Somewhere between Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and December 1, kids growing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s anxiously awaited for what we called the annual Christmas wish books. Actually, they were the yearly Christmas catalogs put out by then Sears & Roebuck and Spiegel.
Despite the fact there was plenty of TV advertising announcing the latest in toy technology, it seems that that the “wish books” made things official. It was sort of like they got the sanction from Santa Claus himself.
The catalogs came in a brown paper wrapper but a kid could recognize what it was by the green Christmas wreath or tree on the packaging. Besides, the “wish book” was considerably smaller than the two traditional seasonal catalogs – spring and summer and winter and fall – the mail order companies produced each year.
Up near the front of the catalog was the adult stuff like clothes, appliances and other items with special holiday prices. Yuk! However, about half of the “wish book” was devoted to toys, toys and more toys. Of course, we guys would skip over the dolls, dollhouses and Easy Bake Oven items specifically targeted for the girls. It was on to the latest toy guns, soldiers, cars and sports items. Of course, there were plenty of gender-neutral items like games, bikes, hula-hoops, etc.
Once you had the “wish book” in hand it was time to start making that Santa Claus list. Somehow in the back of your mind you knew Mom and Dad were going to make a short list of the items placed on the “want list.” Mom would tell us to make a “most wanted list.”
Looking at the “wish book” became almost a daily ritual during the holiday season. By the time Christmas rolled around the catalog pages had become quite worn. I almost wish I had kept at least one copy of one of those old catalogs. It would almost be like looking at a Norman Rockwell painting – a true piece of Americana.
I haven't seen a Christmas wish book in years. We still may have received them when Christina and Cameron were growing up. Before I finally sat down to write this column, I kept wondering what a Christmas wish book might look like today. So, I glanced at a circular Wal-Mart printed called Toyland Wish List Book. It was 48 pages dedicated strictly to toys.
Frankly, I didn't see very many familiar sights. Barbie is still around and has been since 1959. The Disney and Lego names are also still around but with drastically different products. Of course, stuffed animals are still very popular but the critters are different. You don't see very many Teddy Bears anymore.
What ever happened to Lincoln Logs and electric football? Nearly every boy wanted a punching bag. Glow Boards and Light Sketchers have since replaced coloring books and crayons. Lego Monster Fighters and Star Wars took the place of Lincoln Logs for youngsters who want to build and video games have long since supplanted electric football.
Page 2 of 2 - The super heroes are still around but instead of Superman, Spiderman and the Avengers including the Incredible Hulk are the heroes of choice. Hot Wheels and Sesame Street products have been popular for quite a long time. View Masters have gone the way of the dinosaur while toy outlets continue to stock their shelves with ever popular games such as Monopoly, which of course is now complete with credit cards to deal with our tough economic times.
I was amazed to discover that people today actually engage in tabletop games. Candy Land, Cootie, Chutes and Ladders and Clue have been around for generations. It was also comforting to note that footballs, basketballs and air hockey continue to be popular Christmas toys – call them evergreens.
Well, I guess it's finally time to close the book on a trip down Christmas memory lane. It sure was fun looking at all that stuff and dreaming of what you would have done with it. In the long run Santa knew what was best. In some cases, the boxes were almost as fun as the toy that came in it.