Using the ‘wish book’ for Santa’s list

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 1, 2001

Several decades ago children could prepare their lists of possible presents to be left by Santa and his helpers under the tree by using three methods.

Saturday, December 01, 2001

Several decades ago children could prepare their lists of possible presents to be left by Santa and his helpers under the tree by using three methods.

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One logical method was to visit the toy departments of various stores. Another way was to watch television on Saturday mornings and be influenced by the not-too-subtle commercials sponsored by toy and game makers. And the third way was to use the &uot;wish book&uot; to carefully look at the multitude of items with prime potentials for Santa’s list.

In reality, what was known as the wish book for several generations of Americans came in two versions. One was the catalogs issued by Sears, Roebuck and Co. The other was the catalogs which came from Montgomery Ward and Co. better known as Wards. Both of these famous firms were based in Chicago and sold their merchandise through mail order catalogs, retail department stores, and sales agencies and catalog merchants in the smaller communities.

Wards and Sears actually issued large yearly catalogs, plus somewhat smaller specialized catalogs, One of these smaller catalogs was intended for the farmer and rancher customers. However, the most popular of these smaller catalogs was issued by the two firms in the fall and intended for family use during the Christmas shopping season. This was the catalog which gave real meaning to the younger generation as they used this wish book to prepare the want lists for Santa Claus.

In 1966, Wards issued the &uot;Talk of the Town Christmas Catalog&uot; which had 484 pages. There were potential gift items for the entire family. These gift items included clothing, appliances, cameras, clocks, furniture items, bicycles and sports equipment, books, musical instruments, organs and drums, and especially toys and games.

One of the most popular toys 35 years ago was based on track car and slot car racing. There were 16 variations of track layouts with cars and an assortment of accessories (batteries not included).

By contrast, this catalog had just five model railroad layouts ranging in price from $16.99 to $39.50 (plus shipping charges).

The 1966 Wards Christmas catalog had 20 full pages featuring dolls of various sizes and built-in talents. One of the dolls on sale for $7.95 was named Cindy. She came with three extra outfits, hair care accessories, tiny mirror, and truck with handle.

According to the catalog’s description with the illustration of Cindy. &uot;She’s 12 1/2 inches tall with large blonde rooted hair that can be washed, combed and styled. Her blue eyes close when she’s sleepy.

Her fully jointed body makes her twice as much fun. Give her water from her bottle and then wets and cries real tears. When she’s happy she coos like a real baby.&uot;

Some of the dolls were generic and others had names like Marry Poppins, Baby Colleen, Baby Teenitalk, Snugglebun, Bonnie Bride, Katie Kachoo (the sneezing doll), Tiny Kissy, Penelope and her Pooch (a dog-walking doll), Alice in Wonderland, Tammy Tears, and Heidi.

Three pages in the 1966 catalog featured Barbie, her family, and several friends. There were two Barbie dolls on sale for $2.99 each, plus extra accessories, tiny furniture, and clothing for special occasions. Francie, &uot;Barbie’s Swinging ‘Mod’ Cousin,&uot; Skipper and Skooter, and Barbie’s new twin brother and sister, Todd and Tutti, were also candidates for Santa’s list. And, not to be forgotten, was Barbie’s boyfriend, the Ken doll, with three clothing choices.

Perhaps the oddest doll in this catalog was the DAWK. This strange creation was defined with, &uot;The DAWK is the original real cool loser. It neither walks or talks. It just stands there in silent protest. With a moptop of bright colorful yarn and inscrutable dark glasses the DAWK stands holding his sign of protest. The DAWK comes with 21 interchangeable hilarious expressions of protest that fit into his sign. If you want to protest something not included on the signs, then write one yourself on the blank signs provided. No self-respecting protester can be without a DAWK.&uot;

The catalog also had dolls based on animal, mythical and television program characters. These included Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Kermit the Frog and Rowlf the Dog muppets, several fluffy puppies, musical and talking critters, trolls galore, and a half page of stuffed bears.

Mr. Ed the Talking Horse hand puppet didn’t need batteries; a ring could be pulled to get this then popular television star to say a few words. And it was a guarantee that one of those messages was addressed to his owner, Wilbur.

Winnie the Pooh and all his pals were available in foam rubber figures which could be bent to assume several positions. These characters were also available in the 1966 catalog as plush animals, hand puppets, and even as parts of a game version.

Two of the most famous dolls of all time, Raggedy Ann and Andy, were shown on page 246 as possible additions to a child’s Christmas list based on the Wards wish book.

Next: There were many more gift suggestions in the 1966 Wards Christmas catalog. The emphasis will be on books, games, and recreational equipment which could have potential for a child’s consideration to be added to Santa’s list.