My Own Personal 60’s Flashback– Which Did Not Involve Any Controlled Substances, BTW.

The other day I read something in a post by one of my favorite Nashville bloggers that caused such a flood of memories in me that I spent the next two hours Googling and snagging photos off of the internet while curled up in a big comfy chair and alternately laughing my head off in delight and shouting out the names of almost-forgotten relics of my childhood. (Yes, I DID scare the dogs, thanks for asking.) What prompted this avalanche of nostalgia, you ask? Three words: Sears Wish Book!!


If you are ‘of a certain age’ and grew up in the good ol’ U.S. of A., you have got to remember the wonderful catalog that arrived in the mail right around this time of year. It always had a beautifully photographed holiday-themed cover, but who knew, because I usually blew right past it on my way to the object of my longing– the gloriously decadent, every-kid’s-fantasy TOY SECTION at the back of the catalog. Page after colorful page was crammed full of everything my  acquisitive little heart could desire. There were the usual suspects, like Barbies, bikes, games and stuffed animals, but there would also be a big spread on whatever the hot toy of the season happened to be– you know, the one that was heavily and diabolically promoted in between all of the cartoon shows on Saturday morning, to the point that you could sing the jingle in your sleep and dreamed of nothing else except how very much you wanted that MouseTrap game… or a Super Ball…  or Little Kiddles Lucky Lockets… or Lite-Brite… or a Cootie game… or a View Master… or Popeye the Weatherman Colorforms... or Gaylord the Basset Hound… or one of my all-time favorites, Incredible Edibles. That was a bizarre little offering from Mattel which consisted of a Super Gooper oven (on which I regularly burned the ever-loving crap out of my hand), eight metal molds in the shape of insects and flowers and little people, and six foil packets of some unholy slimy concoction called Gobble-Degoop in horrific flavors like Cherry, Mint, Root Beer, Butterscotch and Licorice.   * shudders at the memory*   First you’d plug in the fire-hazard of an oven, and when it was dangerously hot you would squirt some of the flavored Gobble-DeSnot into some bug-shaped mold and pop it in. Soon the noxious fumes of something that smelled like burning plastic would singe the hairs in your nostrils and signal that your “Absolutely Delicious!” Incredible Edibles were ready. Then you’d incur a few more third-degree burns as you tried to pry the rubbery mess out of the metal mold and choke it down. Honestly, they were ghastly– which of course never stopped me from making them incessantly and trying to convince the rest of the family to eat ‘em!

But the toy I remember lusting after the most, the one that the Wish Book would automatically open to because I spent so much time staring at it, was the wondrous Suzy Smart doll. Oh dear lord, how I wanted that doll. I have no idea what it was that intrigued me so much– it was just basically a plastic doll that came with a school desk and a little chalkboard and an easel. I wasn’t all that enamored with school and I already had my own blackboard anyway, but something about that blonde ponytail and that plaid jumper and that jaunty little tam o’shanter with the pompom on top… *sigh* Oh, and she talked too! (OK, maybe I’m starting to understand the attraction.) She had a built-in record player that said things like “2 + 2 = 4!” and “D-O-G spells dog!” Freakin’ genius, that doll. Anyway, it was ALL I could think about and I prayed every night that I could get her. Then on Christmas morning, there she was in all of her glory…


…and my faith in the power of prayer and the Sears Wish Book was cemented.

Here are some of toys I came across during my Googling marathon– I remember these all so clearly! Do any of you?

*****Let’s see… They always had several pages devoted to Barbie and all of her friends. I had that skier version down there at the bottom, and also the Midge doll. Midge was kind of like Barbie’s much-less-attractive friend, but I did love her red hair and especially that hot dog bun-looking weenie roll at the bottom of her hairdo. My friend Melinda Sellers in the 4th grade could actually make her hair do that and I was terribly jealous. Speaking of hair, I wonder who the Mattel marketing genius was that came up with the idea of packaging these things together– a “bendable ‘Miss Barbie’ “who came with “three wigs, a lawn swing and a planter”???  That just doesn’t seem like a natural grouping to me.


