GoLocalProv | The Sears catalog was my resource

Monday, November 29, 2021

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40s Sears Catalog

Unlike the teacher’s assignment titled “What I Did During My Summer Vacation,” this one was different and I accepted without hesitation. It was mine; to browse the Sears catalog which had just arrived in time for Christmas. The voluminous book would help me decide what to expect under the tree on Christmas morning.

The postman dropped him with a thud in the letterbox on the first floor. Jumping three landings one at a time, I grabbed it and scooped it up, and made my way back to our building on the third floor, taking two steps at a time. I took my usual place where I read the funny ones every night, on all fours, in front of our stove, the purring of the neighboring refrigerator my accompanying melody.

The catalog reminded me of the monolithic Sears store near Fenway Park. As we were playing it for a game, Dad told me that Ted Williams, my hero, was selling fishing gear for Sears. “Father. Let’s stop. Maybe we can see Ted.


“It’s never there, Edward, just in the catalog.” Well, that had to be pretty good.

The catalog was a part of many lives over the years, so it was no surprise that famous Americans like Roy Rogers and Ted could be featured by peddling their favorite products through its pages. It was packed with all kinds of consumer goods that anyone could imagine. . . electronics, entertainment, optician’s kits, pills, poisons, toys, sports and hunting equipment, power tools, pocket knives, chickens, gravestones, fishing lures (Ted’s concert) and, of course, bicycles. You can buy a house that ships in thousands of boxes. Cool stuff.

RW Sears entered the retail business when he purchased a shipment of watches. He was joined in the business by Alvah Roebuck, and in 1893 the Sears, Roebuck Co. was born. Targeting a rural clientele that had little access to many products, especially those in the East, and offering decent prices, the company increased the page count for its iconic annual collection. It was the cheapest supply house in the world.

But for me, the Sears catalog was all about toys, bikes, and sports gear, ripe for Christmas morning. To turn the pages efficiently, I licked the index finger with one hand, ticking along the path with my pen in the other, lingering at the tantalizing display of bikes with my eye on a Schwinn or a Monarch Rocket Royal (I finally got one), more than a whole page of two-wheeled candy.

It’s done, but just for that night, I closed the catalog and whistled. By the time I suspected what I wanted, my elbows were sore and my red cheeks were covered in the heat of the stove. My secret reserve of desires continued, although my confusion eased.

The venerable retail giant has gone bankrupt after 132 years in business. The last Sears catalog was released in January 1993. Roy Rogers and Ted are also gone. And these days, getting on all fours to read might not be that easy.

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Dr. Ed Iannuccilli is the author of three popular memoirs, “Growing Up in Italian; Grandpa’s Fig Tree and Other Stories ”,“ What Happened to Sunday Dinner ”and“ My Story Continues: From Neighborhood to Junior High ”. Find out more here.

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