Memory Lane: The Sears Christmas Catalog

1959 Sears Christmas Book | Christmas books, Christmas catalogs, Vintage  christmas

What kid growing up in the 50s or 60s didn’t love this–the annual Sears, Roebuck Christmas catalog?

I spent hours and hours with these. I mean, come on–what’s better than a day off from school because it’s snowing too hard, curled up on the sitting room couch with the Sears catalog?

Everything was in there! Even guns. But my favorite was the section devoted to assorted play sets–the farm, Cape Canaveral, the circus, dinosaurs, Wild West: wow, they had everything!

Animal World Farm Playset (12 Medium size animals in a bag) - Curious Kids

I do wish I still had some of those rubber-nosed rockets and spring-powered launchers from the Cape Canaveral play set. I still have farm animals, circus animals, and jungle animals–and dinosaurs, of course–from other sets. Reminders of sweet Christmas Past. Priceless now.

It’s been many years since I’ve seen a Sears Christmas catalog. Do they still publish them?

But my box of animals is still here, to bring to mind the people that I loved, and family Christmas at my grandpa’s house, and early, early Christmas morning, and my first sight of the decorated tree, the job my father did after he packed his kids off to sleep…

Memory Lane: the Liquor Cabinet

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How many of you have a liquor cabinet in your home–or was that a 1950s thing?

We had one. It fit into a corner of the dining room, like the one in the picture above. The top half was for displaying my mother’s best glassware. I was fascinated by one extra-big glass that I now know was used for mixing drinks. It had all the ingredients for the various mixed drinks printed on it.

The bottom half was where they stored the booze. When they were young, my folks did a lot of entertaining–especially after my father became a foreman at the Ford plant. They’d have these people over–the kind of people, I guess, that you were supposed to entertain once you were on your way up the corporate ladder. The kind of people you had to dress up for. I’d lie awake in my bed and listen to them gabbing away downstairs. The next day Dad would have to buy more liquor.

They eventually outgrew these parties and had no further use for the liquor cabinet. But when I was a little boy I used to sit at the foot of the cabinet and pry open the door when my mother wasn’t in the room. I was intrigued by the assorted bottles. Why weren’t they in the refrigerator with the other bottles? But I was never intrigued enough to steal a sip.

I wonder if our old house, late on weekend nights, has ghosts of those entertainments. All those loud people–what’s become of them? And who now has my parents’ liquor cabinet?

How Peep Visited the Vet and Drove Me Crazy

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I think of our cat Peep as such a benign little soul. But that’s only till she has to see the vet.

She has a fearsome reputation there. Such a sweet, jolly cat–and she turns into the Tasmanian Devil on a bender.

But first you’ve got to get her there. She yowls and cries the whole way there, 20 solid minutes of it. The same thing, coming back: but by now she’s so upset, she throws up in her carrier. And I’m about ready to dive out of the car. There has to be a better way than this to spend the morning.

She wasn’t there for any painful or difficult procedure. Just a check-up, with some blood work. So why does she go positively crackers over any visit to the vet? Her sister, Robbie, is not much better. These cats just can’t stand a visit to the doctor.

What’s so horrible about it? I don’t get it. I mean, I know what’s so horrible about it for me, but why are the cats so fantastically upset?

I have to say that all the cats I’ve ever had were the same way. Only my rats and my iguana could face the doctor with equanimity. (I have always wanted to use that word.) Poor Buster practically declawed himself, trying to escape from the carrier.

Do veterinarians know how much cats hate and fear them?

It just doesn’t seem fair.

Hallelujah! We’re Done!

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Finally! After three years of visiting the bank, filling out forms, consulting lawyers, making phone calls to state officials who are almost never at their desks, writing checks, and wandering around various government offices, we have wrapped up Aunt Joan’s estate! We can now begin to get rid of a high stack of no-longer relevant paperwork.

And this, mind you, was an estate in which every dollar left in it was already owed to the state–zero dollars left to distribute to the heirs. Why the state made it so hard to pay them off will always be a mystery to us.

Being the executor of an estate, even an estate with no money left in it, has got to be one of the most thankless and frustrating jobs ever invented in a fallen world. Back and forth and back and forth you go! You will understand how we wound up thinking the job would never be completed.

Aunt Gertie’s and Aunt Millie’s estates were in an even worse jumble, but then we had Billy the lawyer to walk us through it. But he retired before we could finish the work on Aunt Joan’s.

We hope we never again have to do anything like this. My wife, a highly skilled bookkeeper, was brought almost to her wits’ end. Couldn’t have done it without her.

New Glasses, Wrong Prescription

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Do you ever get the impression that people aren’t working quite up to the standard we were once used to?

