My mention of the Sears catalog in one of my blogs elicited the response, “That ages you.” I never thought remembering a catalog could age me, but now that I think about it, my kids aren’t familiar with the Sears catalog. And although I don’t have a problem with my 48 years here on earth, the department stores of yore came flooding back with Christmas memories my children missed out on.
I remember pouring over the Sears catalog when I was a child. We usually lived in the country or a remote town, so it was our only source of shopping during the school year. Best of all, right before the Christmas season the “Wish Book” would arrive in the mail. I would pour over it all season, circling the toys I wanted; tattering the pages before my visit to Santa.
One year the catalog came in the mail and I eagerly flipped through its pages, but found nothing I was interested in. I don’t remember how old I was, but I had outgrown the draw of toys. I felt sad that year and struggled to regain my Christmas cheer. My mother suggested an art box, which I agreed to, but it really wasn’t the same.
The catalog was still mailed the year I got married. I looked through the Wish Book that December with renewed interest, in anticipation of having children of my own. But Sears quit distributing their catalogs in 1993, keeping only their Craftsman tool catalog. So by the time my oldest was born in 1995, there was no “Wish Book” to pour over when my kids were growing up. They had other holiday catalogs to look at, but nothing was as captivating or thorough as that Wish Book.In 2007, Sears started printing their specialty catalogs again, including their Wish Book. But it doesn’t come in my mailbox; if it had it would have just caught the last bit of my children’s toy years.
Then there is Nordstrom. I was most familiar with Nordstrom for shoes because my mother believed in sturdy, leather shoes for children, not tennis shoes. Their mascot Nordy was what pulled my sister and I there. He was some sort of weird, blob of a creature with a big nose. We could get Nordy balloons and "I love Nordy" buttons.
Nordy is supposed to resemble a shoe horn (who knew?), not some weird creature out of a child's closet. He was friendly, though, with his big nose and smile. Periodically, they bring Nordy back, as they did when I took my oldest daughter as a toddler there for shoes. She didn’t care about Nordy, preferring instead to tromp over the little bridge they had in the middle of the children’s shoe department.
At Christmas time Nordstrom’s was magical. My parents would make the drive from our home in Eastern Washington to visit the Nordstrom Santa, make the train in the window run by matching our hand up to the one on the glass and to see the lights of the city. But these days with so many outlying malls closer to home, I’ve never taken my children into Seattle to experience Nordstrom at its finest. I don’t even know if it’s still the magical Christmas place it used to be.
Remember Frederick and Nelson and the Bon Marché? Those were the stores my grandmother loved the most; to her they were fancy and posh. On the Christmases we would spend with my grandparents, she would take us to those stores for after Christmas sales.
Frederick & Nelson closed in May of 1992 and the Seattle building was taken over by Nordstrom. My grandmother had died in March of 1992 and probably turned over in her grave when Frederick and Nelson closed.
The Bon Marche never actually closed, but merged with the owners of Macy's (my grandmother may have turned back over, but I can't be sure). It became Bon-Macy's for a short time, then in 2005, the Bon part was dropped with the stores being renamed Macy's Northwest. In 2008, it merged with Macy's west division based in San Francisco.Reminiscences of the Sears catalog, Nordy, Frederick & Nelson and the Bon Marché may age me, but to me they are the ageless memories of my youth.
Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Covington. She is committed to writing about the humor amidst the chaos of a family. You can also read more of her writing and her daily blog on her website livingwithgleigh.com. Her column is available every week at maplevalleyreporter.com under the Lifestyles section.