From Pipi’s Pasture: The Christmas catalogs

Diane Prather/For Craig Press
Pipi's Pasture

All this week, television networks have been featuring stories about holiday shopping and its record sales, especially online shopping. So I’ve been thinking about how far things have come over the years. It is mind-boggling to think that a person can sit home in her pajamas and browse merchandise at leisure, pushing buttons to order Christmas presents!

So all of this takes me back to a time when my sisters and I were growing up on the ranch. I’m thinking of a time when I was probably 7 or 8 years old and my sisters just behind me. Our brother hadn’t been born then. We certainly didn’t have any of today’s technology then; for years we didn’t have television. However we did get to browse through Christmas merchandise — in our pajamas, too.

We looked forward to receiving the Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck Christmas catalogs, which arrived in the mail around Thanksgiving. We spent hours looking over the pages of colorful photos displaying gift selections. We no doubt fought over the catalogs, too.

We probably checked the dolls out first. Laid out on the pages were pictures of the dolls and all the accessories that went with them. With baby dolls, for example, you might get a blanket, another outfit, diapers, powder, bath items, a baby bottle — some of the newer doll models “wet” — and other items. We studied the dolls; we wondered what it would be like to have them for our own. There was quite a selection, too, of both baby and older dolls.

There were other toys for playing with dolls, too, such as dish sets — some complete with tiny teapots, cups, plates, and silverware — baking sets, and child-size stoves and refrigerators. We imagined cleaning up, too, with a broom, mop, and dust pan.

Especially intriguing was a doctor kit. The picture showed a stethoscope, bandages, pill bottles, toy syringe, and more, all carried in a doctor’s bag. Boy, would we ever have liked to try it out. The catalog offered all kinds of games, building sets, books, games, and paints, and more! We browsed through it all — even the gifts for adults.

After savoring the catalog for a few days, we started marking in it. We put our names next to gifts that we wanted. We made Santa wish lists. We pretended to make out orders. We even played a game with the catalogs. We’d choose a catalog, close it up, and then, without looking, open it randomly and then pretend that we got whatever was on the opened pages as prizes.  

After awhile the catalogs got to look pretty raggedy. We saved them for hours of fun all year long, waiting until the next Christmas season so we could savor the bright, new catalogs. No matter that we didn’t have today’s technology.

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