Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Joy of Catalogs


Okay, I know this'll put me in the "old fogey" category (as if my other interests haven't already), but this time of year gets me to thinking about catalogs. Now, I'm not talking about those twenty page fliers for clothing and such that inevitablly you get any time you sign up at a retailer with your name and address. Sure those are okay, but that's not what I'm thinking about.

I'm thinking about those thick, square bound ones that came in the mail or your parents picked up at the store. You know what I'm talking about. The Sears Wishbook, or the JCPenney holiday catalog or the Montgomery Wards book. The front cover would have some nice family scene under the Christmas tree. Everyone would be smiling. The kids would be in green and red.

And what did we do? We skipped that whole front part - skipped the clothes for women and men, barely stopped for a few moments on the kids clothing (unless you were looking for that real cool Superman t-shirt or Hot Wheels pajamas). You skimmed past the hardware and home furnishing sections. No, your goal was in those 300 or 400 page sections. You, my friend, wanted to see the toys!

It was like magic, seeing all those things in full color. You wished you were that kid going down that slide, or that you had the complete set of Star Wars action figures. You wondered what pictures were on those Viewmaster reels. You couldn't wait to build something as cool with your Legos. It was such a thrill and it would keep you enthralled for hours on end. You would even go back and look at the book again and again as November turned into December.

As a kid, I would get out a sheet of notebook paper and start making a list for my parents. I'd note which book and what page the items were on. If it had an item number, I'd list it with the description and the price. If it had different choices, like with action figures, I'd carefully list which ones I was interested in. I mean, really, who's mother actually could tell the difference between R2-D2 and R5-D4? Mine couldn't. And I would prioritize items as well - just so they'd know which items were top choices and which were secondary.

Kids today don't get that joy any more. Most of the big retailers who did catalogs like that either are out of business or just don't put out the books like they used to. It's an internet-age. You can pretty much do the same thing on Amazon.com with a quick click of the button to put items into your 'wish list'. I use those functions as an adult to earmark things I'd like - but it's just not the same.

2 comments:

KC Ryan said...

Hey, Martin!

The catalog isn't dead yet! This past week my soon-to-be niece and nephew were carefully going through the Target, Toys r Us and WalMart books. Sure, they're a bit smaller than the big ol' catalogs, but at 60 ages or so they add up pretty quick.
I never made a list like that - maybe a couple of things as suggestions, but we didn't really have a lot of money back then and we had five kids.
Every Christmas, though, we got some grand items - Thunderbolt toboggan, anyone? - that we absolutely loved. That's Christmas!

KC

Anonymous said...

Wow all I can say is that you are a great writer! Where can I contact you if I want to hire you?