The Wonderful, Incredible, Life Changing Issue

The famous October 1967 issue.

The Wonderful, Incredible, Life Changing Issue

By Richard Mabey Jr.

Growing up in the small town of Lincoln Park, New Jersey, life was actually a bit boring at times. There was the steadfast feeling, the comfort, that down home feeling of knowing just about everyone in town. But, on the other hand there swelled in my heart and mind, a calling for excitement. A gentle breeze, the sound of a train going by, the roar of an 18-wheeler speeding by my old farmhouse on Route 202. All of it called me. It was as if it was calling me to another time, another place. A place where life might not be as stifled, as conservative, as rigid, as the lifestyle that was afforded me in my little hometown of Lincoln Park.

In October of 1967, I had just turned 14 and was adjusting to my freshman year of high school. I was painfully shy.

In the dawn of October 1967, amidst the changing of the colors of the leaves of the maples, the elms, the oaks and they sycamores, I was to come to a crossroad that would forever change my life. As the leaves of the trees were going through a metamorphosis from various shades of green to lemon yellow, bright orange and burnt red; I too was to go through a metamorphosis that would forever change my life. From which, I would never be the same. This was to be a giant step in my journey from boyhood to manhood.

The old Moe’s Sweet Shop, where we would go to buy comic books, Mad magazines and candy bars.

For it was in the dawn of October 1967 that I had just recently turned 14. I was getting acclimated to high school life. And one day, after school, what began as a simple thought to buy the latest Mad magazine, turned out to be a life changing event. Still now, over 50 years later, it brings a certain joy, a kind of firecracker excitement to my heart, mind and inner being. For this is a story of one boy’s monumental step from boyhood to manhood. From which, he would never be the same again.

The newspaper and magazine rack at Moe’s Sweet Shop was truly a magical little corner.

It was in the back of Moe’s Sweet Shop, where the comic book rack was located. On the wooden platform beneath the big display of comic books and magazines was an incredible array of newspapers. There were the big daily New York papers: The Daily News, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Tribune. Then there were the big New Jersey dailies: The Star-Ledger, The Herald News, The Daily Record, The Bergen Record, The Trends and three or four other daily papers. Then there was my all time favorite, which at the age of 14 I wrote for, The Lincoln Park Herald, our town’s weekly paper.

Comic books, magazines and newspapers were cleverly displayed in the back of Moe’s Sweet Shop.

There are moments in our lives, from which we will never be the same. There is the strange and almost unexplainable moment in time when two people, so very different, cross paths for just a few minutes. And, from that few minutes, there is a most illuminating, amazing and incredible result. As if the odds were 10 million to one, of these two people meeting, crossing paths, and sharing a monumental, unforgettable moment. Such was a moment in time, for me, there at the comic book and magazine rack at dear old Moe’s Sweet Shop. Standing there, overwhelmed with the decision to buy a Mad magazine or two 12-cent comic books with the one quarter in my pocket.

And, then it happened. Big Lou came into the sweet shop. He wore a white T-shirt and blue denims. He kept a pack of cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve of his T-shirt, above his left shoulder. Big Lou looked as though he has a quart of motor oil in his hair. Lou had dropped out of high school to become a mechanic at the corner gas station, just down the street from Moe’s Sweet Shop. Big Lou was cooler than cool. He was a living legend to all of us kids living in Lincoln Park.

Well, Big Lou entered the sweet shop and said “hey Moe,” to Moe. Moe returned the greeting. Big Lou was smoking a cigarette. He walked up to the magazine rack, took a puff of his cigarette and flipped a few ashes unto the tile floor. With no hesitation, no shame, Big Lou brazenly grabbed the latest issue of Playboy and began flipping through the pages as he clenched his lit cigarette with his lips, in the corner of his mouth. He purposely held the magazine waist level, to give me the opportunity to see the photos in the magazine, as he checked out each page.

I knew Big Lou fairly well. He had been my Patrol Leader when I first joined scouts. He taught me how to swim, how to cook and how to tie all the scout knots. Still, there was a certain fear factor that went into high gear in Big Lou’s presence. Big Lou took the cigarette from his mouth, let out a big puff of smoke and then said something like, “I’d like to have just one night with her. Hey kid, wouldn’t cha? Just one night with her, huh kid?” Then Big Lou let out a wise guy laugh that came from somewhere in the inner fibers of his diaphragm.

Well, I grabbed my Mad magazine. Big Lou clasped the Playboy magazine his right hand. We both walked to the front of the luncheonette, to pay Moe for our respective magazines. I paid for my Mad magazine and turned to the front door. As Big Lou reached into his denim pockets for his money, he called out, “hey kid, hold on, I need to talk to ya.”

Yikes, Big Lou wanted to talk to me! I shuttered. I replied with a sheepish, “okay Big Lou.” As a kid, you knew never to call Big Lou by anything else but Big Lou. It was simply understood.

Moe put Big Lou’s Playboy magazine in a brown paper bag. Big Lou and Moe exchanged friendly “take cares.” Then Big Lou and I exited out the front door. Just outside the front door, Big Lou threw his cigarette butt onto the sidewalk and crushed it. He took out another cigarette from the pack rolled up on his right shoulder. He lit his cigarette. Then he simply said to me, “here kid! Don’t say I never gave you nothing!” And then he handed me the brown paper bag with the Playboy magazine in it.

“I gotta get back to work,” was all that Big Lou said as he let go of the brown paper bag and walked on down the street, back to the gas station. I grasped that Playboy magazine with a death grip. I was in total amazement. Total amazement. The October 1967 of Playboy magazine was mine! All mine! It wasn’t some Playboy magazine that one of my older cousins had hidden in their clubhouse. It wasn’t some Playboy magazine that one of the older scouts had hidden in his knapsack, bringing it to a campout. This was my Playboy magazine. All mine! Totally all mine!

The October 1967 issue of Playboy featured the lovely Reagan Wilson. At 14, I fell off the Empire State Building, in love with her.

Well, the featured model of that issue was a wonderful lady by the name of Reagan Wilson. I kept that issue of Playboy magazine hidden in a wooden box in my tree fort. At 14, I fell off the Grand Canyon, in love with Reagan Wilson. I thought that Reagan Wilson was even more beautiful than Julie Newmar, Batman’s Catwoman. I was never to be the same!

This entry was posted in 1967, Acts of Kindness, Advice to the younger set, Big Lou, Boyhood Days, Compassion, Destiny, Encouragement, Giving, Journey to Truth, Kindness, Lincoln Park, Mad Magazine, Memory, Moe's Sweet Shop, Old Lincoln Park, Reagan Wilson, Small Town America, The Old Maple Tree, The Old Tree Fort, Tree Fort, Wisdom. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Wonderful, Incredible, Life Changing Issue

  1. Wow ! I don’t any guy ever forgets stumbling across his first Playboy. It is a life changing experience for a young man. Its considerable tame , especially back in those days, to many other publications. As an adult man, who eventually ended up divorced and single, I took it upon myself to finally break down and get a subscription once or twice. And do you know what? The articles really are good. Its not just the beautiful, tastefully photographed women; its the award winning journalism and fiction that helped make Playboy a household name. While all the other books have come and gone, its still around. And somewhere, there is a young man, just like you and I , who is stumbling upon, or by sheer luck, getting his first copy of the book. And that young man, just like you and I, will enter a world of wonder and beauty, and be captivated by a beautiful woman. I appreciate this blog you wrote, because we still live in a prudish, and backward society that views such stories as dangerous, instead of important coming of age moments in a young man’s life. Thank You for sharing your moment. It, and she, was beautiful.

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