The Central Avenue station in recent days. Angelo's was on the right somewhere near or before the gate.
Located on Central Avenue, Angelo's stood in the shadow of the elevated M train, which connected residents to Coney Island and Manhattan. On train trips with my Mom Angelo's was a stopping off point, either to or from our destination.
I'll attempt to recreate the store from memory (with help from my brother John) in hopes of shaping the flavor of that period. Angelo's store was long and narrow. Newspapers were in front of the store, and customers could pay through a window-slot. When you walked in the register was to the right. The counter included a stand for TV Guide, in those days a phenomenal seller, since practically everyone who owned a television bought it.
TV Guide for the week of August 19-25, 1967. As Jack Doyle related in his essay "Lucy and TV Guide 1953-2013" "By the 1960s TV Guide was the most read and circulated magazine in the United States." You can read the entire piece here: https://www.pophistorydig.com/topics/lucy-tv-guide-1953-2013/
I'm pretty sure all the assorted candy and chocolate bars (Tootsie Rolls, Good and Plenty, Mallo Cups, Mary Jane, Candy Cigarettes), cough drops, trading cards and the popular Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum (for the price of one cent!) were below the counter.
Bazooka Joe was an inexpensive treat and kids loved the comic strip that came with it. I learned about inflation when Topps raised the price from one to two cents (and when comics went from 12 to 15 cents in 1969!) Image from the Topps archive blog: http://toppsarchives.blogspot.com/2014/05/premium-time.html
Topps baseball cards were essential items for almost every child, but "non-sport" cards were also prolific. It was addictive to buy a pack of cards, often at the cost of a nickel a pop, which consisted of 5 cards and a stick of rock hard gum. Since cards were randomly inserted it sometimes took a while to complete a collection, although trading with friends helped. A few of my favorites included Batman (at the height of the ABC-TV show in 1966), Marvel Super-Heroes (the Grantray-Lawrence cartoon was then in syndication), the Monkees, Dark Shadows and Planet of the Apes.
A 1966 Topps Batman card with art by Norman Saunders and Bob Powell. A prolific and talented comic book artist, Powell provided layouts which Saunders completed in paint. Quite a few familiar artists plied their trade at Topps, including Jack Davis, Tom Sutton and Wally Wood.
Like many kids my age, I raced home from school to watch Dark Shadows, the supernatural soap opera which initially aired at 3:30 on Monday through Friday. Of course I collected the card set and even had the display box that I asked for at a newsstand. That's long gone, unfortunately.
The November 28th, 1970 edition of the Sunday News featuring Dick Tracy by Chester Gould. The Sunday edition was usually bought after attending church. Image courtesy of Michael J. Vassallo.
In my household The New York Daily News was required reading for my father (also named Angelo.) My brother John has often recounted that he had to scour the neighborhood for the paper when Angelo's was sold out (don't come back without it!). I loved the comic strips and since candy stores received the "guts" of the paper three or four days in advance (everything except the main news section was printed earlier; that section was inserted on Saturday nights - the "Night Owl" edition - or Sunday mornings). I stared in anticipation at the latest Dick Tracy adventure, which adorned the front of the comics section. When you were a child waiting for Sunday to arrive felt like an eternity!
Located a little further back was a counter with a few swivel seats, where customers sat to drink a soda or snack on ice cream or a candy bar while perusing a paper or magazine. I'm not certain, but Angelo may have had a fountain and perhaps fresh Ice Cream. Many smaller establishments often sold bottled soda in a unit which was filled with ice. You had to dip you hand into it to fish the selected item out, a treat on oppressively hot summer days.
This scene is perhaps SLIGHTLY exaggerated by Lee and Kirby, but since the store bears a resemblance to Angelo's I think it fits perfectly here. Fantastic Four # 11, February 1963.
The left side wall had wooden racks that housed the latest comic books. That section piqued my interest the most. Comics were distributed to stores on Tuesday's, packaged in a wire-bound bundle which often included TV Guide and an invoice on top, obscuring all but the corners for identification. A major point of contention for anxious youths, who had no understanding - or concern - for business operations, was that the proprietors, or their help, had to inspect the contents and check everything off before they were put up for sale. When they were busy, or just didn't care, we were told to come back later, but instead we often went to the competition, in hopes that they were more efficient. One of our least favorite owners was a cantankerous old man (everyone was old to us back then!) who always berated us before he showed the latest comics, proclaiming: "You went to the other store first, didn't you?". This fellow placed his comics high above our heads, on a wire that displayed the covers. He was the only person I know who kept all the comics behind the counter. In retrospect he may have had good reason to do so. Perhaps too many comics were stolen by hooligans in the past.
From what John and I recall Angelo was pretty good at putting the comics out quickly. In later years I was given the ultimate honor: allowed to cut open the fabled wire-bound comics and put them on display. Angelo even dubbed me "The Comic Book Kid!"
I can't visualize Angelo's exact likeness, but I'm pretty sure he smoked a stogie. This character, as drawn by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson, is probably a close facsimile! Batman # 199, February 1968. Image from the Grand Comic Book Database.
Metal shelves took up the rear, populated with a multitude of magazines; Time, Newsweek, Popular Mechanics, Esquire, along with the forbidden Playboy and other "girlie" titles. There were also plenty of Men's Adventure mags, quite a few which were published by Martin Goodman, who ran Marvel comics. Some famous names got a start writing for those publications, including Mario Puzo, before he rose to fame as author of The Godfather. We ventured into this area to check out Mad,,Creepy, Eerie or Famous Monsters of Filmland.
Male, August 1969, previewing Mario Puzo's bestseller The Godfather. Cover painting by Mort Kunstler. Image from http://www.menspulpmags.com/2015/08/ where you can read much more about this and other pulp mags.
