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Carol Perkins: The forgotten joys of the Sears catalog

Previously by Carol: Carol Perkins: Job search in the modern economy

By Carol Perkins

When the Sears Christmas catalog arrived, I quickly flipped through the pages straight to the toys and then spent hours pondering what I hoped Santa would bring. The most exciting preface to Christmas was its arrival, although I never knew my parents to order anything from a catalog. That didn't keep me from hoping Santa would have the same catalog directly from Sears that I had.

My great uncle often told stories about carrying the mail by horseback and dreading the arrival of the Sears catalogs each season.

They were bulky and bundle some and the poor horse felt the weight of the books as they slid into the saddle bags. It took several days to deliver them all, but families were overjoyed when they arrived. With nothing but a radio as entertainment and often a coal oil lamp the only source of light, the catalog brought a distraction from hard work on long nights. The hundred and ten year old company gave hope for boys and girls for new leather shoes for winter, heavy coats, and boots. Women yearned for store-bought dresses in the latest style, but most patterned their own after the latest fashion in Sears using fabric from the local general store. Sears back then was the Amazon of today.

My great uncle also told of stories he heard of mail carriers throwing catalogs over banks alongside the road when their saddlebags were too heavy and the horses were having too much to carry! Imagine seeing a prize such as this along the roadside and the disappointment of awaiting families that did not get their catalog!

When I was a child, the catalog offered me hours of play. After the season ended and a new one arrived, I cut paper dolls out of the book and all that went with creating a home for them, which I set up on my bed. All day I played paper dolls.

Sometimes, I took my cardboard store bought paper doll, laid her on a sheet of paper, and traced around her, creating a dress that looked as much like one in the catalog as I could get. I colored the dress, put tabs on the shoulders, and made her a wardrobe. I think my love for sewing came from those times.

When Sears began to open retail stores and travel became easier, catalog sales went down so the company stopped mailed them to homes. However, the Christmas book kept coming for a long time. After all, Santa needed help. I would almost bet there is an old Sears catalog in attics right now dating back to your youth.

If I find one at my mothers, it will be cut up. Most of the time, the pages ended up being used to start a fire. In some homes, it was used for "other things." The end of something that once was larger than life is sad and brings moments of nostalgia. I'm having one now.

This story was posted on 2018-10-18 12:01:55
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Sears was in shopper's memories after Carol Perkins' article

2018-10-22 - Shepherdsville, KY - Photo from Sheila Neat.
The recent news of Sears store closings brought memories by writer Carol Perkins and, upon reading that article on, reader Sheila Neat sent some memories from her grandmother's collectible catalog. On this page are ladies' dress styles and prices in 1953.

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