UrbanSurviving: Christmas Books

Won’t continue to worry the “digital ascension” since digital zombies don’t care.  But, old man Ure know what the phone-zombies really like is  money and toys.

And, it’s getting to be the time of year when those “feelings of love” are totally worked-over to get the largest payday come the end of December.

I’m not sure when the excess commercialization of Christmas began.  Maybe it was the Sear Toy Catalog.  Most people don’t know that the original  Sears Wish Book came out in 1934, having been printed in 1933.  Came out early in the fall and had a good run.

Sears’ idea, back during the Great Depression, was to give the kids (and grown-ups) lots of time to either “work the grown-ups” or save for the year’s Big Present before The Big Day.  Gee,  some things never change, do they?  That’s why the originals showed up in the late August to early September period.  I remember the joy of finding the book in the mail.

Sears’ Wish Book  ran until 1993.  Hard times had fallen on the mega-retailer of an earlier era, by then.  Online retailers, including “the Zon” had popped into the lead.  Younger, smaller, more agile kicks it every time.

We’re both pleased and sad that Amazon has brought back something of a  “Wish Book” spin.  It’s almost, as we’ve pointed out many times before, like Jeff Bezos of Amazon is bent on recreating at least some of the central role Sears played in earlier America.  Doing a fine job of it, too.

My Amazon “Play Together” book arrived yesterday.  Complete with an “Ultimate Wishlist.”   High production values and the old Wish Book vibe, but it’s a far-cry from the original from a 70-year old perspective.  Much to be learned from it, too.

The Amazon reincarnation doesn’t have a chemistry set in it.  Nor, did I notice much at all in the way of STEM-oriented materials.  This book is almost entirely pre-K oriented. It looks more like a book oriented toward new parents, and sucker grandparents like us, as much as anything.

If my memory hasn’t completely checked-out (possible), the original Wish Book had multiple sections to it:  There was a “for Mom” which featured the latest in fashion and lingerie. For Dad had all kinds of dandy vices (if the lingerie wasn’t enough).  Hunting, fishing, all under attack today.

There were assorted pipe tobaccos of varied flavors like cherry, or the hunter’s favorite vanilla.  Poker chip sets.  Drink flasks and glassware…chess and checkers?  You bet!  American families did things back then.  Nowadays?  Total UHD click cluster.

Not that I can’t appreciate Amazon’s problem:  They swim in shark-infested retailing waters.  If they were to have a “whole family” mix of offerings, sections like “for Mom” and another “for Dad”  plus “for teens” and then the wee-ones, it would ruffle the feathers of at least half a dozen “alphabet groups”  Like LBGTQR and wherever that goes.

Even if they could sort through the boardroom issues with age and gender leanings, other problems arise.  We see where a wider demographic book would hit the wall, though.  It’s OK to promote non-straight but not simple “straight.” Because gender is a monetization.  As we’ve pointed out, genderism is like computers.  Basic hard OS is “inny and outty” but the softweare programming continues well into the teens.  Thanks, school systems!

Wish Book issues in Today Land?  OMG!  Instead of  lingerie, for example, any publisher would be strong-armed into included gayerie and there goes the homogenous marketing.  Which, we suspect drove the Amazonians to the  “Play Together” book title.  With no adult products and arguably nothing over age 8.

The problem with Amazon’s book is that it doesn’t have old Wish Book social conveyor built in.

Let’s open up an old 1950’s Wish Book and I’ll show you what I mean:

As a child – the wee-est of ones – things like a stuffed bear or a cap gun (in order to play Cowboys and Indians or Cops and Robbers) was a prevailing social norm.

Today, the Cowboys are in football, the Indians are in Cleveland, a place we’ve always had reservations about.  As for the Cops ?  Well, they’re under attack nationally while the robbers have expanded into meth.  Say, that’s some social progress we’re making, ain’t it?

Back to point:  After a few years of “little twerp crap” the period from mid September to The Big Day began to move kids up thed social conveyor.  For me, after a bear, then a year of Tinker-Toys, Lionel trains became the biggy..  It wasn’t two years later that I awoke (at 6 AM) to the sound of Pappy and a couple of uncles making noise in the basement.  Overnight, a huge (when you’re 7 or 8, right?) .027 Lionel train layout had appeared.

