Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Returning To The Scene of The Crime

Lyle (circa today), divorced and living it up

Memories are a funny thing. Like ghosts, they can lie dormant for years, only to be stirred back to life by just the right trigger.

Case in point: just got off the phone with my good friend, and fellow "Avenger," Mark, and it seems my confession posted yesterday on my brief criminal career at a certain local comic book store was such a memory spark. Turns out Mark knew exactly what and where I was talking about, which--mind you--is not to say that he lifted anything from the store like I did.

He didn't.

Yet our discussion about the place--okay, let's say it: Lyle's Hobby & Craft on Cass Avenue in Westmont, Illinois--raised some eerily familiar stories.

While Mark and I agreed that while Lyle's store selection was good, the obnoxious 'tude he dispensed was not limited to kid customers, but also adults. Mark noted that during one visit to the store as a kid, his own father (and later grandparents) noted how bad Lyle's behavior was, and how his obsessive habit of cramming new comics into metal racks made removing them without mangling the books almost impossible. Ditto on Lyle's brilliant habit of writing prices on back issues in pencil, in addition to his poor jobs of model railroad repair, and overcharging customers.

Mark and I also reminisced about how Lyle's cranky, senile old mother would work the register (with a small TV beside her to keep her distracted), and wail at us kids for the slightest infraction - real or imagined.

Indeed, Lyle lived in a kingdom of his own making, and seemed to relish reminding his customers of it at every turn. Shockingly, the man was also married, which I'm sure is as much of a surprise to you--dear readers--as it was to Mark when I told him. In fact, I believe I saw Lyle's wife at the store once with the couple's infant child, making the fact that anyone married the guy--much less bred with him--enough to evoke wave after wave of intense nausea.

Still, as unpleasant as Lyle himself was, his former comic store is the site of many fertile memories.


onlythor said...

I love the picture!

kjamma4 said...

Well, I never stole there but I did experience the same behavior from them.

When I first starting going there in high school, Lyle's mom would often berate him as well as the customers. One of my brother's friends lipped off to the old bat which prompted her to yell, "Lyle, one of these kids is being smart and is going to get a kick in the ass." This phrase was repeated many times by us in the following weeks.

After high school, I did a three-year hitch in the Army. During one of my leaves back home, I saw that Lyle was indeed married with a child and brought in the infant. When his Mom started getting loud, Lyle told her to pipe down because of the baby. She told him she'd make as much noise as she'd like which prompted Lyle to tell her that she'd be quiet or have to go home. Apparently marriage and/or fatherhood did something for him.

The next time I went there was also the last time. I had received my final pay from the Army and it was burning a hole in my pocket. I selected about $100 worth of comic books and gaming material which I had in my hand and was paging through one of the new comics to see if I already had it. Lyle's mother made a comment to the effect that this wasn't a library and I'd either have to buy the book or put it back. I walked up to the counter, put all the stuff by the register, and started to walk out. The old bat asked me if I was going to buy the stuff. I told her no and she said I'd have to put it back. I told her in no uncertain terms where she could put the stuff and never went back.

CHV said...

Sorry it took me so long to notice your comment, KJ.

Maybe there should be a blog dedicated exclusively to old war stories told by Lyle's former customers.

JBill said...

Hi- Just feeling nostalgic, googled "Lyle's Hobby Westmont," and this was the first return. Just had to share my two cents on the store. Lots of good memories and only a few bad (namely the cranky mom who caught me reading a comic once behind the spinner and just about bit my head off- very traumatic for a 12 year old!). That place was a trip- tons of plastic models, a bunch of Halloween masks in the back, and Lyle's annoying habit of writing the price of bagged back issues on the back of the actual comic in pencil. Why couldn't he afford stickers? And any comic that exceeded $4 in market value would somehow vanish from the back issue boxes. What happened to them? To this day, I have dozens of comics with his handwriting on them...
At any rate, I remember pillaging the place when he decided to close shop. He had some great deals near the end there and I was able to complete a ton of comic book series that I was reading at a fairly decent price. If you lived in that area, Lyle's was the place to get your geek fix in the 80's. I have nothing but good memories of riding my bike there on Fridays for new comic book day. I had heard he went to go teach at Westmont High School, but that might be misinformation. I just hope his mom didn't become a substitute there as she could have easily devastated a generation of children...

artbraune said...

What a trip down memory lane...

Funny that your blog is the ONLY reference to this place and its antics on the Internet?

Thanks for dredging up the memory of this place and its interesting occupants.