It is the time of year that brings a fond remembrance for folks of my generation and those from the generations slightly before. When we were younger, we were not blessed with the internet. We had no Amazon or eBay from which to compile our list of Christmas wants and wishes. My brother and I would fight to see who could pick out what we wanted from Santa Claus. We would wrestle that great book from each others hands and go page by page, methodically creating our Christmas list. The book I am talking about is the Sears Christmas Wish Book.
The Wish Book, as you recall, was enormous. Six hundred pages of everything you could get at Sears. There were the Toughskins clothes you knew Mom and Dad would get for you. There were sporting goods and outdoor supplies. Imagine unwrapping that .22 rifle from your favorite page on Christmas morning. That would have beat that silly Red Ryder any day. On the opposite page were the mini-bikes and go-karts. I was a twin, so we never thought Mom would get us each a go-kart, so in our minds, we settled for the two-seater with its wide frame and bench seat. Of course, my brother insisted that he would drive. We were fighting over it before we even got it. Mom had the last laugh, because we never did get that go-kart. Our fighting was unnecessary after all. When I finally got on a mini-bike a few years later, I discovered it was really fun until you hit a fence — and then it wasn’t so much fun anymore. I haven’t gotten on one since.
I realize that this tale of the Wish Book has been told from a decidedly male perspective. Mostly this is because I am male and I’m reasonably certain my brother is as well. We looked at the toy cars and the rifles and shotguns and things that went fast. My wife has told me it was no different for girls, but she went a step further than we and actually calculated the prices of the items she desired, complete with subtotal and total with applicable New York state sales tax. I am not sure what the sales tax was then in New York, but I can probably imagine her father helped with that part. She wanted me to tell the readers of this column that she, too, liked the toy cars and action figures and things that went fast. She also really wanted the Barbie Corvette and the three-story Dream House. I don’t know if she got either.
I recently discovered a website that has a lot of the old Wish Books in digital format online. I’d be lying if I said I did not just spend a few hours leafing through the old Wish Books. For an hour or three (or four) I was an 8-year-old kid again, picking out the cool things I was certain I would get for Christmas. I found one thing I had wanted more than anything on one of the pages in the 1977 Wish Book. It was a battery-operated police chase playset where a little mechanical police car chased a little red sedan on a track. In 1977, it was $12.95. That amounts to a whopping $52.64 in today’s money, according to the CPI Inflation Calculator website. We were not a rich family. I understand now why my mother didn’t just run over to Sears and get this for us.
Looking through the old Sears Wish Books, it was no surprise that I found myself taken back to a much simpler time. Readers of this column aren’t really surprised when I mention I am nostalgic. I do miss the era when everything wasn’t so instant and quick. Christmas was commercial, but nowhere near as much as now. We’re having a simple Christmas this year, now that the kids are grown and moved away. My wife and I have talked about what we want for Christmas this year. My wife would just like for our girls to have a safe and happy Christmas.
What I would like is on the top of page 573 of the 1977 Wish Book.