Like every candy store, Angelo's also sold wooden airplanes, spinning tops, rubber balls, (spaldeen or Pensie Pinkie) and other inexpensive toys. In those days we didn't have hand-held devices or computer games to play with; they were far in the future. On the other hand you didn't need much money to have fun.
EVERY kid had either a Spaldeen or Pensie Pinkie! Which one was better continues to be a point of contention to Brookynites. Pensie Pinkies were cheaper, but both were used to play handball, stoop ball, baseball or just plain bouncing.
While Angelo's was our primary source for comic book purchases, many stores and newsstands populated Bushwick. We often went elsewhere to track down comics Angelo didn't carry, particularly Gold Key titles. The one company that was absent from almost every store in my neighborhood were Charlton's.
While this photo was taken in 1940, the store on the corner of Knickerbocker Avenue and Starr Street remained in business at least into the early 1970s. This was another candy store that my brother and friends bought comics at, since it was conveniently located across the street from the park and close to my school. Image from Brooklyn's Bushwick and East Williamsburg Communities by Brian Merlis and Riccardo Gomes, an excellent history of the neighborhood. Thanks also to my friend Sunita Shiwdin, who gifted me with the book. As owner of Mahalo New York Bakery, Sue's store evokes the best aspects of the Mom and Pop stores of the past. If you live near, or are traveling to Queens, stop by her shop for delicious cupcakes and extraordinary treats, all freshly baked. Her made-to-order cakes are truly out of this world. And while Sue doesn't SELL comics, she does have a mini-library with donations from yours truly and my buddy Barry Pearl, including books, fanzines and comics to enjoy while you're having a snack. You can learn more about her store here: http://www.mahalonewyorkbakery.com/ (End of free plug. Now can I have a cup of Coffee?)
One fine day in June, 1971, Steve Ditko's cover to Haunted # 1 appeared out of the blue in Angelo's store. Charlton comics finally began to receive distribution in Bushwick. Previously the only Charlton sightings were in a discount store on Knickerbocker Avenue (the main shopping thoroughfare), stacked in piles, mainly old Hot Rod titles which I had no interest in. A copy of Ghostly Tales surfaced at my Barbershop and the local used book stores sold a few. Even at a young age I was a devotee of Ditko's work and immediately snatched this comic off the rack!
Luncheonettes also often carried comics, magazines and paperbacks. I discovered All in Color for a Dime when I stopped with my Mom at a huge luncheonette on the corner of Knickerbocker and Myrtle Avenue. Somehow I managed to coerce her to part with the $1.50 to buy the book. A treasured item, it remains in my collection to this day.
My beat-up copy of All in Color for A Dime, the book that propelled my interest in comic book history.
Once we moved out of Bushwick into Ridgewood, Queens I lost track of Angelo's. In the 1970s, and into the early 1980s I frequented a candy store located about seven blocks from my apartment. The owner was a pleasant man named Walter, who treated me (and everyone) with kindness. Whenever I came in for new comics he would bring the stack out from the back and read each title out loud. I would tell him what I wanted and sometimes put books out for him. He told me that he originally tended bar just a few doors down from his location, but owned the candy store since the early 1960s. He lived only a block or two away from me and I sometimes saw him and his wife when they walked home. When my brother started to work in Manhattan he discovered that new comics were sold two weeks in advance and bought them regularly on his trip home. We also learned of a store that specialized in comics and related ephemera, the Little Nemo Shop in Forest Hills.
In my teenage years I began collecting my own comics, and despite other options I made it a point to stop by Walter's store, often buying a few westerns or reprint titles. One day I learned Walter was robbed and assaulted. Shaken up by the event, he closed the business and sold the store. I never encountered either him or his wife afterwards; he most likely moved out of the neighborhood. I often thought about Walter and hoped the remainder of his days were peaceful. He was a good man.
I bought this copy of Marvel Tales # 137 (March 1982) in Walter's candy store, explaining to him that it was a reprint of Amazing Fantasy # 15, the original which he probably had for sale back in 1962. If only he had kept a few for resale 20 years later. Jack Kirby pencils; Steve Ditko inks.
Walter's closing symbolized the end of an era for me. Into the late 1980s there were a few neighborhood candy stores that still carried comics (I recall stopping in a store with my friend Frank and seeing Charlton Action # 11, starring Steve Ditko's Static) but they were dwindling away. Not as profitable as they once were - and taking up valuable rack space - comic books were largely discarded from newsstands. The growth of the direct sales market, where publishers sold comics to specialty stores on a non-returnable basis, escalated in the 1980s, but It also meant that comics were becoming marginalized. Children in particular found other interests and were often ignored by the publishers. Less places to sell magazines eventually affected all periodicals to a large extent. In Manhattan, where newsstands were once ubiquitous, they now are barely part of the landscape (and many only sell soda, candy and Lotto). In my Glendale, Queens neighborhood I can canvas Fresh Pond Road or Myrtle Avenue and find hardly a trace of magazines, let alone comics (only a few large stores, such as CVS or Stop and Shop supermarket carry a small selection of periodicals, and the Archie digests are the sole comics item). It is indeed a different world.
One of the last comic books I bought at a local store, appropriately enough, was one of Charlton's last publications before they went out of business. Charlton Action # 11, October 1985, Steve Ditko art.
Yet another Lee-Kirby newsstand sighting! Thor stops to peruse the newspaper. I bet he's reading Dick Tracy! The newsstand includes reproductions of the latest Marvel comics. Journey into Mystery # 127, February 1966.
Special thanks to my brother, John Caputo and my cousin, Jack Sanzone, for their recollections.