Storekeepers are bemoaning the lack of enthusiasm for Black Friday shopping. Last night I sat in front of my computer and spent a couple of hours Christmas shopping. Will online shopping make up for all that was missed in the stores? Maybe.

I thought about the changes in shopping, and I’ve realized how much they have stayed the same as they were seventy years ago.

When my young grandsons come into my house, they check my magazine basket for Christmas catalogs they may not have received at home. They lie on the floor checking each page for what they might want. If they watch kids’ shows on TV, they are blasted with ads for the latest toy. Each boy has a wish list, one perhaps more realistic than another. Now I decide what gifts the child will get for Christmas from me. I order them online for delivery by the U.S. Post Office, or a package delivery service.

Contrast that with my childhood Christmases.

In early fall, two, thick Christmas catalogs came in our rural mailbox: Sears, Roebuck & Company and Montgomery Ward. For hours I sat and studied each item in them from clothes to toys skipping only stuff like tools. I listened to the radio kids’ shows “brought to you by” someone wanting to sell their latest toy or offering something very special with just five boxtops of “X” cereal. I made my Christmas wish list, right down to the page numbers. Mom and Dad decided what they could afford. Mom filled out the paper order in the catalog, mailed it, and waited for the U.S. Post Office to bring it to our home.

Just as today, we also shopped in stores. But honestly—what’s so different, except for the speed we can send an order or receive it?


  1. Truly, I don’t know. My parents usually went to Binghamton once during the Christmas buying season. At that time It was a very active city and had both a Montgomery Ward and a Sears store, and a street with three department stores and many smaller ones like today’s malls. I think in small towns they probably ordered at least some stuff.

  2. I suspect you’re right as it applies to rural areas, but did people living in cities order from catalogs as much or did they use them to make lists to take to the store? I’m asking because I’m curious.

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