******Putting wigs on dolls must have been the thing to do during the mid-60’s. I can understand the benefits of early cosmetology training for your kid, but what mother in her right mind would allow her child to plunk one of those horrors on her own innocent little head? That first one looks like the love child of Kate Gosselin and Carol Brady.


********* A lot of the toys for girls had to do with housework, ‘cos you know, who doesn’t want to grow up and spend all your time cleaning?!  This kitchen set was kinda cool though–  when you pushed the button the whole thing would revolve. I would totally buy a kitchen island that did that.


*******I remember drooling over all of these doll houses, but the price was crazy expensive to me– $18.77 for a toy house??? Isn’t that about what a real one costs??? I was fascinated by all of those miniature versions of real stuff, like those cunning little furniture sets and swimming pool and cars. Look at that playground set– it comes with it’s own “big family”!


*****I TOTALLY got one of these bikes for Christmas one year; it was a metal-flake Stingray with a banana seat and those cool ape-hanger handlebars. I think my seat was white, but I would have been all over that leopard one! Not interested in the hot-rod motor sound, though.


*******I always wanted one of those honkin’ huge stuffed Lassie dogs. I loved that show– “What are you trying to tell me, Lassie? Little Timmy’s down the well?” My friend Duddy Swann had that exact Woody the Woodpecker talking toy, and I think every kid I knew had one of those Ziggy the Chimps with the plastic banana in it’s hand. His face used to creep me out.wishbookplush

******The clothes in the Wish Book always seemed like the height of sophistication to me. Our local Sears store used to have this special section for ‘tweens, a ’boutique’ they called The Lemon Frog. I just knew if Mom would buy me some of these outfits I would be the coolest kid in the 6th grade. I could SO rock those white lace-up boots. Check out the pre-Princess Leia honeybun hairstyle on that one model!


***** I was always fascinated by the concept of matching holiday pajamas. They used to have like, three pages of them in every Wish Book, in all different kinds of motifs. I mean, I could understand dressing your kids alike for those Christmas morning pictures, but the whole dang family? Were there actually dads and brothers somewhere in the world that would agree to that? I had a better chance of getting them to eat some of those toxic Incredible Edibles!


OK, that’s MY trip down memory lane! So tell me– do you guys remember the Wish Book, too? What did you wish for out of it?

17 Responses

  1. MostlySunny

    Oh, golly. You got me going on this one! So that lets you know that we’re around the same age.

    The wish book… We lived out in the head of nowhere – 1 1/2 hours to the closest “town” – Clovis or Fresno, CA – so going to a “real” store was not part of our lifestyle. We were catalog shoppers. And Christmas was the highlight. When “the book” came in the mail, we (6 of us) would turn down the top right edge of the page, then write our name on the desired item, including size and color, if necessary. Right after Thanksgiving was when the boxes started coming, with strict orders to not even touch them. They went directly to the back of our parent’s closet, unopened. Dang! Couldn’t even snoop.

    My favorite doll – Chatty Cathy. She talked and she had long hair that you could style. And she wasn’t as anorexic as Barbie – my kind of gal. Of course, anorexic wasn’t in our vocabulary back then; people were just “skinny”. Skinny wasn’t in our vocabulary either because that wasn’t us. Fat or skinny – you were one or the other. Which led to some inane, ridiculous, exasperating brother(s) to call my precious doll “Fatty Cathy”. Ahhh, brothers! GET OUT OF MY ROOM! (Today, I love them to pieces).

    We always got new flannel pj’s from Grandma & Grandpa; sometimes fuzzy slippers, too. Underwear and socks – BORRRRINGGG! (but necessary).

    And the bike. Powder blue with hand brakes. Hopped on the bike and promptly went right over the hill into a fence trying to stop using foot brakes. Oops! Took a while getting used to those hand brakes – which was front and which was back?

    We’re mall rats now. Thanks for the memories…

  2. rachelbaker

    I’m actually finding this very educational! Its like a history lesson from the other side of the atlantic. I am not just trying to gloat that I am soooo much younger than most of you – this is really genuinely great. You see, my little girl’s history topic at school tis term is ‘toys through the ages’ – they’re starting with ‘victorian hoops’ and working their way up to todays favourites. She can use this as research!

