Goodbye, Sears Roebuck

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John F
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Goodbye, Sears Roebuck

Post by John F » Thu Oct 25, 2018 5:50 am

Ten days ago, Sears Roebuck filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Truly the end of an era. The of its day, it couldn't survive competition with the real ... er-11.html

Terry Teachout writes:

Everything must go
October 22, 2018
by Terry Teachout

...Many epitaphs have been written for the Sears that used to be, none of them better than that of Rod Dreher:
Rod Dreher wrote:Sears was once part of American life—and an American childhood—in a way that is difficult for kids today to appreciate. Sure, it was as ubiquitous as Amazon is today, but the quality of the Amazon experience is fundamentally different. Sears was a place. As a child growing up in the ’70s, I was about as aware of Sears as a fish is of water. It’s just where your mom took you to buy Toughskins jeans for school, and Kenmore appliances, and where your dad got his Craftsman tools. For Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, those brand names convey institutional trust.

Do kids today feel the same way about brands? Does anybody? Those words, and everything about Sears, were bound to an unstated middle American, mid-century ideal. Now that Sears is gone—and in truth, it’s been gone for a long time—it’s hard to find the words to describe a cultural phenomenon that was so defining….

It’s easy to laugh now, but for a rural kid—at least a rural kid like me—that really meant something. It was an escape from the plainness of country life, and an immersion in cosmopolitanism. Sears, cosmopolitan? For me, it absolutely was. Going to Sears was the only reason we ever went into the city. It was like going to a fair, to a bazaar. After I finished dutifully trying on the Toughskins (size “husky”), I was free to wander the entire store alone. Can you imagine letting your nine-year-old wander a large department store alone? Everybody did in those days. It was freedom, it was color, it was a particular kind of wonder that, for a boy like me, was only available at Sears.
I know exactly what Rod is talking about. Back then, of course, Sears mostly meant new clothes to me, and continued to do so well into my college days. But it was the annual Christmas catalogue that epitomized the role played by Sears in shaping the imaginations of kids like us. When I wrote about Christmas in Smalltown, U.S.A., in my memoir of a Missouri childhood, one of the things that I went out of my way to mention was the thrilling ritual attendant upon the arrival each fall of the Sears “Wish Book”:
Rod Dreher wrote:On the day that the Christmas catalogue came in the mail, I sat down with a sharp pencil and a pile of notebook paper and wrote down the name, price, and page number of each and every toy I could possibly want. Then I spent hours paring my list down to a reasonable length, a process that called for clear thinking and a cool head. If the list was too long, I might not get the toys I wanted most; if it was too short, I might get fewer toys than my brother David. (Neither catastrophe had ever happened before, but I figured I had to be ready for anything.)
Thanks to the internet, that matchless enabler of nostalgia, it’s possible to flip at leisure through painstakingly scanned electronic copies of the Wish Books of your youth and gaze lovingly upon the toys that you found (if you were lucky) under the family Christmas tree. No sooner did I stumble across than I started looking for my favorite of all the toys that Santa Claus brought to me once upon a time. I found it, too, the “THREE-LEVEL SERVICE STATION with ramp and motorized elevator” for which my father, unbeknownst to me, paid $9.99, about eighty dollars in today’s money, a serious chunk of change for a hardware-store manager circa 1962. I hope he got his money’s worth from watching me play with it. I’ve no idea where it ended up—the junkyard, probably. What I do know is that no Christmas present has ever delighted me more.

But that was…well, a long time ago. Now the Sears Wish Books belong to the ages, as does my father himself, who was laid to rest in Smalltown’s Garden of Memories in 1998, too soon to know Mrs. T or see Satchmo at the Waldorf or turn on the television and watch the Twin Towers crumble into poisoned dust. Unlike Satchmo, Mrs. T, and my mother, who outlived him by fourteen years, he has become part of my distant past, though no day goes by without my thinking about him.

Writing that last sentence reminds me of a passage from one of Donald Westlake’s Parker novels in which he describes what it feels like to stab a woman and watch her die:
Donald Westlake wrote:The world tick-tocked on, and Ellen remained back there in that blood-red second, slowly slumping around the golden hilt.It was as though he had stabbed her from the rear observation platform of a train that now was rushing away up the track, and he could look out and see her way back there, receding, receding, getting smaller and smaller, less and less important, less and less real. Time was rushing on now, like that rushing train, hurtling him away.

That’s what death is; getting your heel caught in a crack of time.
I cherish my memories of a long time ago, of my father and the Allstate Three-Level Service Station that he bought me and the myriad joys of my mostly happy childhood. Yet I know, too, that I will someday step in my own crack of time, and so I intend to fill the days between now and then with all the brand-new memories that they’ll hold. That’s what I’ve been trying to do ever since 9/11. So far it’s worked out pretty well. ... st-go.html
John Francis

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Re: Goodbye, Sears Roebuck

Post by Belle » Thu Oct 25, 2018 7:08 pm

The day of the large retail store is done. Internet shopping has changed the landscape and retail (well, certainly in Australia) is always the canary in the coalmine when it comes to household economic health/disposable income. We have two large store chains here; one was 'floated' and owned by private equity and driven into the ground, the other bought by South African interests. I would mourn the loss of this latter retail chain (David Jones) in particular because they have far better staff and a more up-market stock and approach. You can buy imported English biscuits (cookies) and a range of other food items not generally available elsewhere. My sister had a friend several years ago who was an Estee Lauder executive here in Australia and she said the large retain store was soon to be a thing of the past.

Notwithstanding this, a new but smaller branch of David Jones has just opened 2km from our house in a recent, huge shopping centre redevelopment and the news predictably isn't good; hardly anyone is ever in there. We need them to keep going, if only to provide a refuge from the hoi polloi which gravitates to 'the mall'!! Body piercing, tattoos, pot bellies, thongs, hundreds of people filling their faces with rubbish at every single eatery (why do this do this???) and shoving and pushing on a grand scale.

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Re: Goodbye, Sears Roebuck

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Oct 29, 2018 7:45 pm

Forget about Amazon. Sears has long been in the category of how are the mighty fallen even in comparison with other old-fashioned department stores. Incidentally, if you search for refrigerators on Amazon, the fist models that come up are all Kenmore. Guess who that brand name used to belong to. Irrelevantly (or perhaps not so), Julius Rosenwald, once part owner of Sears, was one of the great humanitarian capitalists. His story is amazing.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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