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Tuesday, December 6, 2022
ArlingtonOpinion'Old School' column: Logging time with catalogs

‘Old School’ column: Logging time with catalogs

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by CAROL McEWEN, for the Sun Gazette

I’m seeing and hearing a lot of flap lately about toys and other items being in short supply, so we’d better shop early.

What do they mean, “We may run out of things to buy”?? We’re AMERICANS; we shop; that’s what we DO.

However dire the warnings, I sure can’t prove it from the catalogs already clogging my mailbox. To date, I’ve received 27 and the season is young!


One catalog offers 14 artificial Christmas trees in various heights and varieties to grace my living room. Many come decorated with lights and some even collapse for easy storage.

Another catalog offers a choice of five outdoor Christmas trees in various sizes, with colors that change to music.

Certainly the most amazing catalog offering so far: a Motion Sensor Toilet Bowl Light, which can cycle through eight colors or stay on one. As I stumble through the dark in the middle of the night, I’ll have no trouble finding my destination.

None of these, however, can compare to the excitement generated by the missives of my youth. Their arrival caused excitement akin to that of the first moon landing.

We received only two Christmas catalogs each year: Sears and Spiegel’s.

If valued by the pound, the Sears offering, AKA The Wish Book, would win hands-down. The thing must have weighed 50 pounds and held every item a kid could ever want. There even were a few things for the adults paying the bill.

I’d lie on the living-room floor to shop, since I couldn’t lift the thing, circling enough toys to stock FAO Schwartz. I knew I’d get only a small percentage of them. But my greedy kid motto was, “Ask for the whole hog and maybe you’ll get a slice of bacon.”

My favorite catalog, however, was Spiegel’s, because I found it less overwhelming and easier to navigate. I could whiz through the pages to find toys for kids my age, and its lighter weight allowed me to take it to my room for more leisurely browsing. Call it my Christmas Bible.

Ordered items didn’t arrive to our door as they do today. Instead, they went to the local Sears or Spiegel’s catalog store, where the buyer paid for them in full or a little each week, interest-free, called buying “on time.”

Today’s catalogs are more sophisticated and contain items never dreamed of in 1950s America. But I say those Old School ones provided the most excitement and the best memories.

Reach Carol McEwen at carolwrites4fun@gmail.com.

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