Growing Up In Bixby
By Don House
“My favorite was Captain Marvel.”
Reading has never been on my list of favorite activities. However, during my early years while growing up in Bixby, I occasionally visited the comic book rack in “Blind Mitchell’s” newsstand. For those who might not remember, Mr. Mitchell’s establishment was in the front part of the post office when it was located on the west side of Armstrong, a few doors south of Divine’s Drug Store. He also sold school textbooks, new and used, back in the days when students were responsible for furnishing their own books.
The variety of comic books was huge, perhaps a dozen titles at any given time! My favorite was Captain Marvel. He was the alter ego of Billy Batson, a boy radio announcer on station WHIZ in Fawcett City. Billy uttered the word, “SHAZAM,” when the need arose to battle any evil that lurked in his environment! A flash followed Billy’s utterance of the magic word and Captain Marvel appeared in his tight-fitting, red body suit with a yellow cape on his back. Captain Marvel, to my way of thinking, was far superior to another character, Superman. I participated in several arguments on the subject, but the matter was never resolved.
A few other titles still occupy my memory. They are: Red Ryder with his sidekick, Little Beaver; Archie and his friends, Jughead, Veronica, and Betty; Plastic Man (This was a unique character in the days before plastic was used in almost everything we touch); Batman and Robin; Dick Tracy; and sever other characters who appeared in the newspaper comic strips of those days.
Classic Comics were also available. They were of a more serious nature; the comic book version of novels on which teachers often required book reports. Teachers were aware of Classic Comics, and they were unambiguous when they required reading assignments from the unabridged versionof the novels. I recall one such assignment by Mrs. Cannon, my English teacher during my sophomore year at Bixby High School. I simply had no interest in reading, “A Tale of Two Cities.”
As the time approached when my book report was due, I was drawn to Blind Mitchell’s comic book rack. Obviously, it would be a much more achievable task, and I chose to purchase the comic book form of the classic novel. I reasoned that I would have the same knowledge of the two cities, whether I read the novel or the comic book. The publishers were obviously aware of the emotional stress which plagued their potential market, because the price of the classics was 25 cents compared to five or ten cents for the more common titles.
Tale of Two Cities
Adapted from Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
I struggled through the Classic Comic version of “A Tale of Two Cities,” and I opted to present my book report orally, rather than in a written form. To me, this was also the easier of the two choices.
Mrs. Cannon had only one question after my presentation, What color was the hair of a certain character whom I’ve long forgotten. At the time, it was fresh in my memory and I boldly told Mrs. Cannon the character had blonde hair. As we said in those days, “I was had!” Mrs. Cannon knew the color of the character’s hair was not revealed in the novel, and my source of knowledge could only have been the Classic Comic! After a serious discussion about whether I would pass or fail her course, I agreed to a much more challenging assignment. Now, I don’t remember a single title of that assignment.
Recently, my Phi Beta Kappa daughter managed to drag me into Borders Book Store. While she browsed and selected a book, I visited the coffee bar. But I noticed they had a comic book rack just like when I was growing up in Bixby. I couldn’t resist its attraction. Apparently, I was wrong about Captain Marvel! He wasn’t there, but “Superman” was. Many of the other titles from my memory were also there. However, there was a major diffference. Instead of a price of ten cents, they were $2.99! In case you wonder, I resisted the temptation. It might have been different if Captain Marvel had been there.
© 2008 · Don House · Bixby OK · All Rights Reserved. Published at Bixby Historical Society Online with permission.