I miss the Sears Wish Book. When I was a kid, it was a sure sign that Christmas was coming. It was a huge catalogue, with hundreds of pages listing thousands of gift ideas – from clothes to furniture and household appliances and, of course, toys.
When it arrived, I would go right to the toy section of the big book to decide what I wanted from Santa.
The toys were much simpler and cheaper. I can remember getting Tinker Toys, a building kit that had wooden pieces. It was started in 1914, the invention of Charles Pajeau a stone mason from Evanston. The idea came from seeing children play with spools and sticks to build things. The use of one’s imagination was enjoyed by girls and boys.
Erector sets, also a big item back then, were geared toward boys and the advertising stated it. The metal kits were the invention of A.C. Gilbert around 1913 in New Haven, Connecticut, inspired by construction using steel girders. Wouldn’t Mr. Gilbert be surprised to see the number of females who are engineers? My brother got the erector set, and I got Tinker Toys — the boy-girl thing. Different times.
The book also had Lincoln Logs, which are in the National Toy Hall of Fame. They were the creation of a young man from Oak Park by the name of John Lloyd Wright. Yes, his father was Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous architect.
The younger Wright worked with his father on his now-demolished Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, but a rift caused father and son to split. John Lloyd Wright came home, formed his own company and made Lincoln Logs, so called because it reminded him of Abe Lincoln’s home.
Today’s Wish Book would probably heavily feature Legos, the building sets made by Ole Kirk Christiansen from Denmark. They arrived on the scene in 1949 and have grown in popularity for all age groups and sets geared towards girls.
The Wish Book would also now be overwhelmed by high-priced electronic toys. At least the new gadgets are more portable, take up less room and are easier to store, which is good. Who can forget stepping on a Lego in your bare feet. Ouch!
Well the Wish Book is gone and the taste in toys has changed, but Santa still gets the message — only now he depends more on Best Buy, Target and Amazon to fulfill those wishes.
Santa always can figure things out — like how to get the gifts into our house when we had no fireplace! Another Christmas miracle.