Monday, December 21, 2015
Memory Bank: The Sears "Wish Book" Catalog (Circa 1979)
Recently, I tried explaining to my eight-year old son, Joel, the idea of ordering items from a catalog.
I explained that it’s like ordering something from Amazon.com, only your choices are more limited, you can’t buy the items online, and you have to wait longer to receive your toy.
He didn’t see the appeal.
But when I was growing up, it was tremendously exciting to order from a catalog, or I should say from one catalog in particular.
Every year, Sears sent out a mammoth Christmas catalog or “Wish Book,” a hugely fat inventory of everything it sold, from appliances and clothes to toys galore.
One of the Wish Books that I’m remembering today -- from the year 1979 -- was illustrated with the tag-line “Where America Shops For Value.”
Forget value, I just wanted space toys.
The 1979 Sears Wishbook Catalog had ‘em too.
From Page 613 thru 620 in that catalog, there was everything a 1970s space-kid could possibly desire: toys from Mego’s Micronauts, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Star Wars, and Star Trek too. There were models, play-sets, toy action figures…the works.
And the great thing about Sears was that it not only offered toys you could find elsewhere, it also offered exclusive toys, like the Star Wars knock-off playset called “The Star Fortress” (seen on page 617). I’ve covered this toy before on the blog, but the giant fold-out space base has a position of honor in my home office to this day.
Another Sears exclusive from the same era (although it may have been first sold in 1978…) was the Star Wars “The Cantina Adventure Set” (not to be confused with the Creature Cantina). The legend in the catalog read “If you stop at this cantina, watch out for strangers.”
This diorama of the exterior of the Mos Eisely drinking hole came with four new Kenner action figures that were unavailable elsewhere: Greedo, Hammerhead, Walrus Man, and Blue Snaggletooth. The Blue Snaggletooth has become a highly-prized collectible.
Without me knowing, my Mom ordered me the Cantina Adventure Set, and I loved it.
I kept it intact until about two years ago when the diorama base finally ripped. But it’s the item I remember most from the catalog.
After I received the toy in the mail, I would play adventures with Sheriff Snaggletooth and Deputy Hammerhead. They’d drive the land speeder around Mos Eisely, catching the gangsters Greedo and Walrus Man.
Back in the 1970s I loved coming home from school and finding in the mail either the next week’s issue of TV Guide (so I could see if Star Trek or Space:1999 was playing…), but it was a day of absolute delight and toy nirvana when the Wish Book arrived.
I still remember the feel and scent of the Wish Book catalog's pages. I remember poring over those toy pages too, imagining adventures with Buck Rogers, the Micronauts, the Cantina, and that Space Fortress...