February 9, 2014 in City

Doug Clark: Beatles fans share their memories and memorabilia

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Beatles memorabilia collector Johnny Erp talks about his collection Friday at his home in Spokane.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

A John Lennon autograph. A dubious lock of Beatle hair.

A shoebox that once held “Beatles Sneakers by Wing Dings …”

The other day I asked Beatle fans to tell me about some of the Fab Four-related keepsakes they’ve managed to hang on to over the decades.

It was a pretty easy sell.

We Beatle boosters are passionate under normal circumstances, but these are not normal times.

Today, in fact, is the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ “Ed Sullivan Show” appearance that rattled our TVs and rocked the culture.

Paul and Ringo (aka Last Beatles Standing) will appear together on CBS tonight in honor of that Feb. 9, 1964, landmark performance.

So it’s no surprise that members of the ’60s generation are even more Beatlecentric than usual.

My buddy Scott Cooper, for example, dug into his Scottco Library and came up with some vintage magazines to show me, like Beatle Mania and the copy of Teen Talk that is devoted to the Beatles’ New York visit and Sullivan show debut.

“Beatle greeters began forming lines at the Kennedy Airport as early as 4 a.m. on the day of arrival (Friday, Feb. 7) although they weren’t due ’till afternoon,” wrote Teen Talk reporter Bob Fischer.

“Even President Lyndon B. Johnson’s arrival was overshadowed by the Beatle invasion.”

I’d take the Beatles over that old warmonger LBJ any old day.

So would Johnny Erp, a disabled Vietnam vet who invited me to come visit the “Beatles man cave” he’s created in his tidy North Side home.

Erp’s man cave is a stylish and comfortable living room. Meticulously framed Beatles-related posters, magazine covers and record albums adorn the walls.

The bulk of his Beatles collection is contained in a tall trophy case.

I particularly love the quirky pieces that show how far the fast-buck artists would go to market the Beatles.

That so-called lock of Beatle hair is a prime example.

A hilarious photo on the cardboard packet shows Paul sitting in a barber chair with John doing the snipping.

Something that does look like hair is contained under a blister packet along with:

“Beatles’ Hair! Supply is Limited.”

Riiight.

You’d have to be a real fool on the hill to believe that one.

Erp said he got into collecting in the mid-1980s when he bought a red-and-white Beatles pennant for $5 in an Idaho thrift/junk shop.

That lit a fire that led him to Beatles drink trays, Beatles ice cream wrappers, Beatles shampoo containers, Beatles songbooks …

Why does Erp like the Beatles so much?

“They were four guys from a rough city,” he said. “They could have easily been a punk band, a hate band. Instead they were about peace and all you need is love.”

A serious collector, Erp offered the following advice:

Never buy a Beatle’s autograph unless you saw the Beatle standing there with pen in hand.

That’s probably wise.

But Maureen Malone said she didn’t pay anything for her John Lennon autograph.

A classmate gave it to her back when she was attending Sacajawea Junior High in the 1960s.

“Her sister got it and gave it to her and then she gave it to me,” said Malone, who added that she “can’t even remember the giver’s name.”

Malone said she put the autograph away and never gave it any thought until a couple of years ago when she found it one day and started wondering.

Could it be real?

I say some things are better not knowing.

Although …

The Beatles did play Seattle in 1964 and 1966.

So it is possible, I suppose, that somebody’s older sister got Lennon’s autograph during one of those visits and then passed it along.

Marilyn Mraz is one of the lucky ducks who can testify to the fact that the Beatles were in Seattle on Aug. 25, 1966.

“They were cute, they were funny and they were intelligent,” recalled Mraz, who attended the afternoon concert.

“It was grand.”

Mraz added that she went with her best friend, Harriet, whose mom drove them to Seattle and bought their tickets for $6 each, which put them close enough to the stage to not need binoculars.

“I saw THEM!” Mraz said with emphasis.

OK, Marilyn. Don’t rub it in.

Concerts are cool, sure. But the other story she told me is the one I really loved. That’s because it shows that not all parents were uptight and anti-Beatles.

This happened in 1964, not long after that famed Ed Sullivan gig. It all started when Mraz, whose maiden name was Smith, saw a newspaper advertisement hawking Beatles sneakers for $3.95 at a Spokane shoe store.

Mraz showed the ad to her father, Don, and told him she just had to have them.

My old man would’ve told me to get a job.

Don Smith, however, told his daughter to hop in the family station wagon. Marilyn suddenly found herself on a sneaker run.

Which is way cooler when you learn that the Smiths lived in Colfax.

“That’s a 60-mile drive to Spokane,” she said.

Sure enough, Mraz got her white canvas shoes, which were dotted with the faces of those lads from Liverpool.

Mraz has saved that shoebox all these years. She told me she thinks she has only one of the sneakers left.

She should keep looking. After we ended our phone chat, I searched the Internet for information about Wing Dings and Beatle sneakers.

And whattaya know.

I found a pair being sold with box for $1,500.

I didn’t have the heart to call her back.

Doug Clarkcan be reached at (509) 459-5432 ordougc@spokesman.com.


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