When Sears sold cars

The Sears Motor Buggy brought drivers into the automobile age for just $395.

Posted: Oct 15, 2018 10:46 PM
Updated: Oct 15, 2018 10:57 PM

For so many people who grew up before the internet, the Sears catalog WAS the internet.

The thick, heavy books had tools, dishes, TVs, clothes, appliances and just about anything else you'd need around house. They even sold houses for a while.

The Sears Christmas catalogs provided hours and hours of entertainment for kids, who could flip through the dog-eared pages and dream about playing with the latest toys.

News that the once-mighty 132-year-old company has filed for bankruptcy is triggering nostalgia for many former customers who grew up with the brand.

Sears' extraordinary history: A timeline

Rick Smith said the catalog gave his family the opportunity to buy things that were hard to get in Paris, Kentucky, a town of about 8,000 people about 20 miles from Lexington.

"We bought all of our televisions and appliances from Sears, as well as most of the clothes that I and my two brothers wore," he said. "The Sears Christmas 'Wish Book' was a favorite at our house, and I can recall picking out toys from that."

Back then, Sears didn't ship your purchases to your house. Your order would come to a local catalog store aand they would call so you could come pick it up.

"When you knew you had something really neat ... it felt like it was taking forever to arrive!"

Smith also remembered saving up his allowance in high school to buy suede and leather dark saddle shoes, so he'd have a nice pair for speech tournaments.

He got his first credit card from Sears when he was in college because his dad told him he needed to establish credit.

Smith said he was a bigger than average young man, so it was an added bonus that the store had a good big and tall selection.

"For many years thereafter, Sears Flexslax were my go to dress slacks, and I also bought dress shirts and a couple of suits there, too," Smith said.

Smith said he hasn't shopped at Sears in a while -- the store at his local mall closed a couple of years ago -- but he still feels a bit wistful about the bankruptcy news.

The arrival of the Christmas Wish Book was also a highly anticipated event for Alexina Navarro and her brother and sister. They would dutifully circle the things they wanted Santa to bring them, but Navarro and her sister pined for clothes like their friends would be wearing.

"We weren't interested in the toy section of the catalog," she said. "We desperately wanted to fit in with our peers' clothing choices, and not be ostracized."

Her mom made their clothes, and Navarro said they weren't like what other kids were wearing in the '60s and '70s.

"We should have been grateful, but we really weren't. We didn't appreciate going to the local fabric store and sorting through the patterns and cloth. We wanted to look like everyone else," she said.

Her mom tried to make outfits like the ones in the catalog, but they weren't the same.

Navarro remembers her mom buying her a warm winter coat from Sears because she was going to college in Portland, Oregon.

"My last purchase before heading off was a very bright kelly green wool coat that I got to choose myself!" she said.

Her dad taught her to drive in a Sears parking lot, and when her first used car needed brakes, "my dad took me into Sears Auto Shop to learn how to take care of these things like a big girl."

Navarro doesn't shop at Sears now. She said she's had a few car batteries replaced there over the years, but it's been a long time.

Daniel O'Donnell made what he called "the first major purchase of my young life" from the Sears catalog.

He saved his paper route earnings for a year to get the $35 to buy a 3-inch refractor telescope and an extra lens and filters. That was a lot of money for an 11-year-old in 1968.

"When I was a boy, I was a 'space kid,'" O'Donnell said, adding that he loved building models of NASA rockets.

He now does information security for a company that makes next-generation satellites.

O'Donnell said his dad worked for Sears when Allstate Insurance was part of the company. He still shopped there occasionally until last year, when the store in his town closed.

The bankruptcy isn't the end for the chain, but Sears and Kmart's parent company plans to close 142 of its worse performing stores as part of the bankruptcy plan.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 148387

Reported Deaths: 3769
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto9874101
Hinds9821198
Harrison6982110
Jackson6218119
Rankin5417102
Lee498495
Madison4711106
Forrest375086
Jones352488
Lauderdale3412145
Lafayette319749
Washington3153107
Lamar286349
Oktibbeha243562
Bolivar240884
Lowndes232864
Neshoba2189118
Panola218849
Marshall211950
Leflore203490
Pontotoc199128
Monroe196077
Sunflower191055
Lincoln187865
Warren174157
Tate166951
Union165325
Pike160958
Copiah160440
Yazoo152939
Scott151829
Itawamba151134
Coahoma149543
Pearl River149467
Alcorn148228
Simpson146353
Prentiss143730
Adams139250
Grenada138845
Leake133243
Holmes127861
Tippah123730
George123524
Covington120938
Winston120024
Hancock117639
Wayne116923
Marion114846
Attala111234
Tishomingo108742
Chickasaw106932
Newton104229
Tallahatchie96727
Clay89927
Clarke89153
Jasper81722
Walthall76028
Stone75214
Calhoun73713
Montgomery72825
Carroll71415
Lawrence70714
Yalobusha70527
Smith70316
Noxubee70017
Perry65826
Tunica60219
Greene59722
Claiborne57916
Jefferson Davis56017
Humphreys53119
Amite52714
Benton49017
Quitman4846
Webster42314
Kemper42118
Wilkinson38722
Jefferson34711
Franklin3345
Choctaw3157
Sharkey30817
Issaquena1144
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 241957

Reported Deaths: 3572
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson31809500
Mobile19651361
Madison12964148
Tuscaloosa12946154
Montgomery12263236
Shelby1016177
Baldwin857698
Lee771866
Morgan648050
Calhoun6215119
Etowah618266
Marshall618255
Houston522438
DeKalb480436
Cullman433442
Limestone418645
St. Clair413655
Elmore403764
Lauderdale396754
Walker3620111
Talladega347954
Jackson311723
Colbert306042
Blount287940
Autauga270442
Franklin250233
Coffee242015
Dale231754
Dallas225232
Russell22123
Chilton220638
Covington218034
Escambia197931
Chambers176450
Tallapoosa175491
Pike158114
Clarke157619
Marion137136
Winston131123
Lawrence126336
Pickens121618
Geneva12108
Marengo120224
Barbour117010
Bibb117017
Butler115341
Randolph101921
Cherokee101024
Hale96031
Clay91024
Washington90719
Fayette89316
Henry8526
Lowndes79429
Monroe78311
Cleburne76914
Macon73022
Crenshaw70930
Bullock69419
Conecuh68314
Perry6836
Lamar6678
Wilcox63118
Sumter57522
Greene42318
Choctaw42113
Coosa3414
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