It wasn’t till that afternoon I took the controls.  Pappy and the uncles had sandwiches and coffee and were intent on filling out their childhood dreams.  Pappy carried about 200 papers a day in the early part of the Great Depression.  Toy trains were for store windows downtown.

No small feat, this  layout was about 8 by 12.  In order to get into the center of the layout, where the controls were, you crawled under  the table and popped up in the middle.  Power had been brought out, holes drilled for power for a couple of switches, and within a year, Mom had helped me through a first feeble attempt at a paper mache mountain with tunnel.

Those early lessons were great – so was the imprinting with model trains.  By the time I was 30-something, the back 10 feet of my garage had been turned into a 10-by-20 HO layout.  The impossible paper mache was replaced with quick-set plaster over hardware screen…

Your tracking, right?

Other items for the modern “Wish Book” clone – unthinkable  these days included sporting goods.  My buddy, the Major’s, late brother looked knowingly at BB guns, and the selected shotguns and smaller calibers for the sportsman.  He’d later become an accomplished reloader.  Oh, sure, reloading kits were in The Wish Book, too, at one point.  Can you imagine the demonstrations has Amazon put reloading and gayerie under the same cover?  Why that would be real diversity and we can’t have that, can we?

It’s one thing to talk about a national “coming together and mutual respect” but I don’t think anyone’s really serious about, do you?

What youngster didn’t pause at the lingerie section?  “That don’t look very warm, or comfortable…”  Was that a precursor to Playboy?  We’ll never know.

Ah, the joys of the real-deal “Wish Book.”  Not just watered down, kiddie crap.  There was something for everyone.  Money from all!

Can you imagine the hoot and hollering if a toy gun was shown in a modern Wish Book?

No, we’ve lost something as a country.  Christmas, for one.

The old American Middle has been deliberately hollowed-out.  It’s all about segmentation and monetization, a marketing sham, and globalism’s socialists are hard at work as ever.  Even as we speak, in turning America into another digital mob shit-hole like Venezuela.   Care to bet things won’t get back to normal in Chile, now, either?

On the one hand, it’s surprising that Amazon came out with a book at all this year.  The kids can’t read, so it’s really for the adults.  And mostly straight because of how kids are made…but that’s just a guess and first-hand experience.  Family-making?  Last time I looked, that was in the “growing scarcity mode.” Unless you’re illegal or lazy.

Our prevailing alt. reality has turned us into half-baked, warmed over, consensus-bounded shells.  But Amazon’s retooled Wish Book is a hopeful sign.  Now if they’d just put in pipe racks, sporting goods and more neato-stuff….

Yeah…I know.  You gotta go and so do I.

Write when you get rich, and check the chimney for a fireplace insert.


33 thoughts on “UrbanSurviving: Christmas Books”

  1. I didn’t receive the Amazon Wish Book & I buy a lot from them. Maybe it hasn’t arrived yet. In today’s world my Xmas is going to the Gun Show on 11/23 to view the new firearm & home defense offerings. Also, add a Ring Doorbell with video & voice to the mix. Home Security is the theme. The other day, I had a guy pounding on my door at 8:00 pm when dark & there was no car visable. I have a doorbell, why didn’t he use it. I answered the door with a 9 MM in my hand. He said he was a home improvement salesman & was canvasing the area & his car was parked down the street.

    As cold weather comes to NC, I have my Infrared Thermometer out to determine the best sleeping & awake settings. I used it last for the summer hot temps & It worked great. I set the perfect hot weather setting & left it there all summer. In the summer, I keep the sleeping & awake setting the same.

  2. I loved requesting and receiving catalogs in the mail, then spending hours poring through them. They opened doors to dreams. Then the internet came along and spoiled it all. I can find anything I need, but I’m not sure what I want anymore. Catalogs were great at creating wants.

  3. Sir,

    Today it is possible to rise from slumber or stupour as the case may be and take note of the latest pronunciations from the “Vatican communications team” that could well find a place on any journalist’s bureau. Yes, The Pope reminds the multitudes to conserve adjectives and adverbs. Here is the CBC link. May your Christmas wish list be well.


