With trembling hands, I fished out my driver's license, while Bob got out the registration. The trooper took them from me and returned to his car. After a seemingly endless wait, he finally came back, and handed me a warning ticket. He told me that he had not seen me when I first topped the hill, but he did see me cross the center line when I was battling for control. The warning ticket was simply to advise me that I should stay to my side of the center line. I thanked the officer profusely, and slowly pulled back onto the road. I was still trembling when we stopped at a small roadside diner a short time later. As I drank my cup of coffee, Bob asked me why I had been so worried. After all, it was only a speeding ticket. That's when I told him about the drugs hidden under his seat. I still remember watching him turn white with shock. Then it was his turn to tremble. Suffice it to say, that was a very emotional afternoon.
To be continued...
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