Do you remember eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Sears Christmas catalog, also know as the “Wish Book”? I know I did. I would spend hours poring over the toy section of the catalog. There were hundreds of pages of toys for girls and boys as well as clothing items, electronics, appliances, tools, and guns, among other things. You can see the 1965 catalog and many others at https://christmas.musetechnical.com/.
Looking through that catalog was a walk down memory lane. I was surprised at how many things in that catalog are still around: Legos, Etch-a-Sketch, board games like Scrabble, Risk, Clue, and Monopoly–and Barbie!
Then there were the one-time favorites you no longer can find. Remember View-masters? Erector sets? Kenner building sets? I was struck by how many children’s sized musical instruments found their way onto the pages.
It seemed the big fad of the time was James Bond. There was a race car set with an Aston Martin, Bond and Odd Job dolls and a gun case, and a complete action set. GI Joe was big as well, even as real-life GI’s were headed to Vietnam.
I was a reader then and am now, but I don’t think I noticed all the children’s books including Caldecott and Newberry winners. Of course, there were the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.
You can see the influence of the space race with various rocketry sets and science and chemistry sets. There also were toys to prepare us for adult life, set apart by gender. In the boys section, there were tool boxes. The girls section had pages and pages of kitchens, dish services, and furniture. The catalogs are a window into those times.
I think the pages the received the most attention from me were the slot car sets. There was a period when slot cars eclipsed model railroading. I got caught up in it, debating with my friends about 1/32nd versus HO scale sets. On Christmas day in 1965 I found the set at the top of the page above under the Christmas tree. Within hours it took over our living room. Later it got relegated to our basement. Over time I bought more track and accessories and cars and invited my friends over to race with me. That set still exists packed up and stored somewhere in my utility room.
While the downtown department stores in Youngstown had fantastic toy displays, the prices were high for many of our parents. The discount stores were not yet abundant. Sears was the alternative for many of our parents. In the weeks before Christmas, many of them would line up at the Sears Catalog pick up at the old Sears store on Market Street in the Uptown area to pick up those toys that went from the Wish Book to our Christmas lists and eventually found their way under the tree.
The Sears Christmas Wish Book ceased publication in 2011, coming back for the year of 2017. I can’t think of anything like the Wish Book today. I suppose there is online browsing, but I can’t imagine the same sense of excitement and wonder from scrolling through pages and creating wish lists as when the Wish Book arrived at our door. Good memories.
To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!