Columns — 01 November 2017

Published: October 25, 2017 

BY RHONDA BECKMAN

My sister just informed me that Sears will no longer be in existence, and there goes an era of catalog shopping and the demise of yet another Canadian department store. We all have our stories of going through the Sears Christmas catalog. It was always skinnier than the Fall catalog that came out, and man, the toy section was absolutely epic. I have a visual of my sister and I in our long flannel pajamas, our hair wet from just getting out of the bath, grabbing a blanket and sitting over the furnace vent, nestled together going page by page through the catalog while playing a game of “Pick-Pick”.

Pick-Pick was a game where we were allowed to pick something on each page and basically imagine that we could actually have it. There were rules to this game, though. You weren’t allowed to jump ahead and look at the next page, and you were not allowed to pick the same thing as your sister. It meant that you had to be fast on the draw and scan the page quickly and high ball the best products available. You also needed to ensure you had a fast second-best pick. I honestly think that playing this game was part of the reason my sister and I were sharp shooters when it came to hunting and the reason my dad called me, “One-shot Bobinski”. I had a fast trigger finger with skilled perception for the finest things. Pick-Pick also ensured that we were “up with the times” with the latest fashions, and knew who was spoiled when they bragged after Christmas holidays of all the toys they got from Santa. I think I told you the story of wanting a Cabbage Patch Kid in the WORST way and not getting one, and ended up making one for myself out of pantyhose. In retrospect, it was a smart thing for parents of a creative, tenacious kid to do. I really went all out on that doll and had it for years.

I remember that the initial pages of the Sears Christmas catalog were organized by price, starting with a $5 or $10 page spread that made me feel like “I could handle this” and buy gifts for everyone in my family. As I flipped through the pages, and the prices increased, I went back to playing “Pick-Pick” in my head and wished for those things for my family and friends. Sears may be one of the reasons that I took my first job at 12; the pressure to be a consumer to give to others was real!

But one of my favourite times of year was when we were allowed to play a REAL game of Pick-Pick, and choose one new outfit when the fall catalog came out. Just like everyone else, we went to school on the first day of September wearing our new Sears finest, which I would ruin within the week playing soccer in the field with my buddy Joey and the gang. My favourite outfit included gauchos, and I think part of the reason I liked them was because they looked like a skirt but they were actually pants, so I could play soccer with the boys and still be a bit of a lady. Ahem. I think I also just liked the word “gauchos” and confusing people when I said the word. It did sound like I was speaking a foreign language when I said I was wearing gauchos. Sears made me sophisticated in the halls of Ignace Public School. Someone mentioned on Facebook that they used to look to Sears for their hairstyles and would cut out pages to bring to their local hair stylist. Sears kept us Northern kids in the loop of what was fashion forward in the rest of Canada.

Catalogs are definitely going the way of the dodo bird, but in all honesty, it’s not a bad thing if we look at it environmentally. Wasn’t one of the reasons for the internet and computers and all of this awesome technology to ensure that we cut back on our paper consumption? Every single person used to get a Sears catalog. Remember how you’d pick up your card at the post office and then go to the Sears depot and get your catalog and it would be this massive catalog cube that sat on a pallet in the middle of the floor? Funny. Funny that that is how we used to do things.

But I still do get catalogs, and when I do, my first thought, after wanting to play a mean game of Pick-Pick with my sister, is that it truly is a waste of paper to get them because if I want an item, I am simply going to go to the computer to get what I need. And I always intend on contacting the company and letting them know I don’t want to be on their mailing list anymore, but my husband has become a substitute in the Pick-Pick game, and even though we don’t race with our fingers to pick out the top items, we still snuggle together to look at the items page by page, talking about the things we’ll never have and laughing.

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Jennifer Parsons

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