As a child, I looked forward to receiving the hefty Sears Wish Book in the mail every autumn. It was an extra special delivery, because it was the only seasonal catalogue of this trendy department store (which was the one to visit, back in the day) to feature a section–often the very last one–devoted to children’s toys–a veritable Noah’s Ark of them. If I wanted to make a wishlist, I started there.
I remember handling the pages of that catalogue in the same way as a philatelist might handle stamps–very gingerly–and poring over every toy on every page with infinite patience and in excruciating detail. How I longed to have a toy (or four) from that Wish Book: Play Doh, Easy Bake Ovens, Fisher Price toys, and Hasbro/Parker Brothers board games like Operation, came alive for me in those oh-so-thin but glossy, full-colour pages.
It’s hard to believe that vintage Sears Christmas WishBook catalogues from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s are being put on eBay — and some for as much as $400 in asking/starting prices! I wish I had kept ours, but for sentimental (“emotional investment”) reasons–not in the same way that I wish I had kept those 100-plus hockey trading cards, instead of selling them off or giving them away.
Money was tight for our young family, and it had to be stretched to fit various other less optional and more practical budgets for food and clothing. Still, my brother did get a low-riding green tricycle when he was seven (and what an irony that was, considering that I learned to ride a bicycle before him 🙂 ), while dolls and stuffed animals were the de facto Christmas gifts for me. Not that I minded; being great listeners and confidantes, stuffed animals still hold a special place in my heart to this day.
Sometimes I got clothes instead; most of the time, my mother, a seamstress and designer extraordinaire, custom-made absolutely smashing and original clothes for me (a talent that I was unable to truly comprehend at the time, and a skill that I am still sorely lacking today. I count myself lucky if I can still remember how to thread, unassisted, a needle properly on a sewing machine). Of course, I appreciate getting clothes as gifts much more today than I did when I was seven.
With the possible exceptions of the Trouble and Monopoly board games, we never did get any toys from the Sears Wish Book, either for birthdays or Christmas. But at least, having a physical copy of the Sears Wish Book on hand let me imagine what I could get, especially if I was very, very good that year.