  4. You are right about the Dad, Moms, and kids section of the Sears catalogue. Montgomery Wards and J.C. Penny has similar Holiday books. As a kid, I would go right to the toy section. And then my neighborhood friends and I would sneak the catalogue out to a secret neighborhood hideout and look at the lingerie section.

    I am not sure the internet killed the Sears catalogue. TV and mega malls took most of that catalogs impact away in the 60’s and 70’s. By the 80’s everyone had a catalogue and Sears was losing considerable market share and competing with vertical clothing retailers in mega malls with brands like like the Gap, Levi’s, Limited, Casual Corner, Chess King, The Children’s Place, The County Seat, Kinney Shoes, Contempo Casuals, Merry Go Round…Just remembering these names brings back memories…other than the Gap and Levi’s, most of these stores ARE distant memories themselves.

    My recollection is that Malls killed the catalogue and Amazon is exponentially digging into the market share of the Malls…Although, In the west and in colder climates, they are experiencing a resurgence in Mall construction as they become more entertainment centers, complete with restaurants, bars, nightlife and movie theaters that co-exist with traditional strong, branded retailers.

    • Good point, I still have a visit to the adult themed hotel up in West Edmonton Mall.. see https://flh.ca/ and you will be onto ONE of Uretopia Ranch theme inspirations. the other is (of course!) Disney and all the books on Imagineering…

  5. To add to my previous post…Shopping Malls had as much of a category killer impact back in their day as the internet is doing now. Malls killed Main Street. And, not just the Mega Mall, but Wal-Mart anchored strip malls as well. Now, today, many of these malls are being torn down and being replaced by housing…a real estate version of the circle of life.

    Re-purposing is now the flavor of the day. I disagree with you George on the cannibalization of the Digital/AI world’s impact on jobs and job categories. The U.S. and especially the state I live in has always been good at re-invention, re-purposing, re-modeling, rinsing and repeating.

    When I say the circle of life…LIFE Is the key word…The ancient Swirl graphics that are ubiquitous throughout history mean you start from a beginning and for each completed circular motion you grow out bigger, stronger, smarter and with more force than ever before. It’s natural, just like the rings of a tree…we grow with each stage. Those though that dwell on what was, will never know what will be.

  6. Interesting. My thoughts are similar to those of NC. Yet more cameras, bars, security grilles and gates, lights, EWS, sensors, backups and a real monitoring ability not slaved to anyone’s particular cloud, though those are options. My thoughts are to use South Africa as a model since we’re moving in that direction. The sad part is that there’s nothing of great value inside.

    Yes, when you’re young enough the lingerie section had value, but now there’s far more explicit stuff on the net for free, but you still can’t touch. For that, real money is involved.

    Today, Christmas is a time to buy yourself presents, since there’s little real social interaction anymore.

    • Bear in-mind, I’m not of a criminal bent, but I am “creatively intelligent.” If I were to intend to break in to an [obviously secure] unoccupied house, I’d use something like a Stihl Cutquik or carbide-bladed chainsaw, and go through a wall or roof, not a door or window. A wood-frame wall, even with a few inches of brick facade, would be much more porous than hardened steel bars, and much, much faster and easier to cut through. Also, most people don’t alarm walls, other than occasionally with area motion-sensors (which are spotty.)

      Can you tell I’m a fan of concrete and adobe?

      BTW, in a previous life, I designed and built alarm devices & systems. My design “technique” was to create and jot down every way I could think of to burgle a building, then use my list to extrapolate every way I’d not thought of. I’d then hierarchically organize my threat list from most to least likely, and design a system based on my client’s budget, to give them protection from the greatest number of likely threats, within the constraints of their budget.

      “Security” is like any “adult hobby” in that if you get caught up in the hype of the moment, you can spend absolute bucketloads of money toward little, or no benefit, above that of a “Ring Doorbell” and having “911” on speed dial.

