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“Got any swops ?”

Posted by Big John on April 4, 2007

c-marvel-1.jpgSHAZAM !!! … and Billy Batson became … Captain Marvel !

Yes, I loved American comics when I was a kid. They were hard to come by during the 1940s and they changed hands many times until most of them just fell apart, but they fired my imagination and opened a new world to me … The United States of America !

It’s hard to imagine now, but the USA seemed like another planet to me and I longed to see it for myself, although at that time I never believed that I would, for transatlantic travel was only for the rich and famous. Oh! and ‘GI brides’ of course.

Although I enjoyed the stories of  ‘Superman’, ‘Batman’ and the like, what really fascinated me about those colourful publications were the advertisements, for they showed children living a life that was beyond my wildest dreams.

The kids in these adverts all seemed to live in, what to me were ‘ranch’ houses surrounded by lawns where the paperboy threw the newspapers instead of pushing them through the frontdoor letterbox.

The houses always had a driveway where a huge shiny car was parked and where a tall broad shouldered man stood showing his gleaming white teeth in a broad smile as he watched boys playing a game where they wore a big leather glove and hit a white ball with an oddly shaped bat. At the end of the driveway there was always a post with strange little ‘hutch’ on top with a small red flag on the side.

The way that the kids in these adverts were dressed was as far s-belt.jpgremoved from my clothing as you could get. They didn’t wear white shirts, long shorts, baggy woollen socks and sandals. They wore colourful striped and check shirts and what looked like long dark blue trousers with very wide light blue turn-ups (cuffs). On their feet they had some sort of soft boots with patches on the ankles and which were fastened with long white laces.  On their heads sat a variety of weird looking hats.

Very often the youngsters depicted in the comics visited a place called the ‘drug store’ for ice cream or something called a ‘soda’. Very strange ! …  and were shown eating funny looking frozen things with two sticks or a steaming sausage in a long bread roll.

School always appeared to be fun for the comic-book kids and they got to travel there in a big yellow bus, or else they would ride there on streamlined bikes with their books tied to the high handlebars.

Amongst all the ads. for Roy Rogers watches, Dick Tracy wrist radios and those designed to part you from your pocket money, my favourite was for a ‘BB’ gun. I didn’t know what ‘BB’ stood for, but I knew that the gun looked like a Winchester rifle. How I longed for a gun like that.

I never did get that gun, but eventually I did get to America, and although my first visit was in the mid 70s, I was not disappointed, for when I stopped my big shiny rental car for the first time in ‘small town America’, I looked around me … and  …

SHAZAM ! … Little had changed.            


7 Responses to ““Got any swops ?””

  1. Terri said

    What a great post on comparisons. Really enjoyed this. Strange enough, when I was growing up in the 50’s/60’s, I was reading novels about England. I visualized small villages, where everyone knew everyone, rolling hills, small shops, etc. My first trip to England in 1985 didn’t disappoint me either…outside of London, it was all I thought it would be.

  2. ferouzeh said

    how very true that the grass is greener on the other side of the…pond (in this case)

  3. Jackshian said

    I never realised there was a world outside Jamaica Road Bermondsey until I was about 7 years old .. and as for comics broadening my horizons, that was never a problem with the Beano and Dandy (although Desperate Dan eating all those cow pies was a bit worrying).

  4. jayward said

    Capt. Marvel was my favorite comic book although my mother in delusions of grandure wouldn’t allow comic books in the house. She thought it was low class, ha ha

  5. mjd said

    In the 1950’s, an older cousin gave us some Superman comics. A neighbor lady, simlar to Jayward’s mom, thought that the reading material was lower class so she threw away about thirty comics of our comics. I am not sure that you could find many drugstores with soda fountains today here in the U.S., but that is a fond memory of the past. Of course, in the United States you will not find ancient buildings and other strucrures that I see in photos of Great Britain and the European continent.

  6. Oscarandre said

    When I was a boy it seemed somehow wonderful to be American and have such cool names such as Chip and Chuck; to have invented Disneyland and sent men to the moon. One day Alan B Shepherd, the first American in space, visited our small town, and we ran alongside his open car dazzled by the sight of a real live American. Crewcut and all!

  7. Libertine said

    You couldn’t find many drug stores with soda fountains in the mid70s when you visited, either.

    At the time you visited the US, I was in high school, and dreamed of visiting England. Unfortunately, I’m still waiting to go.

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