REMEMBERING WHEN THE HOLIDAY SEASON ARRIVED BY MAIL
It was the most exciting day of the year for a boy from Memphis. It was a day in November when a very special publication arrived in the mail.
On that fall day, I would leave school when the closing bell rang at 3:00 p.m., indicating that my friends and I could race home and spend the rest of the afternoon playing before darkness summoned us home for dinner. But I always stopped by my house right after school to tell my mom that I was home, and request that homework be postponed until after play and dinner.
But on one glorious November day each year, Mom would give me some wonderful news. She would smile and say, “It’s here! It’s on the kitchen table!”
I knew exactly what Mom was referring to. I knew that the Sears Christmas Catalogue, popularly known as The Wish Book, had arrived.
I would race to the kitchen, sit at the table, and joyfully leaf through over 200 pages of color photographs of bicycles, and hula hoops and train sets, and pogo sticks, footballs, baseballs, and everything a boy’s heart could desire. As I looked through The Wish Book, I would suddenly become both Bob Cratchit and Ebenezer Scrooge, as I was filled with both Christmas spirit and Christmas greed.
Shortly thereafter, I would make my own wish list, review it with my Mama (who always counseled with me not to be greedy), and then compose my annual letter to Santa. Stretching things a bit, I would tell him I had been a good boy all year, and that I would appreciate it if he would call Mr. Sears and Mr. Roebuck, get few special toys for me, and bring them down our family’s chimney on Christmas Eve. Of course, I always had to remind Santa that we didn’t have a chimney at our house, and therefore Mama would have to leave the backdoor open for him.
For me and my family, the arrival of the Sears Christmas Wish Book signaled the unofficial beginning of the holiday season. And we were not alone. Some 15,000,000 American families also received The Wish Book each November. The Wish Book was the Amazon.com of its time and it was the holiday season that arrived by mail.
Unfortunately, after I grew up, Sears went into decline. It ceased publication of The Wish Book in 2011, although it brought back a smaller version of The Wish Book in 2017. It too has now gone the way of the retail dinosaur although I understand there is an online version which I can’t find, and do not intend to search for. I can’t believe that pictures on a screen would compare to the beautiful pictures in the Sears & Roebuck classic wish book.
On Thursday, the Holiday Season will begin for my family and me at Thanksgiving dinner. I will enjoy it, but there is no doubt that on this Thanksgiving Day I will spend a few moments remembering those joyful November days over 50 years ago when the postman delivered the holiday season by placing The Wish Book in our mailbox!