UP NOLAN CREEK: Christmas wishes
Wednesday, 31 October 2012 by Wayne Carpenter
I know it isn't time for Christmas, stay with me for a second and I'll explain. Every once in a while an incident occurs, and for just a moment one is transported back several decades. At least that is true at my house; perhaps this is a sure sign of aging, but nonetheless, it happens. Just such a moment occurred the other day when Sam, our friendly and efficient mailman, delivered four catalogs to our mailbox in a single day. Nevermind we had never ordered nor intended to order anything from any of those vendors, yet the arrival of those catalogs reminded me of the 1950s when sometime each and every autumn, the mailman would deliver the stuff of childhood dreams— the new Christmas catalog.
In an age where most of us have a large variety of retail outlets to choose from, and the option of buying any and everything with a click of a button through the miracle of the Internet, it is a little hard to imagine Belton, and most small Texas towns in the 1950s, when the options for shopping were very limited. Not to mention the reality that money needed to buy goodies was in very short supply. Long before the Wal-Marts and the Toys R Us of the world existed, the only opportunity for boys and girls to dream big dreams about all the toys one could ever want were contained in the "wish books" mailed out by Sears and Roebuck, Montgomery Wards (aka: "monkey wards") and J.C. Penny every year. Since the catalogs arrived well before Christmas, kids had a long time to pick out every imaginable toy they desperately "needed" Santa Claus to bring them. Everything a child of elementary age could ever possibly want was pictured in those catalogs. There were toys targeted for girls such as Dale Evans cowgirl outfits, dolls of every description with houses designed just for them, the latest girl's fashions, miniature kitchen sets, and bicycles. You name it they had it. As for me, toy train sets by Lionel always topped my list. If I had every train set I longed for, they would have filled up our house. That didn't happen! They also had Daisy air rifles or bb guns, as we called them, that every boy wanted. Micky Mantle baseball gloves and Davy Crockett outfits with those neat-o coonskin caps were always on my list. My parents always reminded me that I wouldn't receive everything I wished for, and cutting down my extensive wish list to two or three items was excruciating work. It required many long hours perusing every single page in each catalog. One year I completely wore out the section of the Sears catalog featuring bicycles. The catalog featured a photo of the most beautiful J.C. Higgins bicycle ever made, which I knew in my heart would be the greatest gift in the world. I assured my parents that it would be the last thing I would ever ask for if it appeared under our tree on Christmas morning. The bike, an English racer, appeared to my longing eyes as an absolute marvel of modern engineering. Unlike all the other bikes I had ridden, this one had three speeds, hand brakes, and a chrome front fender! It couldn't get any better than that if you were eight years old in the mid-fifties.
These days many of the catalogs arriving at our house have unexciting items such as clothes for the "mature" adult and comfortable shoes for our aching feet. AARP sends us a constant barrage of flyers giving us opportunities to purchase discount prescription drugs, trifocals, medical alert bracelets, and burial insurance. I receive multiple catalogs successfully enticing me to buy cool stuff for my motorcycle, and Ann views catalogs chocked full of cooking and kitchen gear. The mail also includes a catalog called Victoria's Secrets, but I am not allowed to look at that one.
Today our grandkids have many more toys than we ever did, and they can see all the latest toys at stores, on television, and online, but I wouldn't trade my memories of hours spent dreaming over the magic possibilities contained in the old Christmas catalogs for anything.