With no U.S.. TV programs being broadcast in Europe during the 1960s, or no TV for that matter, what can a Military Brat do on a cold rainy afternoon, that doesn’t cost anything?
Trade comics of course!
Like most Military Brats growing up in a military family, I received a small weekly allowance.
The PX drew us kids, like a moth to a flame, and in a matter of minutes we were broke—like a lot of soldiers were a couple of days after payday, except we didn’t have a hang over and we didn’t have to wait a whole month for “pay day”—just another week.
While we spent some of our allowance on bubble gum and the the movies, comic books were a very worthwhile investment.
While buying a few fifteen cent comics would take a big chunk out of a 50 cents allowance, once you had an inventory of about 20 comics or so, you could trade your comics with other kids every few weeks,and over the course of several months escape into the world of the Fantastic Four, Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Iron Man and other comic book adventures.
Trading Comic Books
On rainy days when we couldn’t go out to play, we would pull out our comic book stack and go trading. The housing area we lived in was mostly apartment buildings, with each building having three stairwells, with six families per stairwell, meaning 18 families lived in the building and sometimes one or two more if someone lived in the temporary quarters in the “attic” apartments.
With the basement hallway connecting all the stairwells together, you could visit all the kids in the building without getting wet or cold.
Usually we would try and trade away all the comics we had in our “read” stack and come back home with comics we hadn’t read and spend the rest of the day transported to other worlds.
It didn’t seem to matter that we read a lot of the comics out of order, and when we couldn’t get Marvel comics we would settle for whatever we could get—Archie, Richie Rich, it didn’t matter.
Meeting Other Military Brats
Besides giving us something to do on a rainy day, another benefit of comic book trading was that we had the opportunity to meet other kids in the building we did not know.
We tended to know everyone in our own stairwell since we all came and went through the same front door of the stairwell, but we didn’t know the other families as well who lived in the other two stairwells. An apartment building could have as many as 18 to 20 families.
I remember vividly meeting one boy on a comic book swap afternoon, and much to my surprise, he had what seemed to be a three foot stack of comics in his closet.
He was an only child and he had massive amounts of Legos and other toys, as well.
Apparently his allowance was a bit more than ours and he was not that inclined to take his “inventory” out into the building, which was fine with me.
Needless to say, I had a great time going through his mountain of comics—it took several trips and we played together with his Legos and other toys on a regular basis after that.
Since there was basement corridor running the length of the building, it was possible to go from stairwell to stairwell and stay inside where it was both dry and warm. And even if there were only a few kids with comic books to trade it only took two or three trades to have an afternoon of comic book reading, which didn’t cost anything, but your time.
The comics I had a child are long since gone, but every once in a while when I see the latest Spiderman or Superman comic at the grocery store or book store, I think back to the good times of going to the PX in Germany and life in the Cold War.
It just didn’t seem that bad when we had comics to keep us company on rainy afternoons.