A brief introduction:
My name is Paul Howley, owner of the Eisner Award winning pop culture collector’s store known as “That’s Entertainment” in Worcester, Massachusetts and a second store in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” (I’m not) My stores have been around for over thirty years and it’s been a long and interesting combination of events and people that have brought these stores to this current place. It is not my intent to boast or brag about my store or my life. I just want to tell you my story. In many instances, my wife remembers things a little differently, but this is the truth as I remember it.
The Current Cast of Characters:
Paul Howley: age 48
Mal Howley: age 49
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 19
MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP: Part #213
While Mal and I settled into life in south Florida, our daughter was very busy and involved in activities during her first year at Palm Beach Atlantic University. She made a lot of new friends through sports, academics, and the theatre program. She also went out with some college guys. It wasn’t long before she began dating Matt. Their relationship became serious very quickly and Cassandra believed that he might be “The One.” Mal and I liked him and even though they were both very young, we certainly couldn’t discourage Cassandra from following her heart, since Mal and I were also very young when we got married. Matt was taking classes in college to prepare him for a life as a pastor/evangelist and Cassandra thought she could use her talents of acting and singing to partner with him. It seemed like a good match.
Cassandra had joined the college cheerleading squad. Although they did do the cheerleading at the basketball games, the squad was mostly a stunt squad consisting of men and women. There were lots of very scary-looking tosses of the smaller women, especially Cassandra. One night, we got an urgent phone call from one of Cassandra’s teammates explaining that Cassy fell during one stunt and she thought she might have broken her back! We rushed down to the college and brought her to the hospital and it was determined that her back was NOT broken.
Mal and I attended most of the basketball games, primarily to see Cassandra cheer. We even got to see the squad perform in Disney World during the college tournament.
Our steady stream of houseguests continued with lots of friends and family visiting us for some memorable, fun times together including Mal’s sister Madeline, her husband Armand, and their four children.
Near the end of the school year, Cassandra asked if her fiancé Matt could spend the summer with us in New Hampshire. We had a small extra bedroom in our little Alton Bay home that would work out nicely for Matt and we were looking forward to getting to know him better. Our friend, Russ Sample, gave Matt a job working on his landscaping crew so Matt could start saving money for wedding expenses.
As summer drew near, we started thinking about leaving our home in Florida to return to Alton Bay, New Hampshire for the summer. It’d be great to be with our fun group of friends up there, but it was unsettling leaving our Florida home empty for three months!
We were surprised when we got an email from Mary, one of Adam’s close friends, asking if she could spend some time in Florida to get away from city-life and “decompress.” We considered Mary to be part of our extended family and we knew she was honest and trustworthy. We were thrilled that she would keep an eye on our Florida property and it could help her out at the same time so we agreed to have her stay in our guest house for three or four months.
While we were in New Hampshire, Mary got involved in a church in the area. After some training/counseling she used her theatre background and created a Christmas musical program for the teenagers in the church to perform. She wrote, directed, choreographed and even made the costumes herself.
Mal, Cassandra, Matt and I spent lots of time during the summer doing preliminary planning for the wedding. Mal and Cassandra did most of the work but Matt and I helped make the hand-crafted wedding invitations by cutting out some of the more than twenty different parts. The wedding was going to be in July of 2004 so there was plenty of time to get things done without any rushing or panicking. We were all hoping for a peaceful and fun planning process. Cassandra and Matt (mostly Cassandra) knew exactly how they wanted each detail of the wedding day. Since the wedding was going to be in New Hampshire and Cassandra and Matt were headed back to Florida to begin their sophomore year of college, there were several important parts of the wedding that needed to be settled before we all returned to Florida. They found a church in Laconia, NH and the reception would be held at a hotel in Manchester, NH. The only problem was that it was also the same weekend as the big Nascar race in Loudon, NH and there were very few available hotel rooms in a fifty-mile radius. The limited number of rooms available were also very high-priced…some were double the “normal” price just because of the demand. Many of Cassandra and Matt’s college friends, and almost all of Matt’s family would be coming from hundreds of miles away and they’d need hotel rooms! We were able to convince the hotel where the reception was to be held to secure twenty rooms for us for a slightly less crazy price.
We returned to Florida in mid-August so that Cassandra could be involved with the “Welcome Week” activities at her college. We had about a week before houseguests arrived again!