Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ah Yes, Catalogs

Montgomery Ward, Spiegel, J. C. Penny, and Sears and Roebucks, all played a significant and integral part in most older people’s lives. Their arrival of these mail order books at each season of the year was a much anticipated event. It necessitated our daily visits to the mailbox, checking to see if the catalogs had magically appeared yet. Women, boys, and girls were the most affected, wanting to peruse the treasure trove of items that were offered for sale between the covers. When it arrived, we were often mesmerized and enticed by the myriad of colored photos showing the fashionable clothing, the shoes, and of course the toys. Men tended to wait patiently until the hubbub died to search the brochure’s pages for boots, shoes, ties, and hunting supplies.
As kids, we often chose a comfortable spot on the floor looking at bicycles, games, sleds, and other toys. When the newness of items wore off, we boys would look at the women’s undergarments, titillated by seeing tiny portions bare flesh. Another game we created was to look at the catalog by scanning each page. We were forced to select one item from each page, something that we would want from the opened offering. Often it became difficult and we would skip some pages when women’s clothing was the only items from which to choose.
Slowly the newness of the catalog would wear off. It would become worn with its edges tattered from much handling. It would be tossed into some corner until it was finally relegated to the outhouse. Here the preference for the type of pages shifted immensely. When the catalog was new, we became enamored over the glossy photo pages. Beautiful pages that stirred desire in our hearts. They now had a different use and the dull plain pages were the most sought after. The dull paper would soften when balled up then straightened while the glossy made sharp corners that felt uncomfortable when used. Besides, with the shiny paper very little stuck to it and made a clean derriere almost impossible. In the chill of winter, we tried to keep time in the unheated shanty at a minimum.

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