      There is no such thing as a “secure facility.” There are only “hardened” facilities. I have no doubt the FSB could break into Langley, or the CIA break into Lubyanka Square, if there were sufficient reason to justify the effort. The secret to “home security” is to make your digs sufficiently hard that criminals (who’re typically among the most-lazy of humans) decide you’re not worth the effort, without spending so much on hardening that you truly aren’t…

      • “My design “technique” was to create and jot down every way I could think of to burgle a building, ”

        One of My friends designed security systems …

        One of my hats was night maintenance.. one night the store manager and police came up.. seemed day maintenance left a ladder against the building. The police seen us scrubbing floors and thought we were burglars got on the roof took a vent cap off crawled in and got his butt trapped in there.. lol lol lol they had to get everyone out to get him free.. when they asked me I said..you would think it would be a give away we belonged there since we were store uniforms and was working lol

      • One of my past acquaintances was a peterman (and a damned good one, from others’ accounts.) He retired to a high-paying, much less illegal job in Louisiana when he hit 40. He was an absolute wealth of information on how to break in to places — He didn’t tell me a thing I did not already know about building (or defeating) perimeter security, but totally opened my eyes WRT the idea of thieves “making their own doors” and thereby circumnavigating perimeter security schemes.

        Roofs are great, because no one but the government spook agencies (every government, not just ours) routinely harden their buildings’ roofs.

      • “One of My friends designed security systems …”

        It’s a lot of fun, kinda like chess for real life, but doesn’t pay very well unless you become the next ADT (which Jamie Siminoff has actually done, with “Ring”) and can solicit a residual or monthly “monitoring” payment forfrickin’ever (I don’t know, but assume Amazon cut him in for a residual along with the lump payment.) My security “creations” were mostly off the shelf products with a smattering of my own inventions and adaptations to suit specific clients’ specific needs. F’r instance, ADEMCO built a wonderful high-quality line of burglar/robbery/holdup/fire/panic (any, or all functions) security panels back in the ’70s, with both single and multiline autodialers. It would have been both stupid and inefficient for me to reinvent their products (and I WAS still going to college, too, which consumed a little of my time…)

  7. “The old American Middle has been deliberately hollowed-out.  ”

    Well with this years increases on have to have..the wish book is closed. We even put thanksgiving on the no do list. ( we have always had the family Thanksgiving and would spend five hundred plus to feed this brood)
    With this in mind.. I haven’t been to the store except for absolutes for going on four months now..
    An interesting thing happened that prompted me to write.
    The wife needed some bleach for laundry well that’s not a necessity of life do rather than run buy some.. I’ll just make some..
    While doing that it dawned on me..shoot I need to post a warning on urbansurvival to those wishing to experiment with HHO gas production…

    So here it is… do not.. I repeat Do Not use salt as your additive to the water.. your best bet is crack and separate.. but rather than use lye or some other ingredient.. use frequency only to crack the water..
    Not only would it be extremely unstable playing with hho but if you used salt it would amplify the danger by several hundred fold..
    Me knowing how dangerous that is and not sharing that would haunt me if I seen a news cast about someone getting hurt..

  8. The sad state of our world is what I’ve heard called many things but the one most fitting to me anyway is The Quickening. Sadly, we are at a tipping point. All we can do is our best to pass on what is right and hope for the best.

    Yes, the wishbook was everyone’s favorite. I look forward to time with my kids and grandchildren, especially those rare times when the clan is altogether in the same place. The main let down for me at the end of the day is seeing in my mind what they have missed compared to the adventures I had growing up. But then I came to realize last holiday season when I watched the grandkids, well the boys anyway, found the favorite new gifts were those not requiring batteries that maybe there is at least a spark of adventure left. I took a chance and gifted a fine 4X pocket loupe that had belonged to my grandfather to one of my grandsons age 9. It was his favorite above all and to this day whenever we go on an adventure here at the ranch it is still in his pocket and he constantly ispicking up things to look at.

    This year the gift plan is a microscope or a telescope. Crap, probably both. There are 9 grandkids. There goes the budget.


    • Art Bell coined the phrase “The Quickening” in the 90’s & wrote a book entitled “The Quickening” in 1997. Art may have been a little early, but the Dems abuse of Trump & voters appears to be speeding it up.

