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Now in our eighth calendar year!
PCR #383  (Vol. 8, No. 30) This edition is for the week of July 23--29, 2007.

"Hairspray"  by Mike Smith
A Tribute to Elizabeth Haslam: Memories of Haslam's Book Store  by Andy Lalino
Allow Me To Introduce Myself...  by Lisa Ciurro
This Week's Issue....Happy Birthday....What About The Shat?...Going To The Hall....Whatever Happened To--? Chapter 25: Joe Pantoliano  by Mike Smith
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Oddservations by Andy Lalino

A Tribute to Elizabeth Haslam: Memories of Haslam's Book Store

In 1975 and for many years after, one of the greatest thrills in my young life was my mother taking me to Haslam's Book Store in downtown St. Petersburg. As a child, I always held a fascination with comic books, monster magazines, dinosaurs, science-fiction, and every other element referred to as "fandom". Back in the '70s, fandom-related merchandise wasn't as easily accessible as it is today, but one of the great establishments to browse and purchase these cherished artifacts back then was at Haslams. Sure, there were a few other competitors, such as Wilson's Book Store (still going strong!) and the long-gone Book Villa (once on Haines Road in Pinellas Park), but Haslam's was always king, and was proudly titled: "The Southeast's Largest Independent Bookstore".

After school on Wednesdays, my mom and I would take the 25 minute trip from our home in the neighborhood known as Meadowlawn to downtown (she would take 16th street - she never liked highway driving; in fact, I-275 St. Pete. was still being constructed in the early '70s) to Haslams. I recall well the narrow parking lot to the right of the store, and the hand-painted sign muralized on the side of the building: "Everything from A to Izzard". Never knew what that quite meant (I figured "Izzard" was some funky way to spell a word starting with "z"), and recall asking my mom repeatedly what the puzzle was. Can't recall if I ever got a satisfying answer, but to be honest, I'd rather keep it a Haslam's mystery!

Upon entering Haslam's, the new movie books were to the direct left of the front doors, but we would have to wrap around an aisle (presumably for security reasons) to get to them. It would be in this section where you'd likely find the tomes "The Art of Star Wars", "A Pictorial History of Science-Fiction", and "The Book of Alien".

However, my first stop was rarely the movie books, instead I would zip on over to the center of the store, which housed an area where kids could buy used comic books at very reasonable prices (10 cents apiece!). The stacks of comics would be in little "cubby holes", similar to what kids would put shoes in (only larger), and I would have a field day taking the comics out, sifting through them, and setting aside the ones I wanted, which were the ones my mom would always get for me. Now, I was a Marvel kid and hardly ever bought DC titles (unless they were horror-themed). Never at Haslams were the comics marked up with crayon pricing. They weren't in pristine mint condition, but were very good, especially when you consider they were only ten cents!

The stock would vary from week-to-week. Sometimes the booty would be paltry, but most times the cubby holes were stacked with tantalizing titles: Spider-Man, Super-Villain Team-Up, Son of Satan, Marvel Two-In-One, and my fave, Marvel Team-Up. Best of all, though, Haslams would occasionally have older editions of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine in the cubby hole section, which is where I was able to acquire most of my personal collection - at bargain prices! Even back then, Haslams was noted for their fine children's book selections, however I personally was never interested in kid's books - I wanted to dive into comics and books about movies.

Haslam's had an outstanding sci-fi/fantasy section. Over the years I was to purchase many a Conan and Lovecraft paperback there. They were also well-known for their Florida-themed book selection.

It was during this weekly ritual - that lasted for years - where I had the honor of meeting the Haslams. Charles and Elizabeth Haslam were noted for always taking the time to talk to children, and I have very pleasant memories of the countless instances where they stopped to say hello as we browsed the store for comics. In fact, I was one of the privileged few to be personally escorted by Mrs. Haslam to what was, back then, a "secret room" where they housed the more collectible comics. It was typically not open to the public, but we were such good customers, and heck; I was a nice kid, so I'm sure she figured I'd get a thrill out of it - and I did. Unfortunately, I couldn't afford most of the comic books in the secret chamber, but I always had fun looking, and could have spent hours in there. I always had the ability, which used to mystify my father, to memorize all the hundreds of comic book covers - I never once bought a duplicate.

In January 1978, the Haslams would eventually open up "Haslams Too" - a next-door addition to the original store where they eventually offered those collectible comics in a special section open to the public. For their big Haslams Too grand opening, they invited none other than your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man to the festivities! What a blast it was to us kids getting to see Spider-Man "in the flesh"! I attended with my brother Doug and lifelong friend Kevin Bailey (note our personalized Spider-Man shirts!), who later would become the Production Designer for my horror film "Filthy". Enclosed are pictures from that event, and the special Spider-Man badge that was given away to kids for coming out to celebrate Haslams Too.

The Haslams were the nicest couple, and could be seen frequently at the store. Mrs. Haslam was more likely to be present than her husband. She would always tell us what new books were in stock, and informed us of new plans for the store. She even told me about the "Ghost of Haslam's Book Store" - an entity which haunted certain sections of the store - right near the comic books! I get chills even thinking about it!!

Back in '82/'83 we still frequented the store. By this time, my interests were changing from comic books to horror/sci-fi movies. We had noticed the Haslams had not been around lately, and had heard from one of the long-time employees that they were vacationing in Africa. Upon their return, Haslam's customers received devastating news: Mr. Charles Haslam had contracted Malaria while in Africa and had passed away.

I had received news a few days ago that Mrs. Elizabeth Haslam, 94, had joined her husband when passing away on Saturday, July 14th. Thanks for all the books and childhood memories: all of which I still possess to this day.

"Oddservations" is ©2007 by Andy Lalino.  The Oddservations banner is a creation of Andy Lalino. All other graphics, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.