Where is the Wish Book?

After leafing through a small catalog mailer checking out the two page kid section, it was certainly far from grand as I remembered during my time when the Wish Book came in the mail at our house….just about this time of year, every year. For those that remember, The Wish Book was every child’s hopes and dreams to be eternally satisfied in gifts from Santa for the holiday season. The Wish Book was every parents dream to keep us busy marking the pages, even cutting out, and highlighting the most important choices that would be wrapped and placed under our Christmas tree. I made excuses to stay on the potty longer than usual, my posterior sore just to intensely study and plan with my Wish Book. This was no flimsy flyer. Published by Sears in the forties, fifties and 1960’s holiday additions where over 400 pages in length. In 1964,1968, and 1969 proudly boasted over 600 pages and it took two hands to carry. I finally cut out the Barbie I wanted and carried that around until Christmas.

How beautiful the dolls…. dressed in ruffles and fairyland colors just like it says in the book in 1964. There was Betsy Wetsy, the tiny kissing cousins, the exceptional Thumbelina. Barbie, Ken, Midge, Allan and Skipper, Barbies new dream house, vinyl cases and sculptured doll carriages priced as low as $4.98. Then there were pages of vanities with neatly filled cosmetic trays, Little Hostess Buffet, All in I kitchen in corrugated card board as well as all steel play kitchens and fully furnished Split level houses of sturdy steel for under $10.00 along with phonographs that never needed a tube replacement. There were tuck and touch needlepoint sets that were never that easy. There were paint by number which were my favorite that I still do.

Of course there were the 3 speed bikes, Gilbert train sets, Ford J slot cars, Gemini rocket to blast to the moon,walkiestalkies with code buttons to send secret messages. There were the electric build it sets and basic science club kits, chemical sets and wood burning sets in all shapes and sizes with an actual analog computer for only 5.88. Gas and battery powered miniature cars and planes and at one point motorized erector sets. Make things work boys, with your own 53 piece workshop with a workbench to match for under 20 dollars. And there were plenty of guns from the newest assault rifle to the western marshal outfit.

We both had view masters with our collection of pictures from Cinderella, Bambi, Batman and the Man from Uncle as well as an etch a sketch for under 3 dollars. I guess those were like our cell phones today. We both played music. For the boys, it was Roy Rogers Guitar, an accordion and girls tended to receive pianos in all different sizes.

And what about the games for the entire family? There was dominos, chess, checkers of all types,along with CandyLand, Cootie House, Dr. Kildare, Lie Detector, Dick Tracy, Snakes Alive, battery operated table top Pinballs.

And believe it or not, my wish book has finally arrived once again. Not in the form of back breaking print but I can peruse through the pages of several Sears catalogs from my time at Wishbookweb.com. I can thumb through the entire catalog while sitting on the potty with my phone.

I wonder if I could place an order too!

Aww…..the good old days!

Ageless antiques

By Caryl Clem

My favorite house guest has character, dependability and makes every inch of space occupied functional. If this doesn’t sound like any person you know, it’s because my guest is an 1870’s oak Eastlake side table serving as my T.V. stand.  Every room has an honored guest that fits in with contemporary décor. When I first met these characters, the original finish was degraded or entirely gone, or the structure needed re-gluing; their rescue was decided by the design and wood quality.  The most important factor in saving an antique or aging furniture piece is the quality of durable wood found in walnut, mahogany, oak, cherry, maple and teak.

Trends keep older furniture in the limelight.  Retro is still “hot”, and has been going strong for several years.  Young shoppers seek the clean lines of 1970’s mid- Modern Danish teak style. The 1950’s chrome kitchen sets, Acme Chrome was a main distributor; production of those products is still done by the subsidiary company, ACCRO Furniture Industries. Restoring a kitchen table relic in your family can be done if the rust residue is minimal. Removing the old finish completely and then using the correct paint can bring back an original appearance.

