Monday, January 4, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 23


One day in 1981, a customer came into my store. He was friendly and very outgoing. He looked through our stock of vintage baseball cards and spent about $200.00 on cards from the late 1960’s. We showed him our inventory of baseball “star” cards: Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, etc. He told us that he liked some of them but he didn’t want to spend any more money that day. He stayed in the store for about an hour chatting with Steve and I about his 13 years as a teacher and his love of collectibles and then he left. I put the most valuable cards behind our counter for safekeeping.

The next morning I came in about an hour after Steve had opened the store and I noticed that a large pile of the valuable baseball cards was missing. Steve told me that we had only had one customer so far that day, the teacher from the day before. He had asked about some inventory that we had in the back room of the store and while Steve went to get it we figured out that the thief must have grabbed a handful of the most valuable baseball cards.

I called dozens of other collectible stores to make them aware of this thief. A store in Boston recognized my description of the guy and told me that they had caught him stealing old comic books earlier in the year and they believed that he was a professional thief. The guy would spend some money and pretend to be very friendly to gain the store clerk’s confidence. He would later wait for an opportunity to steal. The Boston storeowner gave me the thief’s name but they didn’t know his address. I didn’t need it. He came back into the store the very next week and acted as if nothing had happened!

Steve and I didn’t let the thief know that we were “on” to him. I told Steve that I was going down to the local convenience store for a soda and I asked if he or the “customer” wanted anything. While I was out of the store I called the police and gave them the background story. The customer was still chatting with Steve when the police arrived. The police read him his rights and handcuffed him right in the store! He was arrested and brought to jail. I heard that he later lost his job as a teacher because of his life of crime.

Massachusetts had some out-dated laws known as “The Blue Laws” that attempted to control people’s lives and businesses through legislation. One of the laws prohibited stores from doing business on Sunday. There were some loopholes though. If the business was a restaurant or a store that sold newspapers or pharmaceuticals they could be open. I knew that Sunday could be a great shopping day once we could let our customers know that we’d be open for business. I decided to open our store on Sundays, so we would buy a couple of newspapers from a local store and have them available for sale at my store just to comply with the law.

I wasn’t able to work on Sunday because I wanted to be with my wife, Mal, and my son on at least one weekend day each week. Steve couldn’t work either because he still set up at a local flea market on Sundays. I began to look for another employee to mostly help out on Sundays. That’s when I hired David M. Lynch. There will be more to be said about David in later chapters of this story.

At home, even though our son, Adam, was only one year old, Mal began to think about his future. My father had been involved in a local town government as a school board member and because of his “inside” knowledge of the workings of public education he strongly urged us to consider private school for Adam. Although Mal embraced the idea, I did not. I had been “educated” in the public school system and I didn’t detect any major problems with the system. I also didn’t like the idea of tiny class sizes and limited opportunities for sports programs and the arts. I wanted my child to be able to experience all that life had to offer. I also didn’t want to incur the additional expense of a private school education. I was already paying for his education through the outrageous tax structure in Massachusetts! We began to pray for wisdom and guidance.

Next chapter: My customers become friends.

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