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Mail Order Catalogs

Country at Heart

In my childhood world of the 1950s, we didn't have television nor a wide assortment of books and magazines, so our entertainment came partially from leafing through mail order catalogs. That's where my fondest dreams were created.

Magazines were rare, and whenever we got a hold of one ... any kind, we leafed through it until we couldn't turn the pages anymore. Some people called mail order catalogs "dream books." Whenever they saw us gazing in a catalog, they'd say, "I see you're dreaming again," which was more true than not.

Waiting for the new Spiegel catalog was the highlight of my life. Once it arrived, it was like finding that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I'd thumb through the pages for hours, checking every blouse, skirt, dress and shoe, knowing that I would probably only get one item, but wishing is still a lot of fun, and wishing, I did.

I still remember a dress that Mother bought me and my younger sister. They were identical ... black/white plaid skirt and solid black velvet top. They were fine dresses, I mean, too cute. If my memory serves me correctly, they were ordered from Spiegel and purchased for us to wear on our next trip to visit our cousins in Louisiana. You know how those impressions go. When you visit relatives, you have to be dressed up so they'll think you're doing a lot better than you really are.

My mother had an account with some of these catalogs, and when she could afford it, she'd order us clothes and shoes. The system then is pretty much the same as today. For us, everything was on credit, meaning you had an account, and whatever you wanted was charged to this intangible account that was paid off in small increments.

The other day, I was thinking about how, as a child, I didn't care how or where my mother got money to buy us things. All I cared about was that the things came. Well, that's the way children are. Kids don't think like adults, and that's the way it's supposed to be. Then again, I realize that even as poor as we were, things weren't as expensive back then as they are now. Even though poor, country people had a little extra cash every now and then.

I didn't know, until a few years ago, that Spiegel still exist. I hadn't seen their catalogs since I was a child. More than 50 years had passed when I saw their catalog again.

Back then, there was Spiegel, Montgomery Ward, Sears, and J.C. Penny. My memory doesn't serve me well enough to say that Mother had accounts with all of those order houses, but I specifically remember Spiegel.

Some people frown on credit, but while billing may be a bit expensive and exploitative, it's convenient and helpful for many who can't afford to buy everything with cash.

So thanks Mr. Mail-order Catalog men for your dream books filled with life's most beautiful things.

nebraskadave
1/22/2014 6:42:50 AM

AG, yes, I remember the nostalgia of those mail order catalogs. Of course as boys go, we weren't looking at clothes but the toys and BB guns and such. Sears and Wards were to two main ones. As you say, the pages were old and wrinkled from being turned so much by the time the new catalog arrived the next year. Mail order was a great thing for those that lived in the country. I started life in the country and back then even fireworks were ordered through the mail. By the time I was 10 we had moved to the city. I got one more taste of country life the last two years of high school before leaving the nest to find my way in the world. Those early years never left me and my desire was always to return to the country but that just never happened. Now my passion is for urban farming. It seems to have been my destiny all along. ***** Have a great mail order catalog day.