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How We Loved Sears and Roebuck!

Monday 22 October 2018 at 2:02 pm.

This article by Ray Spitzemberger first appeared in IMAGES for October 18, 2018, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.

            It’s true, I write and talk a lot about the good old days, perhaps even to the extent of being obsessed with the past. Of course, I’m not alone, there are plenty other people around, especially older ones, who express a great deal of nostalgia for bygone days.

            No doubt that’s why the Business News headlines this week were so disturbing to me. After many days of media speculation about the impending bankruptcy of Sears, it was announced on Monday that Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with plans to close 142 more stores. As the media reported the falling off of sales in Sears stores and their stock dropping on NASDEQ, I hoped they were wrong, because Sears has always been close to my heart, and these company downturns were like watching a dear friend dealing with serious problems. But Monday’s news confirmed my worst fears.

            Originally, Sears Roebuck and Company, as they were known back in my growing up days, was founded as a catalog business, with its primary customers being rural folks. Sears and Roebuck meant a lot to me and my family in the 1930’s and 1940’s, and to most of rural America.

            In those days, they were awesome, -- you could order, through the mail, almost anything thing from them, including a house ready to be assembled. The house was delivered to you with directions for putting it together, board by board. The Isenhower family in Lissie once ordered and erected a house from Sears which still stands today.

            You could, believe it or not, order real dogs from Sears, -- they were probably hunting dogs, but I don’t remember for sure. And grave markers, -- you could order a tombstone by mail order.

            One of the most vivid memories from my childhood is the arrival of the Sears and Roebuck Christmas catalog. People today cannot imagine the joy, the delight, the wonderment my brother and I felt when my parents brought that Christmas wish book home from the Post Office! We wanted everything in the book!

            Of course, being a family of limited means, we were allowed to choose only two items from the great book. One of my choices was always a water color set, and Sears had three levels, the Basic Set, the Basic-Plus Set, and the Deluxe Set, the higher the level, the higher the cost. I knew better than to ask for the highest level. Nothing gave me more joy than getting one of those watercolor sets for Christmas. Even the Basic Set sounded good to me.

            The catalog had a huge selection of men’s denim overalls, very popular items for families living in rural areas like ours. Much of the time, my father wore overalls and so did my brother and I. There were dress clothes, too, even men’s suits.

            My mother ordered baby chicks from the catalog, and so did many other people in Dime Box. I remember going downtown to our little Post Office, and, a block away, you could hear hundreds of little “peep, peep, peep’s” coming from the open windows of the P.O. As a child, that delighted me enormously.

            Wood stoves and wood heaters were available through the catalog market, also kerosene cook stoves and heaters. Not to mention those new-fangled electric refrigerators!

            In a sense, I suppose, Sear and Roebuck was the amazon.com of the 1930’s and 1940’s, and we bought many wonderful items that were not available in local retail stores, at prices we could afford. “Good ole Sears and Roebuck,” we used to say.

            So what has happened to them? Pundits are busy trying to answer that question, with all sorts of explanations, but I don’t think anybody knows for sure. I still have a warm spot in my heart for Sears and always will.


Ray Spitzenberger is a retired college speech and English teacher and a retired Lutheran pastor.

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