I recently posted a meme that said, “This generation will never understand what that Sears Roebuck Christmas catalog meant to us 40 years ago.” In response, some millennial type commented, “We’ve got Amazon now, it’s basically the same.” No, it isn’t. In fact, it isn’t even fucking close. The Wish Book was a once-a-year thing. Amazon, on the other hand, is always available. And, try as they might, those assholes will *never* be able to provide a similar experience.
Every year, I awaited the arrival of the Wish Book like a junkie waits for their next fix. I mean that literally. I was antsy, staring out the window and willing to do any-fucking-thing that might hasten the arrival of that magnificent periodical. The beginning of September to whenever The Wish Book actually arrived was the only period of the year that my parents never had to worry about checking the mail because I wore out the god damned hinges on the mailbox, a prayer on my lips that my prize would be in there as I opened the door and peered inside.
And, when it finally did arrive? Oh man, I would lie on the floor, flipping through the pages and dreaming about the treasures that might turn up under that fucking tree Christmas morning. Before the big day was even on the horizon, that catalog was worn and dog-eared and falling apart. And, then the big day came and the moment passed. But, for just a little while, we had a tiny bit of insight into what life was like for rich kids.
What Was the Big Deal?
It’s really hard to explain how it was back in the days before the internet existed to someone who’s always had the retail world at their fingertips. Back then, Amazon was Sears or Montgomery Ward or J. C. Penney. These guys were mail-order businesses and, early on, you literally ordered by mail–i.e. filling out a form and mailing it in with your payment. Of course, that changed with the advent of wide-spread telephone service. Then, you placed your order by phone and paid when you picked it up at the warehouse. Unless, of course, it was too big. And, when I say “too big”, I’m talking appliances, motorcycles/scooters, cars, even houses in kit form. Then, a tractor-trailer brought that shit to your front door. Over the years, Sears and Montgomery Ward have sold all that and more. Let’s see that fucking Lex-Luthor lookalike top that shit.
The Everyday Catalog Was Okay…
As a mail-order business, Sears had their regular catalog and that was where you’d find those above-mentioned items along with all the more mundane stuff like socks, underwear, or towels. I say “mundane”, but there are many young lads who were first exposed to the contours of the female form through that book’s ladies undergarment section, so maybe it wasn’t as boring as I make it sound.
But, The Wish Book Was the Shit
While there may be a question about the regular catalog, there was none about the excitement generated by the Wish Book. The front half of the catalog was for the adults: clothes, household goods, electronics, etc. But the back section? Holy fucking shit, it was kid heaven. Toys, glorious toys, as far as the eye could see! Practically any plaything you could imagine was found in the pages of the Wish Book. Slot car race sets? A shit ton. Barbie? God damn right. And, her fucking Dream House, too. G.I. Joe? Hell yeah! Along with all the equipment you’d need to outfit your fighting man from head to toe (on the land, on the sea, in the air). Of course, no Christmas catalog would be complete without a selection of decorations. There were trees, lights, wreaths, even a “Life-like Santa and Reindeer” for your front yard. And, candy! Did you hear me? You could order fucking candy out of the Sears Wish Book. To be fair, you can order candy from Amazon, also but I’m not sure I’d recommend it.
Ah, The Good Old Days
I know I sound like an old fart, reminiscing about some golden age that never really existed. There’s probably more truth in that assessment than I’d like to acknowledge, but bitching about “those darn kids” is one of few the perks of making it to this advanced station of life. I mean, I make weird noises when I get up, I walk into rooms and forget why I’m there, and there’s fucking hair growing out of places that hair isn’t supposed to be. If you tell me I can’t bore with my childhood memories, what do I have left? Now, shut the fuck up and listen while I tell you about walking to school. In the snow. Uphill both ways.