Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 116

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 42
Mal Howley: my wife
Adam Howley: my son, age 17
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 12


It had been several years since I had talked with my previous comic book business employers, Gary and Peggy Walker, owners of “The Great Escape” in Tennessee. We decided to take a family vacation to explore Nashville with our kids and to rekindle friendships with our old friends. I called the Walkers, confirmed that they’d be available for a visit, and booked our travel plans.

When we arrived in Nashville, we drove around the areas where we had once lived while we reminded our children of our lives there before they were born. We didn’t have much money back in those days but it was a very happy time for us. We loved Gary and Peggy and enjoyed working for them.

We had arranged to meet Gary at his huge comic book, record, and collectible store in downtown Nashville so our children could get an idea of the incredible inventory that put “The Great Escape” in a class of its own. Gary introduced us to many of his employees while explaining each of their “specialties.” I was interested in this idea of each employee being “experts” in separate kinds of collectibles. In my store, I had always hoped that each employee could be trained to deal with all of the different products that we bought and sold but as our own inventory expanded it became much too difficult for any one employee to be able to know all of the information needed to be considered an expert. Gary’s success at “departmentalizing” his employees prompted me to encourage specialization of my own employees.

Mal and I and our kids spent the next day at “Opryland,” the big music-themed amusement park. Adam and Cassy loved the rides but because of their interest in musical theater they enjoyed the music and dance shows even more.

The next day, Gary and Peggy treated us all to “The Grand Ol’ Opry” with special backstage passes. Gary had some important contacts because of his involvement in the music business and we were thrilled to be able to see “behind the scenes.”

We were also happy to get to spend some time with our old friends, Ray and Virginia Sawyer. They were good friends while we worked with Gary and Peggy back in the 1970’s but we had lost contact with them. Ray remembered how much I liked rock and roll music so he pulled a few strings when he heard that “The Eagles” were going to appear on the popular “Crook and Chase” television show. We all had “VIP” tickets and we sat in the best seats in the television studio. Ray was very embarrassed when he realized that it wasn’t going to be the rock-band “The Eagles,” but a demonstration of real American bald eagles! I still get a laugh out of this as I occasionally watch the videotape of the show as these birds flew back and forth over our heads.

We had a great time revisiting Nashville and Gary and I got a rare chance to share business ideas with each other. I always learn something valuable from Gary.

Next chapter: A tale of greed and a lost collection.

Picture: Adam eating the "world's largest snow-cone" at Opryland in Tennessee

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