The rebirth of the buffet or sideboard has been emerging for the past 3 years. Originally designed for the dining room to store fine linens, serving pieces and silverware, currently used as  T.V. stands in the bedroom, or a plant table under a large window with storage to hide miscellaneous, or in the back of a large walk in closet.  Buffets come in a huge assortment of sizes and style and before 1960 the majority will have dove tailed drawers with solid wood construction. Stripping any finish made after 1940 involves breaking down the plastic added to the stains. Plastic in a stain seals with fewer coats, adds shine but scratches easily.  Restoring a rubbed oil finish adds the most value, while painting is a popular option demanding less time and preparation. Auctions for furniture online exist.  Sites to explore the possibilities are at Etsy also.

Primitive furniture is irreplaceable, made by a craftsman not a company, truly one of kind, unique. The lumber found in the area was shaped into furniture for family use. Cherry, Oak and Maple were dominant over pine and softer woods.  Farm animal troughs, cupboards, harvest tables and dressers made after Illinois farmland was claimed after the Indian Removal Act can still be found. Often a primitive piece will have several coats of paint.  Another sign of age are rounded wood peg nails.

Chicago’s furniture production was second in the nation by 1920, New York was number one.  Chicago’s Wards and Sears catalogs sold any piece of furniture desired. For example, industrialization in the early 1900’s led to 26 furniture companies in Rockford, Illinois.

Saving any piece from the past is a worthwhile venture. Furniture made today is rarely solid wood. Plastic, wood ground up with fillers bonded by glue and covered with a laminate surface floods the current market. The heavier a piece that looks like wood is, the more likely it is a wood compound. Anyone who has carried a can of paint knows how much a blend of chemicals can weigh.  Authentic wood needs moisture, oil and smart cleaning, no water. Expensive wood construction is done with no screws or nails.   Whatever that antique piece is chances are it can be revived and become a valued member of your household guests.

Stretching your pennies and dollars

By Caryl Clem:

As the weather progresses towards spring, the winter wardrobe dominated by dark colors casts a shadow on ensuing longer and brighter days. January was the warmest on record for over 25 years, and February followed that same trend.  If you are thinking about Easter finery, decorating or just wearing lighter, brighter clothing turn your shopping navigator towards a charity thrift store. You can shop guilt free knowing you are helping others.

The growth of the resale market keeps climbing in sales. In previous times, a stigma was attached to shopping at a thrift store; it meant you were poor. The thrift store image has undergone a major face lift.  There is a web site devoted to catchy thrift store names. Federal funding assists Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries operations as well as many other charitable organizations. Social media is a vehicle for advertising merchandise, sales and reward points. The finer merchandise from charities can be found on E-Bay.  Retail stores donate inventory to reduce loss costs, tags from the store can be seen on the dresses and gowns. You can find designer wear clothing hanging on a rack for a price 75% cheaper than in a store. Hospitals, churches, and multiple charity causes sponsor thrift store locations.

Several categories consistently save big bucks. Kitchen appliances and cookware at thrift stores average 50% less than retail prices. For example, a food dehydrator new was $10 dollars vs. over $50 at Wal-Mart,  a Calphalon skillet and lid $5.00, over $38.00 online, Mr. Coffee machine $3 vs. $18 at Target. If you need furniture, you can find end tables under $50.00 that feature names like Bassett or Kincaid. A new couch will cost under $300 or used under $150 and less depending on condition of material.  An Ashley couch for $500 looks just like a couch for $125 in the Libertyville location of Saint Vincent DePaul. Another frequently bought item, shoes unless otherwise marked are $3.00.  Purses are $3.00 unless a designer name. Readers, browse our bookshelves, books are 30 cents including hardcovers.  Thrift stores are a soup to nuts treasure hunt.

With the Paying It Forward Movement, spreading good deeds should include supporting the charity of your choice.  It’s a win/win move to spend your dollars helping others.  Salvation Army ranks as the 4th biggest charity on Forbes 2019 list while Goodwill was ranked as 14thSparrows Nest Thrift Stores – Home of the Sparrow supports abused women with 8 locations in the Chicago suburbs. I volunteer at Saint Vincent DePaul where a customer in the store could be a neighbor, flood victim, cancer patient, newly homeless due to a family disaster, fire disaster victim or frugal bargain hunter. The members of SVDP screen applicants and provide household items and clothes at no cost to those in immediate need.  Everyone in the store is treated with dignity and respect while helping them locate necessary items.