Toy Catalogs

Today included in my copy of the HERALD, I received my first toy ‘catalog’ of the season, a promotion of a national chain whose store is located locally.  It is not for older readers, however, since so many of the items included are known only to the current generation; most of the so called electronic items are bewildering to the eyes of the ancients or near-so.  It seems that most or at least many of the offerings are take-offs on some popular game, book, movie or television show, a sure way to achieve a built in promotional advantage.  Included are such desirable Christmas favorites as Barbie, Toy Story, Mega Bloks, Star Wars, Mattel, Dragon, Transformers, Iron Man, Lego, Nerf and Air Hogs, many  battery operated and that just covers pages 1-17 of the 50+ page catalog.  There are infinitely many more Santa things for the little minds to envy.
I must admit that I have heard of Lego, Star Wars  and Barbie out of those listed but that’s about it.  I am sure that if you presented this list to almost any 6 year old, he/she could readily identify all or nearly all of the names.  This just goes to show you how out of touch I and most of my peers are with today’s marketing.
Too, as any good marketing strategy executive would be acutely aware, the prices of most of these items are within reason meaning they would be within the budget of most parents.  However, there are some big ticket items running into the hundreds of dollars but then, there has to be something for every budget including for those who have won the lottery.
But this catalog is a far cry from one particular toy catalog I knew and loved when I was growing up in the 1930s.  It was the iconic SEARS TOY (called the “Wish Book”) CATALOG that was anxiously anticipated as soon as school began.  It was a supplement to the larger (about 1000 pages) Sears Catalog that most rural families received in the mail each year.  Incidentally, because of its size and because of the need for paper for personal family use, the catalog was never simply thrown away.
But there was no toy listed in that particular catalog that was not familiar to me.  Hardly anything needed batteries for example.  Depending on the gender, there was something for every member of the family, and it could be “mail” ordered similar to ordering today online except there was a mail order form that had to be carefully filled out which included some form of money other than a credit card, unknown back then.
I recall some of my favorites that are hardly ever seen in today’s offerings, some not now politically correct.  There was the famous Red Ryder  (and Daisy) air rifle, the Lincoln log set, the Old Maid card game, Tinker  Toy, cap pistols with genuine leather “quick draw” holster just like in the movies, a wide selection of (now forbidden) knives, dolls (not ethnically diverse) for the girls, all kinds of holiday sweets, a variety of “wind up” mechanical toys, toy train sets (Lionel), cowboy (and Indian) outfits with leather fringe, Lone Ranger items including his secret code details, bicycles for those with unlimited budgets and other selections that have faded from memory.
While there is something to be said for the gee-whiz things available for the young today, still, what I grew up with plus my imagination surely equals anything available today.  I think of the story of the little boy who was given this wrapped, expensive toy for Christmas and guess what he enjoyed most?  It was the box in which it came because if gave him an opportunity to act out his own fantasies.
And Santa, please bring batteries …   not included.*
Bill Lee
PO Box 128
Hamer, SC 29547

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