Memories of catalogs warm the new year

Yes, the new year arrived on time, and it did it without any help from me. I knew the new year would be here, and I didn’t want to lose any sleep waiting for something that was going to happen if I was awake or asleep.

Now what am I going to do in this new year? First, I am going to pray that it will be a better year than 2020 was. I’m optimistic that it will be.

Just before Christmas, I celebrated another birthday. As I reflect back on my many years and experiences on this Earth, I think about what things were like when I was growing up. And one of the things we looked forward to soon after the first of the year was the arrival of the Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck catalogs.

These catalogs, sometimes known as “wish books,” had everything to sell that one would want. Sears had the widest variety from clothing to food to farm equipment along with a great variety of toys.

We wore bib overalls when we were small. I usually got hand-me-downs from older brothers, if they weren’t worn out before they got to me. Both catalogs carried a good variety of blue jeans, and I couldn’t wait till I was able to get a couple of pairs to wear. They made me feel much more grown up.

We lived about a mile from school and had to walk every day. On a blustery, cold winter day, it seemed like it was “uphill both ways,” to use that expression.

To stay warm, Mom would dress us in long underwear along with blue jeans and a warm shirt and coat. We wore stocking caps because they were easy to get on and off and inexpensive. What I really wanted was a cap with ear flaps to keep my ears warm.

Both catalogs offered the long underwear and the caps — when we could afford them. They also offered warm coats, but I usually got hand-me-downs.

It was a lot of fun, after the first of the year, to go through one of the catalogs and see all the things you would like to have. Toys, especially took our eyes, and there was a great variety to select from. As we got a little older, we liked Erector Sets that let you build different things, such as small buildings, windmills and cars. What one could build depended on the size of the Erector Set and the various pieces it contained.

Dad half-soled many of our shoes, and he bought the leather for the new soles from Sears. He had a cobbler’s bench. He sat on one end, and it had a small table on the other where he cut out the leather, shaped it and tacked it to the shoes.

I still have the cobbler’s bench. We use it for a plant stand and end table on our enclosed porch. The rustic appearance goes with the paneling on the porch.

Another thing that happens as we move into the new year is the days start getting longer. My dad used to say that “as the days begin to get longer, the cold gets stronger.” When we watch the temperature, it does seem like it gets colder as we tolerate the month of January.

As we move into February, we often begin to see some moderation in temperatures. We also know we are approaching maple syrup-making time, a sure sign of spring.

Quite often we are dealt with the heaviest snowfalls of the year in January and February. I got a 2021 Farmer’s Almanac for my birthday, so if you want to know what to expect in the way of winter weather, just let me know. I can guess, right along with the almanac.

Do have an enjoyable new year and be optimistic that it will be better than 2020.


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