By Regena Handy
In my vast assortment of surplus belongings are several old Christmas catalogs.
I recently came across a 1966 Sears and as I flipped through the pages, I was suddenly the 13-year-old back in Mrs. Weaver’s seventh grade class at Woolwine School. Just like in the catalog, my female friends and classmates were wearing flip hairstyles held in place by an elastic headband, sweaters and pleated wool skirts, and short “go-go” boots.
When I was a child, I could hardly wait until the Christmas catalogs started arriving in the mailbox. Penneys. Montgomery Ward. Spiegel. Sears and Roebuck (“The Wish Book”). Aldens. Anyone remember Aldens?
I would spend hours combing through the toy section and picking out my favorite clothes. Even then the story teller in me was making up tales about the models, imagining the girl in the beautiful red dress attending an elegant party in some far off city that I knew nothing about, such as Paris.
Simple pleasures, fond memories. Let’s walk down that memory lane for just a moment. Any type of gift and lots of necessities could be ordered from the catalog. Clothes, of course, for every family member, everything from heavy winter coats to a formal evening dress to underwear. I remember hearing an older guy joke once that when he was growing up, the closest thing he ever saw resembling a ‘girlie” magazine was the lingerie section of the Sears and Roebuck.
Pages and pages of toys offered such items as Barbie and Skipper’s Deluxe Dream House, the first sports bikes with five-speed stick shifts, racing car tracks. Lionel train sets and Roy Rogers guitars were still popular. And dolls of all kinds that could do everything from cry “real” tears to roller skate.
You could buy a kitchen range, one with a self-cleaning oven. Or maybe the 25-inch color TV maple veneer entertainment center that was advertised as a new item for the season. Manual typewriters could still be bought but were quickly being pushed aside by their competitors—those young upstarts, the electric typewriters.
Popular decorations in the 1966 catalog were large plastic Santas, foil door panels depicting Christmas scenes made to resemble stained glass, and shiny aluminum trees. My mother-in-law had such a tree with a motorized color wheel. The grandchildren always thought it was so “retro-cool” that we used it in our house a few times.
The childhood pleasure I received from Christmas catalogs was rejuvenated when my own sons came along. Long before they could read, we would snuggle into the couch on cold December evenings and go through the toy section, page by page. At their request, I would read the full description of each toy. They wanted every detail, even down to the cost.
Between the two boys, we truly must have spent hundreds of hours mulling over the Christmas catalog. Probably time that I needed to be washing dishes or doing laundry. But you know, I would wager their recollection of that earlier time was not whether the house was clean and all the chores finished. I hope what they remembered was something a lot better. We were making memories. Simple pleasures. All for the price of a free piece of mail.