  9. Because I can’t just not get the grandkids something for xmas..for the kids that are expecting stuff.. I’m going to make cigar box guitars.. it’s something I have around here already..for the girls a dollhouse.
    Only home made things this year.. the college kids pens and pencils..
    I have the materials already..years ago I read a news account on a gentleman that while searching for Noah’s ark supposedly found it went inside took pictures even.. and supposedly got a chunk of it.. I did try to get a small piece of it to make pens.. unfortunately
    I never was able to get a piece of the supposed Noah’s ark that a guy got off of it before the glacier covered it up years ago.( what story I read that I found cool was that during the war russian soldiers were stripping material off of it to build homes). The funny thing is they even have a viewing section to see it and a history of people going to it for religious ceremonies for centuries.. now is it the real deal who knows..
    but I do have some of the rarest wood around here.. I got it when I made a desk for a rich guy years ago at the cabinet shop.. he let those of us working on it keep the drop off and at the cost he paid for the wood…. and some old piano key tops.. that should make some unique one of a kind gifts..

  10. You are not fooling me, George. I know your REAL ‘wish book’ is the Harbor Freight catalog… you old tool slut!

  11. Given the economic news we all pore over and discuss here I wonder if this’ll be the final Christmas that blows everyone’s budget to Kingdom Come given the record amount of private debt out there.

    But, yes, I go along with those that have passed a certain age and have pretty much everything they want, depressing as that is. Having those wants and needs, looking forward in the future to getting them, is one of those motivators in life that kept you going. It was one of those joys as a kid slavering all the year between birthdays and Christmas for IT to happen. Yes, I was a privileged kid but I also learned early on to not flaunt that status in front of those kids that weren’t. Some of them were my best friends and that friendship was worth more than a ton of presents under the tree.

    We were choosing names a couple of weekends ago of whom to give gifts to in the family (everyone buying for everyone elicits two words – IN sane) and I couldn’t think of anything, within reason, that I could put down on the wish list. Sure, a dozen rolls of fence wire ($180 a roll last I looked), that rifle I’ve lusted after for so many years (but don’t really need). Things like that you buy for yourself because we aren’t name “Rothschild” – but still can afford a subscription to George’s site, thank God … and George. Heck, I still have 3 gift cards from last year I haven’t used on Amazon mainly because you can GET reloading hardware but no brass, powder or slugs. Nothing that makes the bullet GO. I was very disappointed when I found that out with those cards staring at me next to the computer all year and still are.

    It is interesting to be the O-L-D generation now watching the grand kids tear into their stuff on, or around THE day. Seeing that they have this experience produces mixed emotions, though. How do you shower them with gifts but turn around and teach them economic frugality? Heck, their PARENTS are still trying to learn that lesson!

    • (everyone buying for everyone elicits two words – IN sane)

      That’s the way everyone was with me.. worked me off one year.. so I said the heck with it..
      And would buy a bath kit. A gift basket with a fluffy and soap.
      Problem solved

  12. Since I was about 6-7 years old, I’ve never gone into a store and looked at stuff, without figuring out a way to “abuse” it to make something that’d be useful to me, yet unforeseen by its creator or marketer — not even in a grocery store.

    Because of the, both tactile and 3D nature of my shopping, online shopping leaves me out in the cold unless I first identify the piece(s) I intend to use, via a shelf item in a B&M store. (So, if it’s there on the shelf already, why wouldn’t you just buy it?) Often, I do. However, the item I find may suck WRT quality, materials, components, or price, or it may simply not be a good fit for the item I wish to modify and eventually utilize.

    I strive to “buy local,” but I also get PO’d quickly when a store which _should_ carry an item, doesn’t, especially when they have a web presence which indicates they stock an item that they, in fact, must order-in.


    You want me to wait two days to two months, to get an item I needed yesterday, AND PAY SPECIAL ORDER FREIGHT!?? Not gonna happen…

    I make sure someone in management at the store knows, before I leave, that I am not going to buy from them, and that my next stop is going to be “amazon.com.”

    I will then go to my nearest computer and search the part. One of the first 2-3 pointers ALWAYS goes to Amazon, which will have the exact part I’m looking for (but not necessarily the part I actually need — tinkerers will understand…), usually on a 2-day free ship. This becomes my “baseline.” I search elsewhere to see if I can significantly beat Amazon’s price (about 70% of the time) and shipping (<10% of the time.) A number of that 70% are also selling on Amazon's Marketplace for their same price, but with free shipping through Amazon.

