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CLAYTON RYE

By Staff | Mar 2, 2012

Hearing of the scaling down of Sears stores is another reminder of how much life is changing.

Businesses that we thought would be here forever are struggling to stay alive.

The Sears and Ward’s catalogs were fixtures in the house I grew up in during the ’50s and ’60s. We were as liable to check the catalogs when we needed something as we were to go to town and buy it.

There were even catalog stores where you could see the item on the printed page and then drive to town to buy that item at the store.

If waiting around two weeks, maybe less, was not a problem, then mailing an order form and a check would get you the item delivered to your mail box.

We got along that way for many years and were quite satisfied with how that worked.

It did not matter what you were in need of, Sears and Montgomery Ward had a catalog that probably told you the ordering number, price, description and shipping weight.

My uncle told me in the early 1950s, they were in need of a large water tank, the kind that holds several hundred gallons, built on a platform, and used for storing water.

They found one made of redwood in the Ward’s catalog and ordered it. It arrived, they assembled it and it was used for many years to provide water for cattle in the pasture about two miles away from the farmstead.

We needed wood for a project in the late ’70s and as the water tank was not used anymore, we disassembled it for the materials.

The redwood remained in excellent condition, and it was first quality without a knot to be seen anywhere.

Between the mail order catalogs and the three towns within five miles, we could get anything we wanted from groceries and clothing, to banking, to our choice of tractors and farm equipment in the popular colors of red, green and orange. We hardly needed to leave our township, let alone the county.

Here we are living in the early 21st century.

The catalogs have been replaced by a computer that lets me search for anything, new or used.

If it can be shipped, a couple clicks takes care of payment, provides a shipping address, and within days I have what I was looking at in the computer screen.

Those stores that we shopped at are long gone as are the buildings where they were located. Comparing then and now is almost difficult.

It is progress and it has come with a price. Most of the way of doing things today I approve of and do not want to go back to the ways that served us well over 50 years ago.

Yes, the grocery store is over 10 miles away now and anything we are in need of is about 30 minutes of driving time away.

I do miss the store owners who would greet my dad by name as he walked in the store to buy a box of nails, a loaf of bread or a new corn planter. That is part of the loss.

I could not have imagined 50 years ago that there would be a day when I could shop effortlessly from my living room chair for everything from clothing to books to parts or anything I am in need of, whether new or used.

A couple weeks ago I decided to buy an adapter that lets me use my older manual focus lenses, which I bought in the days of film, with my digital camera.

The description said it would be shipped from China.

I made my payment and about 10 days later, I was holding the adapter in my hands and attaching my old lens to my recent camera. It worked wonderfully.

Yes, I miss the Sears and Ward’s catalogs and how we did things way back then.

They provided many hours of wishful thinking for me and, I am sure, many others. That is why they were known as wish books.

However, it is also a thrill to shop from my recliner situated in the midst of corn and soybean fields and have choices available worldwide that I could have never imagined.

The wishes haven’t changed.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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