Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, January 11, 2014

We Shopped at Sears

1902 Logo
Remember Sears, Roebuck, & Co.? A story in today's (Friday's) Washington Post carried details of the company's ongoing financial struggles: Link.

But, once upon a time (not all that long ago), Sears ruled ... as in Sears Tower!

(There used to be an old (stupid) joke. When someone would say, "I'm serious," a wag would reply, "I'm Roebuck; who's taking care of the store tonight?")

1960 Fall & Winter Catalog
Sears was a part of my life, right from the beginning. I can't remember when I didn't know about Sears. We shopped at the store; we got the fat catalogs in the mail (oh, the poor carriers!) every season, and I spent lots of boyhood time paging through them--sports equipment, of course, bicycles, guns, musical instruments (later, I confess, ladies' lingerie). I wanted in the worst way to get a violin from Sears. They had three categories of such things: Good, Better, Best. The "Good," one year, was $5. I showed the picture to my dad, who said only, "That looks like a pretty sorry apple." I'm sure he was right, and it would have been $5 wasted to get me a violin--as my guitar-picking in the 1960s would later certify.

Our family loved Sears. Both Mom and Dad had charge plates (before the days of credit cards.) We bought our school clothes there, our dress clothes (such as they wore), our home tools
(Craftsman!), our home appliances (the Kenmore brand). We did our Christmas and birthday shopping there. We shopped Sears in Enid, Okla., where I grew up, and in the summer of 1956, when we moved to Hiram, Ohio, we shopped at the Sears at the recently opened Southgate Mall (Maple Heights, 1955). It was a Big Deal, getting to Southgate from Hiram in those days. But we did it--all the time. We drove from Hiram to Aurora, then to Solon, then to Maple Heights, to Southgate, which, at that time, was calling itself the largest shopping mall in the world. (I just checked that old route on GoogleMaps: 23.6 mi, 40 min, it says. It took longer with us: Dad was a leisurely driver.)

Here's an embarrassing Sears moment: I decided (9th grade, I think--1958-59) that it was time to buy my first razor. I didn't need one, mind you, but it was time that I did. (A number of my friends shaved--and needed to.) I had no facial hair whatsoever, but maybe I figured that the shaving would, you know, stimulate some growth there? So--off I went to Sears.  With Mom (not my first choice for such an errand).

We went to the men's counter (men's!), where, to my present shame, I claimed that I was buying a razor as a gift for someone else. At that time, Gillette was marketing three types of razors: Light, Medium, Heavy. I knew where I belonged (you get one guess). The conversation at the counter went something like this:
Clerk (a woman, of course--more humiliation): Which variety would you like--light, medium, or heavy?
Danny (to Mom): I think he needs a Light.
Mom (to Clerk--with a smile): He [smirk, smirk] needs a Light. 
Clerk: Light it is ...
Oh, was I embarrassed. But I got that razor home (Mom had also bought some shaving cream, the kind that "he" would probably like), and I went straight to the bathroom, shaved my face, then went to my parents' bathroom to find Dad's styptic pencil: I was bleeding.

Another weird story: My younger brother, Dave, and I (teens) were out at Sears on an errand with Dad. It was summer--and while we were outside, one of those terrific Ohio thunderstorms erupted--a vicious wind was blowing things all over the place. We were outside Sears, and the wind picked up something hard that smacked Dad right in the head and dropped him to his knees.

And Dave and I--to our eternal shame--fell down laughing. Dad, fortunately, was not all that hurt, and he most certainly did not see anything amusing about what had just happened. But Dave and I laughed all the way home. Then we had to turn around and go right back: Dad had lost his favorite pen from his shirt pocket when he hit his knees, so back we went to Southgate (an hour's drive!) to look for it. Dad found it. When Dad died in November 1999, both Dave and I considered relating that incident in our eulogies, but neither of us did. A simple reason: It made us look like the jerks we were.

When I got married (20 December 1969), Joyce and I continued to shop at Sears--the one out at Chapel Hill Mall near Akron. Clothes, cosmetics, gifts, tools, appliances; Sears even remodeled kitchens for us in two different houses.

And then ... gradually ... we stopped going there. I'm not sure why. Was it the emergence of those discount stores like Kmart and Clarkins? I think it was. (I just learned by the way the Sears and Kmart belong to the same company now.) We were living in Kent at the time, and Kent had both of those discount outlets--and Sears was a half-hour away. We stopped getting the catalogs, too.

And Sears faded from view.

I see on a Google map that there are three Sears stores in the vicinity--Solon, Akron (Chapel Hill Mall), Cleveland. I think I'm going to have to go take a look the next time I'm at Chapel Hill. Maybe wander the aisles ... see where they lead me ...

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