My sister needed new glasses. So she did all the re-bop, shelled out a fair amount of money, only to discover, as she drove home from the optometrist’s, that she couldn’t flaming see out of the new glasses!

Back to the optometrist. Sorry, lady! That’s the prescription that the doctor wrote and that’s the prescription you’ve got. How about that? The person who tested her eyes, or maybe someone a little farther down the food chain, wrote the wrong prescription. So now my sister has two pair of glasses that don’t work, but don’t bet on her to be content with holding the bag. Someone’s going to have to pay. And someone’s going to have to re-do the tests and write up the right prescription.

Honestly, we shouldn’t have to expect that much incompetence. Now she has to drive back to the eye doctor’s with bad glasses on New Jersey’s highways–not an assignment for the faint-hearted. I wonder how long they’re going to ask her to wait for glasses that actually improve her vision.

Not supposed to happen in America!

P.S.–Almost forgot: someone said the glasses just had to be broken in, after a week or so they’d be just fine. Adding insult to injury.

An Honorary Quokka!

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Wow! Look at all those bicycles! Surely nobody would miss just one…

Byron the Quokka here, with excellent news! Meanwhile Lee is outside doing cartwheels (figure of speech: last time he really did a cartwheel, he split his pants) because Patty has fixed his computer.

For this achievement, the faculty at Quokka University has awarded her the designation of Honorary Quokka and appointed her QU’s resident Computer Expert. We realize the “resident” part cannot be taken literally, her living in New Jersey instead of Rottnest Island; but we think we have the communications technology to make it work.

It all goes to show how it pays to marry somebody who”s both smart and determined–smartest thing he ever did.

Now if we can only convince him to offer a bicycle as the prize for the next comment contest, maybe we can pump up the readership to what it used to be.

Patty’s Return to the Supermarket

Stop & Shop, union seek 'extended first responder' designation - Connecticut Post

My wife has COPD, which puts her in a very high-risk group for the Chinese Communist coronavirus. Consequently, it’s been six months since she’d been inside anywhere but our own apartment. That’s a long time to be cooped up, and it was getting to her.

So yesterday I urged her to shop with me today. “You need a change,” I said. “You need to see the interior of some place other than just this apartment. So come to the store with me. Wear your mask under your nose, so you can breathe, and your face shield, and come into the store and push a cart around–even if only for a few minutes. You can put all your stuff in my cart for checkout, so you won’t have to stand in line. It’ll do you good! After all, all those clerks have been there every day since March and none of them have gotten sick.”

And for once I was right. “I enjoyed that!” she admitted. “The other night I dreamed I went shopping again: that tells you how much I’ve missed it. I’m so glad I did this, and I’ll do it again on Monday!” Yeah, I think it pumped her up.

Getting back to normal life ought to be at the top of America’s to-do list.

‘Eternal Father, Strong to Save’

This is the U.S. Navy’s official hymn, Eternal Father, Strong to Save. Whenever I hear it I think of my father, Jersey-born and bred, who’d never been farther away from home than Pennsylvania: fresh out of high school in the midst of World War II, straight to the recruiting officer, and on to California, the Pacific, and the Philippines. And him all of 18 years old. It’s very hard to imagine. Such wars ought not to be; but that’s the fallen world: we didn’t get into our troubles by obeying God’s word.

Memory Lane: Moving the Piano

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When I was in my late teens, my family acquired Aunt Florence’s piano, which meant my father had to rent a U-Haul trailer. He also hired me and two of my friends, Ronnie and Gary, to tote the piano. Ronnie in particular was a very strong young man, and I was a pretty good specimen, myself. Move a piano? Piece of cake!

So there’s the piano, and the three Young Turks flex their muscles, grip the piano mightily… and nothing happens. Grunt, groan, grit teeth. Who nailed the piano to the floor? Now we’re sweating. Freakin’ thing won’t budge.

Finally my father and Uncle Jimmy gently motioned us out of the way, picked up the piano like it was a picnic basket, and put it in the trailer. Oh, the mortification of it all. Who would’ve ever thought healthy grown men would be stronger than self-enamored 17-year-olds? Like, just because you can carry a tune doesn’t mean you can carry the piano.

Ah, well, live and learn.

‘You Are My Sunshine’ (Joshua & Jeremy)

Let’s see if I can sing this without starting to cry. “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey…” Nope. No can do.

When I was a very little boy with fantods in the night, my father would get up and pick me up, and sing this song to me. How well I remember that. “You’ll never know dear, how much I love you, please don’t take my sunshine away.” And he meant every word of it. That’s why it moves me so.

Anyway, here are our own Swanson brothers, Joshua and Jeremy, with their rendition of the songs. Nice work, guys! Got me all sappy. But that’s OK.