Many wondered about Charles Atlas and his ads, but a friend actually benefitted.

When we were in grade school, my pal Jack Donaldson was the target of schoolyard bullies, especially Billy Simmons.

Jack became sick and tired of being mocked and pushed around, so when we were in seventh grade, this skinny, weak boy enrolled in the Charles Atlas Dynamic Tension course through the mail.

Jack worked diligently on this isometric course for some months, and he blossomed into a guy with power. He practiced twice per day and maintained a healthy diet, and I saw that Jack was no longer a weakling.

He didn’t put on much weight but, as he believed, it wasn’t the weight that counted, it was the power. No one seemed to really notice Jack’s new physique, and he continued to hear taunts which he simply ignored.

One day while Jack and I were walking home from school, Billy Simmons approached us, and told Jack that he would make him beg for mercy.

Billy shoved him, but Jack braced himself, doubled up his right fist, and hit Billy with a jab to the jaw. Billy went down on his back but quickly got up and ran toward his home.

Word got out that Jack was no longer a pushover, and the so-called tough guys gave him a wide berth. He now had the confidence to face his problems, thanks to the Charles Atlas class.

Jack’s dad owned a huge collection of pulp fiction magazines that dated back to the 1930s. Jack introduced me to these stories of superheroes, and I became a real fan. Many of the tales were set in faraway places and were filled with action-packed adventure.

Jack and I read the adventures of Doc Savage and rode the trails with the Lone Ranger and the Pecos Kid. We fought criminals with The Whistler, The Shadow and The Ghost,   traversed jungles with Sheena and Tarzan, and followed Wu Fang through the dangerous streets of Chinatown.

Many parents — including Jack’s — didn’t approve of kids reading these stories, so we had to read them secretly. Whenever Jack let me borrow a few magazines, I would read them in my basement and hide them in a pile of dusty National Geographics.

The magazines were never discovered by the adults in the house.

Many teachers, like our English teacher, believed that these stories would ruin our minds and turn us into delinquents. Even though many of our friends read these stories, none of us became criminals but grew up to be responsible citizens. Compared to many of today’s stories, these pulp tales were tame, and although there was some violence, the theme of these stories was that bad guys always lose. 

For many years, I have been trying to find some of these pulp magazines, but they are probably owned by collectors who would never part with them. If I could find just one pulp magazine, I would hang onto it, open its pages and relive these great adventures.

At least I wouldn’t have to read the stories in partial darkness in my basement praying that I would not be caught reading “dangerous stories.”

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