No book ever got a more accurate and honest name.
The Sears catalog was, by all accounts during a rare family showing of unanimous opinion, the Wish Book.
Mom could ponder possibilities of kitchenware or fancy dresses, Dad could browse the tools with a finger-to-chin “hmm” as he dreamed of growing the castle, and grandmother could marvel with the same question every year of what will they think of next.
But it was the toys, people, the toys!
How it worked…
Kids normally aren’t the boss of much anything in their itty bitty years, but come late December, not even a rickety outhouse in the middle of a sandy desert could need the Sears catalog any greater.
(Only the older readers will understand that last line.)
Back when the price of a lead pencil made even it a shared commodity, my younger sister, brother and I would belly-flop on the floor, elbows to the ground, face in hands, as we declared peace from all the day’s battles and lay side-by-side, patiently waiting our turn to circle our next prize.
If we were especially lucky with our timing, the mood would be set by one of the three TV channels we got on the old antenna, with the same old Frosty-Charlie Brown-Rudolph line-up.
Tingles of fear still ripple across the skin at the scene with the abdominal snowman.
Oh boy, if the catalog seemed thicker than last Christmas, Santa was really gonna pay.
Why, that sleigh would be so full, he’d probably have to hire on four more reindeer. Two more, for sure.
But then, we realized it wouldn’t be fair to the other boys and girls if we took all the toys. Great counsel from the parents, you see.
So, we would only circle the toys we really, really, really wanted, and hoped Santa would pick the right one meant for us.
Knowing, all along, we’d be pretty darn happy if it was anything but socks.
The changing times
The outhouse went away a long time ago, followed years later by the demise of the wish book, as we knew it.
Now, the few Sears stores that survive also are waiving the white flag.
Sears recently went bankrupt and took with it a fond slice of American shopping lore.
The local Hometown Sears Store, which is what they called the final holdouts operated mostly mom-and-pop style in smaller settings, began its liquidation sale last week.
“It’s extremely dramatic. Sears has been around a long time,” said owner Jeff Rothstein.
He plans to keep his small but popular store, and he’ll keep selling many of the brands that loyal customers come to him to ask about and buy. But while he hopes to keep the customers, he won’t be keeping the Sears name.
“Sears has been an icon,” he lamented.
Yep, but the Sears catalog even more so in the eyes of kids turned grown-ups turned kids again.
Much safer now
Oh, and another thing – that J.C. Penny catalog never did seem to be as comfortable as the Sears book when it came to sitting on one of them at the kitchen table.
Only the folks in fancy houses had real child-booster seats back in the day. It’s probably good, though, that we have safety booster seats and better high-chairs commonplace now.
I never did see a Sears wish book with seatbelts.
Troy Turner is editor of the Opelika-Auburn News. He can be contacted at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @troyturnernews.