    Growing up in the 80’s in England, I spent hours gazing longingly at the back pages of the argos catalogue, and my girls have started doing the same thing now. Some toys just never go out of fashion. This year the lists contain lots of barbie things, princesses and sylvanian families. I can remember when my list was pretty much the same. ALTHOUGH I can remember for many, many years in a row really wanting a ‘Mr Frosty’ which was basically a machine for making crushed ice drinks – like slush puppies I think. I never got one, and never understood why, but am beginning to understand a bit more now I am the Mum buying the presents.

    BTW you should see the Barbie car, horsebox and horse Hannah is getting for Christmas this year – it was an ebay BARGAIN – and she is going to love it almost as much as I would have when I was 5!

  3. auburn60

    If I remember right that Little Kiddle doll had a big ol’ clip on the back so you could actually wear the thing–doll included–everywhere you went. And I did. My doll had dark hair and I think I rarely left the house before securing her proudly to my shirt or sweater. I remember wanting that thing more than I wanted to breathe. I also had the Incredible Edible thing and the smell stays with me to this day. And I had that ‘Allan’ doll with that very same…what?… beach jacket? Who was Allan anyway? Midge’s boyfriend? Between my sister and me we had MANY Barbies, complete with evening gowns,bathing suits and shoes–although you could never find a pair of shoes that matched and my father was always complaining about stepping on them and my mother was always digging them out of the vacuum.
    I had those white boots and always turned my ankle in them. But those knicker things? Never was cool enough to pull off that look.
    I always got a lot of dolls and things for Christmas although I never played with them much. My very favorite gift of all time? The first edition BEAUTIFUL copies of all the Louisa May Alcott books: Little Women, Little Men, Jo’s Boys, Eight Cousins. I still remember the thrill of seeing those books and touching them almost reverently. Oh yeah… I think that was the year I got my own Bible with my name on it. What color you might ask? Fire-engine red.


    OK, THAT WAS JUST WHAT I NEEDED TODAY! Been preparing to move, eewww.
    I was tired, overwhelmed, wondering which direction to go next, and then………….I READ YOUR COMMENTS ON THE WISH BOOK! Man, oh, man! Do I remember waiting for that book to come, and dog-earing the pages that had things I wanted on it!

    Wonder if one of those kitchen isles is really possible?

  5. auburn60

    A quick internet search revealed a slew of vintage Sears Christmas catalogs for sale on various auction sites. The oldest I saw was 1949. Who knew?

  6. Barbara M. Lloyd

    When I was growing up, there was no Wish Book…but there was a Sears & Roebuck catelog, which was put to good use in different ways. I used to cut out pictures of furniture to make rooms and, therefore, homes for my paperdolls. Then, at my grandma’s, the catelog was relagated to the outhouse for continued service. Hated it when all was left were the shiny pages.

    By the time my children came along (now 54. 51 and 42) the Wish Books came along, too, for there were three at one time: Sears’, Penny’s and Montgomery Ward’s. As has been mentioned, the kids would go through the books and write their names on all of the things they wanted…then they would go through and number the things according to their importance to them. Then they would turn down the corners on those pages. Now that I think about it, they sure ddn’t have much confidence in santa. There were those same toys…and G.I. Joe, micronuts, Chatty Cathy, Trouble game, etc.

    We have a picture of our youngest at two years’ of age, sitting looking intensely at the Sears’ Wish Book. It was the absolute best babysitter because Mark would sit for an hour or two turning those pages over and over.

  7. themema

    Yes, she said very quietly with eyes down. We all had matching pajamas for Christmas morning. Always flannel, always button down the front, so Dennis would not feel too weird.

    And now Rachel, some toys your daughter has to include.
    Jacob’s ladder, whirligig, marbles, jacks, rubic cube, hoola hoop, cup and ball, rocking horse,…. in no particular order.

  8. LindaB

    I remember those Sears Christmas Toy Catalogs! And after Christmas, we used the soft green index pages in the outhouse! No kidding!

