CAMBRIDGE — It was the second “most wonderful day of the year.”
While honors for the most wonderful day must still reside with the visit of Santa Claus, for many people of certain generations the second most wonderful day was when the Sears “Wish Book” appeared in the mailbox at some point before Christmas. Or some people may have preferred the Christmas catalogs like the “Big Book” from J.C. Penney or the one from Montgomery Ward.
The traditional Christmas catalogs have fallen by the wayside. Sears, which recently announced filing for bankruptcy, made an effort to restart the tradition last year but has no plans for any further Wish Books. Both J.C. Penney and Montgomery Ward offer some online versions of their catalogs.
But whatever company and whatever age, it was a day of wonder and dreams when the Christmas catalog arrived on the doorstep. That day signaled hours upon hours of wishes and hopes as children circled the gifts that they anticipated Santa Claus, or, as a last resort, their parents, would bring them on Christmas morning.
Shon Gress, director of the Guernsey County Senior Center, recalled: “I remember how excited I would get when the Christmas shopping catalogs would arrive. I would spend countless hours examining every toy and every page…sometimes it wasn’t’ about what I wanted, but what I’d buy for other people if I had the money. I would flip through and pick out high dollar items I wanted my mom or dad to have too. It was a book filled with wishes, dreams, and false hopes, but I never lost faith. Sometimes Santa would actually deliver something I asked or hoped for on Christmas morning. Even after I would ‘star’ items and pages, cut pictures out of the catalog for Christmas…if I didn’t get what I wanted for Christmas there was always my birthday in March!”
With the help of Gress and the staff at the Guernsey County Senior Center, here are thoughts that some area residents provided:
Stephanie P: “Every year I could not wait for the mailman to bring us the “Wish Book” catalog at Christmastime. I would make a detailed list, down to description and page number, of all of the things I wanted Santa to bring me. One of the most important things was a Snoopy sno cone machine. For many years I ask him to bring me one and for many years I was disappointed. I finally received one from my mom on my 30th birthday and have yet to take it out of the box.”
Susan Stuebe: “My memory of the Sears catalog is before I could read, looking at pages of toys before Christmas. My older brothers would giggle and ogle over woman’s ‘unmentionables.’ Of course all this activity took place in peace and quiet — private time — the outhouse!”
Roger Davis: “I can remember going through page after page of the Sears ‘Wish Book’ circling the things I wanted Santa to bring me. I nagged my mother and father constantly for these things, toys that wouldn’t last much beyond Christmas morning. Looking back, it’s amazing that my parents tolerated my constant whining so well. Every Christmas, I got what I had circled, though!”
Katie J: “I would circle all of the toys I wanted for Christmas and tear out the pages so Santa knew what I wanted. I was always excited to get the new book every year."
Mary Ann M.: “When Grandma brought the book home, all of us kids got a chance to look at it. Then we could dream of what we wanted. We didn’t know if we would get it or wouldn’t. We didn’t know sometimes Grandma would be watching and we got our wish and sometimes we didn’t. That’s how we knew she was watching.”
Dodie W.: “I remember when my mom and dad used to order our Christmas from Sears catalog. We used to be so excited as we only got gifts for Christmas. There were 12 children in our family and that probably was the only way Mom and Dad could afford our Christmas. So, it was a very Merry Christmas for the whole family.”
Betty R.: “We always had a Sears catalog. There were 10 children in our family and we each were allowed one special choice — within reason, of course. My choice was always some kind of a doll! A happy Christmas when ‘it’ was under the tree.”
Gary L.: “Looking in the books around Christmas time to see what to ask for and was always excited about train sets and toy guns.”
Mike M.: “When I was younger (a lot younger) my family did a lot of camping, especially on the weekends. We always went primitive camping. My brother, sister and I would always look at the Sears catalog for camping equipment (wish list). We always dreamed of a bigger tent, bigger cooler, a neat cooking stove, lantern or anything to make our camping easier.”
Lorraine P.: “The Wish Book was my favorite because all we could afford it, then it became reading material in the outhouse.”