Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Sears Christmas Wish Book

1965 Sears Christmas Wish Book front cover

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

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.

1965 Sears Christmas Wishbook p. 445

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!

11 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Sears Christmas Wish Book

  1. I remember Sears and Montgomery Ward. Catalogs from my youth. Always had good, better and best choices available. Of course I always preferred the best but we just couldn’t afford it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks not only for this particular blog and especially for the link to the catalogs, but also as being the inspiration for my own new blog: . I truly appreciate your efforts.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. While you and I are of a similar age, and I too remember the catalogs of my youth, it never occurred to me at the time the amount of work that was entailed in DELIVERING them to the millions of homes that received them. When I first went to work for the US Postal Service in Colorado in 1984, it was already after Thanksgiving, so there were essentially no more catalogs left to be delivered that year. However in about September of 1985 I got quite an education. I probably had 75 of the Sears catalogs, about 2/3 of that number for JC Penny, and another 50 or so for other catalog companies – including, if I remember correctly, “Monkey” Ward. I remember only being able to take 10 or 15 each day. That amounted to about 1 per block ( of ‘split’ in the parlance of the Postal Service ). It ended up as a 2 week job. Luckily they were not First Class Mail, but the far less expensive to mail Bulk Rate, which had no guarantee of swift delivery. I was only a Letter Carrier for a total of 3.5 years, but a fair part of making the decision of becoming a Sales & Distribution Clerk with the USPS was the late summer and early autumn delivery of holiday catalogs.

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  4. Very timely post, At Christmas time we actually got in the mail a amazon Christmas catalogue.
    I mentioned to my wife that history seems to repeat itself. now amazon is sending toy catalogs like they did years ago.
    Just for fun when the grand kids were over at thanksgiving I passed the wish book on the them.. payback has it merits.
    When you think about it Sears was the Original Amazon. you could even by a house from them in a kit..
    love your writings.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As I was reading this, Willie Geist was introducing a story about the catalog and a couple others like Montgomery Ward, Penney’s, and Spiegel. Your piece took me on a walk down memory lane. I remember the excitement of the catalog’s arrival. My grandma and I would pore over them making our wishes. The tv piece mentions that Amazon tried to bring back the experience by sending out a catalog, but that magic can’t be recaptured in a day when any child can make a few clicks online on any given day and see more options than they can sit still to look through. What I miss most about those days isn’t just the anticipation. It is the cuddling up with Grandma to do the wishing.

    Liked by 1 person

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