The only toy catalog I specifically remember was that from JC Penney, which was actually a general Christmas catalog. I would always be perusing the toy section, seeing new stuff and old favorites. I can recall many specific toys and saw in the catalog, as well as advertised on TV, that I desired during different years, something I might just write about in an other entry, as it would take up too much time here. I also recall the footnote that appeared on the bottom of the toy pages in the JCP catalogs, stating that toys are not just for Christmas and that any toy in the catalog could be ordered through sometime in August of the following year.
Here are some scans I found from JCP Christmas catalogs. Hmmm, a Jolly Green Giant factory toy set. I don't remember this, but it's certainly not something I would have ever wanted. Then again, this image, I just noticed, was from the catalog from 1972 , when I was only a year old. Would have been too dangerous because it contained small parts.
This next image is also form the 1972 catalog and contains an ad for a toy I actually got one year, when I was much older than a year! In the top area area of the scan you can see the Sunshine Family dolls set. This was a long-running toy from Mattel that came with ideas for crafting furniture and other stuff for the dolls out of milk cartons or other objects. Grandparent dolls and pets (a dog and cat set with pet supplies) were also made as were numerous playsets and crafting kits. For more info, see here.
Another thing that made me write this story was this blog's entry today on Christmas catalogs from Western Auto in the 1970s. I don't recall ever seeing a Western Auto toy catalog, and only have a vague recollection of the Western Auto store in my hometown, Hollister, California. After Western Auto closed, the building that housed the store then housed a taco restaurant and after that folded, a Chinese restaurant took over the building and has been there ever since. In Gilroy, near Hollister, the old Western Auto sign (with raised lettering and without paint) remains on the back of the building that housed Western Auto. The rear of this building is in the parking lot across from the Gilroy post office. A store such as this was the last place I'd expect to find toys. I also have a vague recollection of staying at my aunt and uncle's house one day and going with my aunt and my cousins into town, driving past the Western Auto store and seeing "Merry Christmas" and "Feliz Navidad" painted on the store window. But I don't remember ever seeing a Christmas toy catalog from this store chain.
Similarly the blogger quoted above had scans on his website of toy catalogs from True Value Hardware, another catalog I have no recollection ever seeing. My town has a True Value store (formerly known as Coast to Coast hardware) across the street from my mobile home park. But it has only exited for about 20 years now when it came to town under the Coast to Coast name. There was another hardware store in my town many years that carried toys, and I would always be looking at the toys. So that True Value would have toys at Christmas time does not seem too farfetched.
I'm not sure what store it was from but I seem to remember glancing at another toy catalog or flyer that was, IIRC, inserted into a daily newspaper on or around Thanksgiving one year. I know Sears put out such catalogs, but not sure I ever got one of those. And I don't know why JC Penney is the only one I ever seemed to get! My town had one of those old Sears catalog stores, remember those? Going to an actual Sears store meant going out of town. We had a JC Penney store too, until about 15 years ago, as most people preferred going to the larger Penney stores in other nearby towns. Ours was small and had only basic stuff, mostly clothing, very few home appliances, and no toys, even when it was Christmas time. Customers could place catalog orders from this store, however.
And while Googling "Christmas toy catalogs," I came across this site of Christmas catalog scans.
I gave up on toys when I was 11 in 1982. That was the last year I ever wanted a toy for Christmas. But now I'm seeing toys that came out in the years following that I probably would have wanted had I been younger then. Perhaps this can be the subject of another blog story.
And while in my own place of work or while passing through Kmart or Target I often glance at the new toys that are currently in the store. If I had kids, I wonder what they would be asking for and if it would actually be a toy and not video games or Leap Frog pads. And if they would want to read an actual book, not the kids' equivalent of an e-reader. And would I be like Adam Sandler's character in "Grown Ups," trying to them to play a classic board game rather than current violent video games, and be met with remarks of "That sounds lame"? Just an aside, I never played Chutes and Ladders (the game Sandler's character tries to get his video-game-obsessed kids to play in the movie), but was well into Scrabble as a late teenager.
I enjoyed reminiscing with you, thank you for the story.
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