Comic Books & Cinnamon Oil

Posted: Friday, October 2, 2009 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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A couple years ago, Linda’s mom..Mother Mary..gave  me a very special Christmas that keeps on giving year round.
She had noticed how much I enjoyed reading her Reminisce Magazine every time we visited her house in Alcester so she got me a subscription which I really look forward to receiving every couple months because of all the wonderful old photos and short stories it contains…especially from the era when I was a kid.
One recent picture looked so familiar that I had to double check to make sure it wasn’t taken in my hometown drug store.
 Reminisce Magazine Photo
I don’t recognize the kids..or the dog..but the magazine racks are pretty much identical to the ones I used to paw through at Tupper Pharmacy in my youth.
What’s missing is the cast iron radiator that provided a nice warm perch to sit upon during the winter months as I and every other kid in town stopped by to catch up on our magazine and comic book reading.  If it was really cold outside and Mr. Tupper had the heat cranked way up, the radiator bench would get too hot to plant our buns on for very long. We had but a couple of minutes at best before running a serious risk of getting second degree burns on our backsides.  
Mr. Tupper had his magazine racks in two on either side of the front door. Those on the south end were more for grown-ups. ( No..not porn or anything close to it. This is Volga in the fifties.) It’s where you could find  Life and Look…Colliers and Good Housekeeping, Time, Newsweek..all of the movie fan magazines..TV Guides..newspapers and a few books.
On the north side were all the comics.
I used to work both sides of the aisle: My favorite was Mad Magazine which was kept on the south end.
On the comic book side, I loved “Blackhawk” about a special group of ace pilots from all nationalities who made up the Blackhawk squadron taking on all challenges to peace and freedom. 
Oh, yeah, I also regularly paged through all the Archie comics but rarely ever actually bought anything off the racks.
I don’t know why Mr. Tupper put up with us sitting there reading for free the periodicals he’d purchased for people to buy.  Maybe it was because we always spent money on other things in his store..especially, cherry cokes and ice cream treats at the soda fountain.
Tupper was also our source for cinnamon oil. He kept little vials of the stuff stashed behind the drug counter in the back. We would dip toothpicks in the oil which was so spicy hot it would make our lips numb.
 That’s Mr. Tupper wearing his familiar pharmacist frock dispensing a Coke which most of us would customize with a shot of cherry syrup. This photo is from his ad in the 1964 Volga High School yearbook.
Eventually, though, the profit margin on magazines and comic books apparently got a little tight for Mr. Tupper because one day we came in to do our usual gratuitous browsing only to find them all STAPLED shut!
He’d obviously had enough.
But in closing down the free library, he torqued-off  a lot of  former freeloaders: many vowing never to darken his doorway ever again and took their soda/ice cream business just up the street to the Silver Bell Café.
Most eventually came back, though.
Unable to go too long without their fix of comic book superheroes, one by one they reluctantly returned to Tupper’s Pharmacy..coughed up the ten cents..and took their purchase home to read.
Anyway, that’s what seeing that photo in Reminisce Magazine this week made me think of.
So it was kind of a shock when I read in today’s paper that Duane Tupper died last Monday at the age of 86.
He and his family had stayed in Volga until 1969 then moved to Clear Lake where he ran a drug store for another 25 years before retiring in 1995.
I wonder if he sold magazines and comic books there too or if he kept a stash of cinnamon oil in the back.No matter. R.I.P.

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