It was truly a wish book. The days after Thanksgiving my brothers and I waited patiently for its arrival in our rural mailbox. The book was of course the Sears, Roebuck Christmas Catalog, first published in 1933.
There was no other book like for it, especially for farm kids who lived miles from a city and probably had never been in a department store. The wish book contained page after page of toys, everything from Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys to dolls, books, BB guns, and board games of every type.
My brothers and I took turns paging through the catalog, making our choices for Christmas presents. What we hoped Santa would bring. My mother said we could pick out one toy from the catalog, and one other practical thing such as a sweater, a pair of mittens, or maybe a winter cap with fancy ear flaps.
One Christmas I chose a book called FUN FOR BOYS, edited by William Allan Brooks. I must have gotten it in about 1944 and it still has an important place on my bookshelf. I remember how thrilled I was on Christmas morning to tear open the package with my special book and read through its Table of Contents: “The Secrets of Cartooning,” “How to Identify Aircraft,” (German, Japanese and U.S. as we were in the midst of World War II), “Building Model Planes,” “How to Train Your Dog,” “How to Handle a Rope Like a Cowboy,” “Building a Powerful Physique,” and “The Fundamentals of Jiu-Jitsu” (As taught to marines, soldiers and G-Men).
The final chapter included eight pages of recommended books for boys beginning with THE DEERSLAYER by James Fennimore Cooper, including A SON OF THE MIDDLE BORDER by Hamlin Garland (a Wisconsin author), THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER and THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN both by Mark Twain, ADVENTURES OF BUFFALO BILL by William F. Cody, EARLY MOON by Carl Sandburg and many more.
I spent many hours poring over this special book—I still find it interesting today, more than 66 years later.
THE OLD TIMER SAYS: The best thing you can do when it’s snowing is to let it snow.
CHECK THIS OUT: Listen to an online interview about my new novel, CRANBERRY RED. Go to: http://www.wuwm.com/programs/lake_effect/le_sgmt.php?segmentid=6674
WUWM: Lake Effect - Cranberry Red
December 9, 7:00 p.m. Stoughton Library.
December 11, 10 to 2:00 p.m. Fireside Books, West Bend.
December 13, 11:00 to 2:00 p.m. Dregne’s Scandinavian Gifts, Westby. Book signing for Barns of Wisconsin, Horse Drawn Days, and Cranberry Red. (December 4 appearance canceled because of snow)