Catalogs were ready-made Christmas lists

Published 8:00 pm Sunday, September 9, 2012

When I was a child, September meant I could look forward to two publications that to me were the highlights of the fall.

     Those were the Christmas catalogs from Sears and Roebuck and JC Penney. I haven’t seen any of these in recent years, but boy did I enjoy them back in the day.

     As soon as the Christmas catalogs starting showing up as in-store copies, I pored over them and eagerly awaited the arrival of my family’s own copies at home. In a way, these were ready-made Christmas lists for the folks.

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     To be honest, I was only interested in a few sections of the catalogs. And to be more specific, really only a few pages.

     My eyes quickly bypassed the men’s and women’s clothing pages and paused ever so briefly on any boys’ clothing pages. As if in an actual department store, I was headed straight for the toys.

     Once I arrived, my journey continued past the remote control cars and airplanes, the ant farms and science kits, and board games to the action figures pages.

     Let me stop here for a moment to say that boys hated the term “doll.” Barbies are dolls; G.I. Joes and “Star Wars” guys are action figures.

     Actually, I don’t remember the term “action figure” being used until the “Star Wars” toys came along in the late 1970s. So G.I. Joe may technically have been a doll, but I’m going to cling to my revisionist history phrasing.

     Also, keep in mind that during these times, there was no Internet with websites from retailers advertising the latest and the greatest in toys, clothing or whatever. TV commercials, newspaper ads and the catalogs were it.

     In my catalog search, I was eager to find whatever store exclusive item that may have only been able to be gotten through the book. While they may have been exciting, they also were pretty pricey and often did not make my Christmas wish list.

     What did make my list were the “big” items, like the “Star Wars” Death Star playset or a G.I. Joe helicopter (for the old 12-inch guys, not the 3.75-inch figures of more recent times). These items were things I would not be getting on the weekly trips to town with the parents.

     Of course, a number of these items were available in stores. However, having a catalog picture of the desired item for Mom to go by reduced the possibility of having something wrong under the tree.

     Once I’d looked to my heart’s content at the toys section, I’d make my way to the catalog’s sports stuff. This mostly included National Football League team logo clocks, blankets, jackets and the like.

      I liked seeing what new items were available each year. However, I was more often than not disappointed because 1. The items seemed pretty expensive (I tried to be conscious of the parents’ pocketbook when making my wish list) and 2. My favorite team, the Seattle Seahawks, was rarely included among the teams selected for the products. Those products highlighted the good teams of the era:  the Steelers, which I got sometimes; the Cowboys; Raiders; Dolphins and a handful of others.

     One of the more memorable sports-related toys I got from the catalog were generic football player action figures with team-specific helmets.

     These came with sheets of number stickers so I could make any player I wanted from the team. Over several Christmases, I managed to get all my favorite players on all my favorite teams.

     With presents like those under the tree, Christmas was always a happy time at the Coleman household. But the planning to make it so began with the holiday catalogs in September.

     That’s all for now.

     Write to Managing Editor Matthew Coleman at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven MS 39602, or send e-mail to