Thursday, January 6, 2011

Captain George's Memory Lane on Markham Street


When I was young I collected comic books and was always on the look out for new places to buy back issues. The first store we found was the Montgomery Book Store on Queen near Parliament.
It was a small used bookstore on the corner but on Saturday mornings he would bring out old comics for "collectors". There were cheaper comics in the bins 3 for 10 cents and more expensive ones behind the counter. One comic that I do remember buying was this one.
Brave and the Bold #80
Illustrated by Neal Adams.

I then discovered the Acadia Book Store on Queen near Sherbourne.
They had a huge selection of back issues.A guy named Joe worked there and would go on to have his own used bookstore at Queen and Parliament years later. Someone at school (grade 8) told me about another store near Honest Ed's on Markham Street so we had to go there.

George Henderson (Captain) in front of his store on Markham Street.
Unless you'd been there it's almost impossible to describe the interior of that store.
It was a rat's nest of nostalgia. Packed floor to ceiling with old comics. magazines and movie posters. George sat behind the counter, smoking and talking to his customers.
My membership card circa 1971.
Back of card. Not sure what V.W.O. stands for.....
Captain George being interviewed by the CBC in 1970.
And another good article here.
Critics At Large: The Declining Art of the Movie Poster
An ad for Markham Street from 1969.
There's a good radio interview here.
The story has now come full circle as I've recently purchased this page of production art from Brave and the Bold #80.....

24 comments:

  1. V.W.O stood for "The Vast Whizzbang Organization" which was Captain George's publication arm.

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  2. Thank you for the info.
    I spent a lot of happy hours there
    and bought a lot of comic books as well.

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  3. I dream about discovering a secret basement at Memory Lane filled with the rarest of the rare. Really, it's frightening how often I dream about this. I used to walk from deepest, darkest Mississauga to the subway (a 2 hour walk) to visit Memory Lane as a child (uphill, both ways, in a snow storm... and you tell the kids that now and they don't beleive you). Thx a bunch for the memory. Sean

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  4. I used to take the subway to Yonge and Queen and then walk over to the Acadia Bookstore at Queen and Sherbourne when I was a kid. I could have taken the Streetcar but I didn't know how they worked etc so it was easier to walk. But it was worth it!

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  5. As a kid I worked for the dealer that took over Memory Lane after the Captain. Your description of "floor to ceiling" was right. I had to sort through and get rid of most of that stuff. Even the washroom was filled with old paper. Today the Captain would be labelled as a hoarder.

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  6. Would be happy if you can add some more to this story.
    I spent many happy hours there sorting through piles of old comics, lobby cards and movie posters.

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  7. As a kid my parents would take my brother and myself to Honest Ed's about once every 2 months. We lived in Hamilton Ontario. At the age of about 10 I didn't want to be dragged through Honest Ed's. At this time I discovered George Henderson's comic store so I regularly visited it. I presently live in Calgary but on September 11th of this year my wife and I were in Toronto. I stood in front of 594 Markam and all the fond memories of being in George Henderson's comic store came flooding back to me. It was so emotional for me as both my parents are gone yet it only seemed like yesterday we were all there. As Hamilton didn't have a store like this I was one up on my friends in collecting back issues. The location has a clothing shop in it now which wasn't open. I do remember the older back issues being behind the counter where George sat. As a kid I didn't have the money to buy any of these but I sure wish I had.

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  8. Thank you for telling your story.

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  9. I went to Memory Lane every Saturday morning without fail in the late 1960's. I had a huge collection of mint comics, in plastic bags, long before it was popular. Tales Of Suspense #39, FF#1, Spidey#1,2,3 Daredevil#1, Avengers#1, etc

    Gawd, how I wish I had kept my collection!

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  10. The lament of many...
    I sold all of my comic books in the early 80's to finance the purchase of a 1964 Corvair.
    I don't have that anymore either.

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  11. I only had a chance to visit Memory Lane but a few times starting in the early 70's. Probably the last time I visited was the late 70's. I was very young then.

    I still possess some of the comics I bought from Captain George; Batman Annual #2, Batman #200, Captain America #128 + 129, Fantastic Four #71 + 73, Daredevil #11. Others in my small collection may also have been bought there, but I cannot recall with certainty.

    The one thing I'll never forget about that place was the smell, it was bloody intoxicating!

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  12. Does anyone know where the good Captain rests now?