    I don’t remember wanting anything from those “wish” books, but I do remember some toys that I got that made me very happy. One was a Ginger Doll. And another year it was a Tiny Tears Doll——I remember thinking if I carried it around all the time and treated it with deep love and devotion, it would turn into a real baby! I didn’t say I was the brightest kid of the bunch! There were five of us kids and we appreciated anything we got!!!! We would have thought it presumptious to actually PICK something we wanted for Christmas, and never would we have made a “LIST”, like kids do today. I think maybe our younger brothers did after us three older ones married and left.

    I had three brothers younger than I, and they got Hot Wheels and a Hot Wheels track one year, and that was cool! They were so excited and I remember my dad sitting on the floor helping them put it together and what fun it was to be in our house around Christmas time! I loved the sound of little boys laughing and giggling and playing with some new toy they had only seen on TV before! Their enthusiasm was contagious!

    All rules were suspended for that week between Christmas and New Years—–you could throw wrapping paper on the floor, eat whatever you wanted, stay up late, sleep ’til you wanted to get up, leave your toys lying around…………….HEY! THAT’S JUST WHAT I DO TODAY!!!! I’ve come full circle!!!

    About three years ago, my sister—–the good and thoughtful one——got each of us five “kids” the one toy she remembered that we wanted for Christmas way back when we were little. She gave me a Tiny Tears Doll! I still have it packed away! Wasn’t that sweet! She hunted and hunted antique shops to find them! Yeah, that’s how old I am! Shut up!

  9. auburn60

    I think I like your sister.

  10. chillybean

    I firmly believe my love of catalogs stems from all the wish lists I would make as a child. I don’t remember exactly what catalog we got, but they were always around: From the tomes from Sears and Wards, to the more petite Harriet Carter.

    My middle sister and I would browse and make list after list of all the items we just had to have. (But alas never received.)

    My one dream toy as a child was a Lite Brite. I would pray and wish on stars for a Lite Brite. I did this for years. For some reason my mother never caught on. One year my youngest sister (by 10 years) got a Lite Brite. SHE DIDN’T EVEN KNOW WHAT IT WAS!!! I was in my teens at the time, no longer wanted the darned thing, but cried anyway. I was so bummed. ha..probably still am as I am writing about it.


  11. bettyrwoodward

    I’m too old for those books and never really remember making a list but there is one story that I will tell. I must have been just three and Christmas was coming. I saw a doll in a shop window. A walkie talkie doll like I had never seen before. I asked my parents if I could have one and was given a definite no as they could not afford it. I still kept on about this doll and told my parents that I was going to have ‘Janice’ as I had asked Jesus for her. Again they sat me down and explained that they did not have the money to buy her. When Christmas morning came I went into their room with my stocking unopened and said ‘ Where’s Janice?’. This was the first time I saw my mother cry as they said ‘ She’s under the bed’ My father’s boss had bought me the same doll which was way our of my parents reach. That was they first time I realised that God answers prayer. I still have Janice!

  12. LindaB

    Oh my, Betty! You got me teared up this morning!!! That’s a sweet sweet story!

  13. MostlySunny

    Oh Betty, I’m with LindaB on this one! That’s a great story.



  15. Bloomfield Farm

    Oh yes, I too remember the Sears Wish Book. Your post brought back a lot of memories. I think I actually got one of those metal doll houses too. Poor little kids of today have to be content with that tiny Target toy booklet in last week’s paper… it pales in comparison to yesteryear’s REAL wish book! Guess they can supplement with the Pottery Barn Kids catalog and perhaps Pleasant Company, but I still think they’re missing out, don’t you?

  16. phelpsphan

    Hi Tori, well you got a great belly laugh out of me this morning! LOL Girl, you really know how to walk us down memory lane while gasping for air at the same time! I loved all the pictures you added…….the 60’s really was a great time wasn’t it? I remember having so many of those toys and that Sears catalogue could stir up excitement no matter what time of year it was, but Christmas was THE best with that catalogue!!! Thx for the memories and the fun!!!

  17. jonny

    OK, came across one on-line for us guys, or those in touch with their ‘boy-ish’ side!

    The Wish Book was a big part of my Christmas as well. Even involved my brother and two neighbour boys across the street. We were rarely into the same things, though.

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