Being an old printer, it’s hard for me to imagine all the money being spent printing and mailing the multitude of full-color catalogs I receive each week. It makes me wonder about the mark-up necessary for manufacturers and retailers to make a profit.
There was a time – a long, long time ago – when Montgomery Wards and Sears Roebuck ruled the mail order shopping world. They put out catalogs, approximately three inches thick, jammed with just about anything imaginable.
How well I remember my grandmother and her Sears catalog. It was the most read book, outside of the Bible, in her house. That wish book always occupied a position of importance on the table, next to her rocker in the living room.
I can’t honestly recall grandpa ever looking in the catalog, but I swear grandma put it to memory.
Grandmother’s catalog expertise came into prominence many times during a normal family get-together.
Aunt Sylvia would innocently mention how her electric toaster had been acting up. Before the last syllable had left her lips, my grandmother would be quoting prices and page numbers on what Sears had to offer in the toaster line.
It was amazing. The woman didn’t know the first thing about automobile engines, but she could tell you how much a carburetor cost. She had never played baseball, but could give you Sears’ description of a cowhide baseball glove to the letter.
Naturally, she purchased every stitch of clothes from Sears. Not only the ready-to-wear, but also the material from which she sewed her other wearables.
It was through the catalog that grandma learned to communicate with kids. She kept up on all the latest toys through Mr. Sears and Mr. Roebuck.
When asked what I had in mind for Christmas by grandma, I knew I had best describe it to the most minute detail or stand the chance of being sternly corrected.
Probably the most memorable moment I can recall when it comes to grandmother and her Sears catalog took place at a family Christmas dinner many winters ago.
Somehow the conversation swung around to the outfit a stylish woman had worn to church that past Sunday.
Immediately, grandmother was at the height of her glory. Not only did she remember the outfit, she had written out a complete price list – even the hat and shoes – and had included the pages in the catalog where they could be found.
Nothing was sacred to grandma … and Sears!
Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He and his wife, Sharon, live near Cambridge.