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  13. My father used to work Saturday mornings on Ossington Ave in the late 60's. Every Saturday I used to go with him in the car and he'd drop me off at Memory Lane (aka Captain George's Whizbang Gallery). I used to stay at Memory Lane from about 9 am until he was finished work at noon, when he'd pick me up. The vast majority of the comics that I bought came from Captain George. My father would give me a dollar when he'd drop me off and let me go in and "treasure hunt". In those days the vast majority of George's comics sold for a nickel a piece. That was for books published between 1960 and 1969 ... so when my father dropped me off with a dollar I would regularly come home with 20 books. George used to print a small number "5" in pencil on the first page to let you know the price of the book. If you wanted "ten centers" from the mid 50's to 1960 those ranged anywhere from 10 cents to 25 cents. The most expensive book that I ever bought from George was Action Comics 76 from 1944 and for that book I paid 6 dollars. I still own it today. While I've added a few books over the years I have never sold a single book that I bought there. These were some of the greatest memories that I have of time spent with my father. I remember hearing once that George knew where to get a copy of the holy grail ... Action #1. Back in 1969 I heard that a mint copy could be had from George for $7,000. I never could never dream of that kind of money back then ... but I wish I could. I too used to dream of finding all kinds of treasures when I was a kid and I used to hold them tight in my dream hoping that they would be there when I woke up. Today that same Action #1 book would sell for just over $2 Million. I also miss the smell in his store. I could sit there for hours. I remember as you walked into the store the movie posters were in the front room to the left and the comics were in a room behind the cash. You had to pull back a curtain and walk into that room to find the real treasures. George was a crusty man. He always seemed a little intimidating to me but just the same he always had time to answer any questions you had. I never tried to bargain with George. The price was the price. I'm not sure when the store closed. I stopped going there in 1972 and even today I don't have any books newer than 1972. His store will live within me forever. It's a childhood memory that I cherish. My name is Leon Dadoun.

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  14. Excellent story, Leon. I too spent many Saturday's hanging around and looking at comics (and movie posters). We played hooky from school once and went downtown to Memory Lane. We hung around for a while and then went across the street to see Vincent Price in the classic "Theatre of Blood". A perfect day!

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  15. I should add that I was was still going there (on occasion) when I would walk to OCA. That would have been in the early 1980's.

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  16. I was a collector with a tiny budget. Captain George had great material in what I was collecting, at affordable prices (for me). I bought what I could, read as much as I could, but ultimately, I had to resell to afford rent and food. When I was 39, I was finally diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum. Would I have had a chance to still own those books if diagnosed properly, I do not know. What I do know, is that Captain George always treated me with respect, and his prices did not rape my limited wallet. His was a fantastic service for the fan. I was buying to read, not for the most mint of copies.

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  17. Skipped from school back in '71 We were two kids from Burlington and took the Grey Coach to the bus terminal to downtown TO then hoofed it up to Memory Lane comics on Markham St quite a hike if I remember.We came with a pile of old comics that we figured were worth a small fortune due to an ad in the comics from a guy named Howard Rogofsky who promised high prices for these old mags..Were we in for a surprise when Capt.George informed us this was" not the Bronx kid"and offered us about $15 instead of the $150.Said goodbye to Avengers#1 XMen#1 etc.Had to have the cash for the bus ticket back to the burbs!

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  18. My memories of Captain George and Memory Lane was like it happened just yesterday. Very fond and great memories of the past. I remember the captain sitting in from of his b&w tv that was playing classic movies. I remember he was sitting there always smoking and having nicotine stained fingers. That was the Captain. He was just about the only game in town in those days, except the Comicons at York U. I still have my movie posters, lobby cards and all my comic books that I purchased from the Captain. I never touched them since the day I bought them. I spend almost every Saturday with my friends in the back room sorting and buying Superman, Action, Batman, Superboy, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Hulk, Fantastic Four, Green Lantern comics. These were the classic comics to read and spend your money on. I had a paper-route for the Toronto Star back in the day. Some of my weekly profit went to purchase my comics and movie posters. Their will never be another Captain George and their will never be another comic store like his. Those were the days. Just epic. He was an icon, yesterday, today and tomorrow.

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    Replies
    1. Do you know when the store closed and/or George died?

      Best of the season.

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    2. Captain George Henderson passed away in 1992. He closed his Memory Lane store just prior to his passing....so sad.

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  19. Great article. I first met him in 1966 on Queen Street.

    Cheers,

    David from Toronto

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  20. I wonder whatever happened to all his inventory?

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  21. Memory Lane was the first place I used to venture to in 'downtown' Toronto as a kid growing up in High Park. I still had to catch a streetcar from Clendenan Ave to Dundas West station, the furthest the subway went on the Bloor line in the mid-1960s. In 1992 I ended up renting a studio to write in two doors down (590 Markham St.) from where Memory Lane used to be. I wrote at least three books there and when I have to move next month in January 2017, I was paying still only $215 in rent. Thanks Ed Mirvish for giving me a place to work for nearly 25 years so close to my literary inspiration when I was a kid. Sad to see it all get turned into a sterile hive for condo-zombies sucking down lattes...

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