I didn’t grow up with access to a Sears store, in fact I don’t remember ever being inside one until I was a teenager. That one was located on High Street in Longview. We didn’t shop there very often, but one trip there at Christmas time is the source of one of my favorite Christmas memories. I was wanting a red Christmas dress for a program I was going to be in. I guess we’d waited too long to start shopping, because locating an appropriate dress turned out to be quite a chore. But when we went to Sears, we found the perfect dress, a gorgeous Christmas red.
I continued to wear that dress for a long time, until it finally wore out. I think I probably cried about that.
What I did have access to as far back as I can remember was Sears mail order catalogs. We also had mail order catalogs from Montgomery Ward and Aldens, but the Sears catalog was my favorite, especially at Christmas time.
Therein is another of my special Christmas memories. Some special memories are one-time memories, while others are every year memories. Around the first of November every year the Christmas catalogs arrived in the mail. The race was always on to see who would get to look at the new catalog first.
After my younger sister and I were both in school it was really a race to see who could get off the bus first and run for the house to see if a catalog had come in the mail that day.
We spent hours looking through those catalogs, making a list of things we’d like for Santa Claus to bring. Those lists were always longer than Santa could afford to bring, but Santa would usually had several from our lists in his bag on Christmas Eve night.
Both my own children had a chance to shop in Christmas catalogs too. There are still a few lists around here that they made for Santa telling him what page the items they wanted were on. I learned right away to have them number those items in the order of which ones they wanted most. That worked pretty well most of the time (just don’t ask my son about the first time he asked for a tape recorder). Santa made a big mistake when he brought one to his older sister, but thought that Darrell was not old enough for one. He later told me that he kept a calendar in his room and each day marked off the days until Christmas came again. And that tape recorder remained at the top of the list. Santa has apologized several times, but has decided it’s no use, Darrell will never forget that one.
Sears saved the day another time when the kids were teenagers. Our Walmart had a huge display of “boom boxes” for Christmas. We purchased identical radios for both kids. Then we made the same mistake we’d made with several gifts through the years -- we failed to try them to see if they worked. Sure enough, on Christmas morning one of them worked perfectly, the other wouldn’t work at all. The first day after Christmas we carried it back to the store for an exchange. There had been maybe 100 of those radios on display the day we purchased ours, but our luck continued to hold -- they were completely sold out.
So we got out our trusty Sears Christmas catalog and promptly got an order off for a similar radio which arrived only a few days later.
I think one of those radios may still be around somewhere. I remember that when Darrell was using the dark room at The Mirror he kept one of them on the counter.
Santa used the Sears Christmas catalog every year to fill most of the wished for items for both kids. Shopping from the catalog was much easier than driving from store to store trying to find what you needed.
I still enjoyed shopping the Sears catalog, right up until it was discontinued. The Montgomery Ward and Aldens catalogs had already been discontinued a few years earlier.
I have a 1973 issue of what was then called “The Sears Wishbook.” It’s fun to look back and see those same toys we ordered pictured with their back-then prices. Many of them are now offered on Ebay, in used condition of course, for a much higher price than we paid for a brand new one. If only we could have seen ahead. Who would have ever thought the toys we bought back then would be worth so much now. Or who would have thought there would be such a thing as Ebay either.
Even the old catalogs themselves are worth a lot of money now.
My son’s first bass guitar came from a Sears Christmas catalog. He was famous for getting interested in something, only to get tired of it in a short time. When he asked for a bass guitar, I was afraid the same thing would happen again, so I chose a less expensive model. After all, he had never played a guitar. That was another time that Santa made the wrong decision. It wasn’t long before that guitar was being traded in on a better one. I’ve lost count of how many he has had through the years. He now plays in a band, and plays every Sunday at our church.
And the first guitar? It was played by Vern Coldiron with the Hayride Band at the American Music Hayride at Glenwood for several weeks when the band was first organized. He gave Darrell guitar lessons in exchange for using his bass guitar. So I guess Santa’s first choice wasn’t so bad after all.