From the Stacks

From The Stacks: The 1979 Sears Wish Book

Once upon a time, “browsing Amazon” meant thumbing through the Sears catalog.

Sears was the original everything store. In the early 20th century you could literally buy anything that you needed for your house, including your house, from the Sears catalog. Cars, motorcycles, tools, toys, appliances, clothing, food–when people says “Sears was the Amazon of its day” they aren’t exaggerating.

By the time I came along mail order wasn’t such a big thing for most people. Malls were where people went for their organs, toasters, and holiday salamis, but the Sears catalog remained a big deal, especially to kids, for two very specific reasons: The annual Christmas catalog, aka the Wish Book, and photos of ladies in bras. Cheap thrills were hard to come by for a kid growing up in the ’70s.

The arrival of the Wish Book meant the arrival of the holiday season. Kids everywhere got out their pencils (or in my case my mother’s typewriter) and made out their lists for Santa. Some kids went the “I just want this one thing” route, sure that brevity was the key to holiday success. Others played a shotgun game — list as much stuff as possible and you were bound to at least get one thing on your list. I was a shotgun man.

I’m not sure what was on my list in 1979, but I’m pretty sure that was the year that I scored an Atari, which was like hitting the lottery. Whatever I got, I know that I dug it–I don’t remember ever being disappointed with my loot. Well, maybe some of it. My grandmother always sent some weird stuff.

Anyway, I keep a few Wish Books in my stacks for research purposes. If I’m setting a story in 1979, for example, it’s nice to see what people were wearing, what may have been hanging on their walls, or how much a new television cost. And who wouldn’t want a monogrammed toilet seat or some shelf-stable meat from the same place your dad buys drill bits?

By 1979 Sears was often a little behind the trends–they were still offering Bee Gees merchandise–but there are some surprises here. Apparently Empire Strikes Back toys were available for Christmas 1979, but the movie wasn’t released until summer 1980, for example. And look at all of that butt tacky NFL licensed merchandise. I definitely don’t remember home computers being available in 1979, other than as home built kits.

Barbie, superheroes, Hot Wheels, racetracks, vibrating football, those stupid toilet seats–the Wish Book had something for everybody. Below are a few choice pages, but no bra pics. Find your own cheap thrills, perverts.

Categories: From the Stacks

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