    If I begin my shopping quest at Amazon, before I have a specific manufacturer and part number, I will get dozens of similar (and totally off-the-wall DISsimilar) parts, marketed by hundreds of (mostly) Chinese merchants — so much noise I may never find a part that'll work, whether it is on Amazon or not.

    I frankly couldn't care less whether Amazon drops a "wishbook" in my mailbox. I can pretty much guarantee I will buy nothing listed in such a publication, and it is not going to stimulate my daydreaming — That's what Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, and Roddenberry were for…

    • “I’ve never gone into a store and looked at stuff, without figuring out a way to “abuse” it to make something that’d be useful to me, yet unforeseen by its creator or marketer ”

      Lol lol lol that’s me all over the place lol lol
      A little tweaking here and t as are lol lol

  13. There’s a lot of emotional psychology that goes into Christmas retailing. And it involves all the jr. consumers.

    Christmas catalog books was the lead-in to the 99 year toaster. Once retailers figured out the hot Christmas gift could be manipulated, the countdown toaster was born.

    It’s the big run-up in anticipation for the receiver, “Santa loves me, I got the hot gift!”. The giver gets a positive stroke for chasing their tail to get the hot toy, “everyone loves me, I got the hot gift.”

    Most modern “toys” are movie gimmicks and props. Every year there’s a new movie and a new hot toy. Do you guys remember that fish –

    The next year the crowd demands a new toy. Everyone falls into their roles again.

    Recall Frankie the Fish and the singing trout toys People had to have it for one day. Then it’s trash.

  14. George, I thought of you and your sailboat on the dangerous and unforgiving ocean when I watched a movie last night titled All is lost with Robert Redford. Scary how vulnerable you can be on the water!

    • Great movie.. he crossed my path at one time in the work world. he’s really a nice guy in real life and loves buttermilk biscuits.
      And its Robert never call him Bob in public lol lol lol

  15. I think this post constitutes an early Christmas present, which would make it on-topic:


    Looks like we survived the false-flag conspiracy of the week.
    Note that I view the India-Pakistan stand-off as being as real as it gets. If you missed Warhammer’s comments on 11/01, I would suggest you go back and read them.

    One subject that has been missing from the India-Pakistan discussion is the speed with which refugee issues are likely to destabilize that entire continent should the conflict go hot. It will be the refugee crisis which accelerates the affects globally, unless one of the parties adds biological weapons to the mix of horror. But Halloween is over, so I am getting off-topic.

  16. Don’t forget, the FIRST “Wishbook” was published by Hammacher Schlemmer in 1881. H-S is still around and still a really nifty store, however, I strongly suggest that people, especially George, NOT go to hammacher.com, and especially that they not go to the /electronics or /gadgets sections. Furthermore, I disavow any responsibility should they ignore my suggestion.

    I’m happy to see that, thanks to the “toys-r-us” bankruptcy, F.A.O. Schwarz is again its own entity, and is re-opening its Manhattan store in a couple weeks (online now at faoschwarz.com), not that I’d recommend anyone shop here, either.

    When I was a kid, my Mom kept the Sears Main Catalog, Wish Book, Hammacher-Schlemmer, F.A.O. Schwarz, Edmund Scientific, and Richter & Phillips* catalogs in a pile on the coffee table, with a notepad nearby. We could write out our “wishes” whenever, and she’d do her best to make one come true for each.

    Richter & Phillips is Cincinnati-based, and one of the U.S.’ preeminent jewelers, but from the 1930s until the mid ’70s, carried toys, sporting goods, tools, electronics, luggage, and a limited amount of clothing. The catalog wasn’t as interesting as the others, because the first half was devoted to jewelry and gemstones, but we suffered through to get to the good stuff at the back…

    • Not pleased with HS! Had 2 hoses go bad and I sent them pix and they wanted me to spend $$ to send back. First returns from my family in 100 years. no go.

      • Consider L.L. Bean was nearly bankrupted by people buying their stuff at yard sales, then “returning” it to Bean to exchange for new, under Bean’s (formerly lifetime, but no longer so) warranty. Hammacher HAS to cover their posterior. You absolutely should pay to send the hoses back, and if your warranty claim is accepted, H-S should absolutely reimburse you for the shipping. I wouldn’t get bent out of shape, simply because they want you to make the first move…

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