Christmas shopping back in the day.

While perusing Facebook this morning I came across this Frazz comic strip shared by the Decrepit Old Fool himself. Here’s a quick description in case you don’t want to click on the link. In the past I would’ve included the comic with a link back, but the site specifically mentions a license for blog posts and it’s $35.

Two kids are talking about Christmas shopping in the past. The girls says that her Dad said it used to be all traffic jams by the mall while her grandpa said it was traffic jams by the downtown department store. While they, the kids, would be the ones to grow up to not be able to get out of their own driveways (due to all the delivery trucks). It really is better to go see it for yourself.

This, of course, started me reminiscing about Christmas shopping back in the day. I can vividly remember going to The Pontiac Mall and trying to remember what my parents and siblings had said they wanted and often failing. The crush of the crowd was both frustrating and amazing. It was one of the few times of the year that you really got a sense of just how many people lived in your area.

The Pontiac Mall in its early years before I shopped there.
An example cover.

Of course, we did have mail order back then, but it was mostly limited to a few catalogs that took aim squarely at the Old White People demographic (e.g., Harriet Carter) or foodies (Swiss Colony). Both of those are still around and on the Internet these days, which is a helluva testament to their knowing their target markets.

Though no one I knew did the majority of their Christmas shopping through them. I certainly didn’t, but I did look forward to the arrival of the catalogs as one sign of the start of the holiday season. Also. I did drool over more than a few items in the Swiss Colony catalog. I’m a sucker for cheese and sausage gift packs.

I get excited just remembering browsing through the toys in this venerable book.

We didn’t have an Amazon Wish List. Back then it was the Sears Wish Book. Going through the toy section, circling desired items with different colored pens, discovering the women’s underwear section as I hit puberty, such wonderful memories. Sears is still hanging on by a thread, but back in the day they were one of the big department stores along with Hudson’s which has since gone extinct.

A lot of my clothing growing up came from Sears as did the very first video game console I had: The Sears Video Arcade! Which was just a rebranded Atari 2600. This gives you an idea of the kind of clout that Sears had back then. Atari wasn’t a household name yet, but Sears was. So, Atari agreed to let Sears slap their own name on it because Atari knew Sears was highly trusted brand and it would get their consoles into homes.

When I was growing up The Pontiac Mall had a Hudson’s and a Montgomery Ward as anchor stores. They built a Sears at the north end of the mall in 1973, but it wasn’t attached to the rest of the mall which was annoying during the winter. It was eventually connected during the huge expansion in 1988 that nearly doubled the size of the mall and added stores like J.C. Penny’s and led to changing the name to “Summit Place” which I hated and refused to use. Hell, for most of my childhood I was ignorant of the fact that “malls” were common so it was always just “The Mall” to me growing up. Things have changed a lot since those days. “Summit Place” closed its doors for good in 2009 with only J.C. Penney and Macy’s remaining until early 2010. Sears held out until 2014. It was finally demolished last year. Driving past it during demolition and seeing it reduced to rubble was more emotional for me than I expected.

MY CHILDHOOD, RUINED! Source: Jonathan Hair on YouTube

Not that I’m complaining about things now. The vast majority of my gift giving over the past decade plus has been done online. Yes, I’m Amazon’s bitch. I can’t begin to imagine doing it the old way in the middle of a pandemic. Those crowds would’ve been an unparalleled super spreader event.

I keep my Amazon Wish List updated throughout the year and yet I’m amazed at how many folks still ask me what I want. Here’s a complete list with things both cheap and expensive as fuck. Pick something. I guarantee you ANYTHING on that list will make me happy. That’s why it’s there. For that matter, I’m amazed at how many people don’t have an Amazon Wish List or don’t bother to keep it up to date. It’s one of the things I love about living in the future.

Anyway, I’ve not posted anything since Thanksgiving and I wanted to get something up and the Frazz comic kicked off a wave of nostalgia. I was originally just going to reshare the comic on Facebook as George did, but when I got up to two paragraphs of writing about it I figured it should be a blog post instead. Now I’ve spent the better part of an hour and a half working on this instead of the 2 minutes resharing would’ve taken. That’s OK because I am on vacation and can’t go anywhere thanks to the COVIDs.

What about you guys? Got any memories of Christmas shopping before the age of the Internet and the rise of Amazon? Do you still go to your local mall? Here in Westland where I live now, we still have a local mall — The Westland Shopping Center — that I have been to in the past, but haven’t been in the three years since I officially moved here. I keep meaning to go because I’ve not wasted an afternoon walking around a mall aimlessly in many years, but haven’t yet and probably won’t until this pandemic is under better control. DAMN YOU COVID-19!