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 houseā€¦.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!

Service Merchandise

On a vacation break watching Buzzer TV, I happened to watch a few of the Concentration Game Shows with Alex Trebek in the 1980’s and you could win a beautiful diamond necklace from Service Merchandise. I did not know diamonds where part of their catalog showroom. Lucille Ball was a regular advertising the jewelry from Service Merchandise on commercials; including many other stars. The Chicagoland area had 24 stores. My first experience was at Lakehurst Mall in Waukegan in the 1980’s where I bought a phone answering machine! They were located in Orland, Berwyn, Deerfield to name just a few. Originally opening in 1934 as a small five and dime then became a catalogue showroom 1960 in Nashville founded by Harry and Mary Zimmerman. Service Merchandise was also a prominent sponsor of Wheel of Fortune.

In the mid 1990s, the hand-filled paper forms were replaced with barcoded pull tags placed on/near each item in the showroom. For non-jewelry orders, customers would enter the showroom and receive a carbon-paper order form and clipboard to record the catalog numbers of desired items The jewelry department was in the center of the store operating on a first come basis. Items were displayed in working order in the showroom, allowing customers to test products as they shopped. 

This was changed in the late 1980’s with computer kiosks and changed again in the 1990’s where there was touch screen serives. However, a recession would slow business even further. Places like Circuit City and Best Buy began to take over as well discount options which included Walmart andTarget.

They also tried drive through windows but that didn’t work finally closing the largest catalog retail empire in 2001 due to bankruptcy and disappearing catalog business. It had reached its peak in 1994 with over 4 billion in sales.