| Submitted by Ray Evans
It seems that we lose something with each advancement of technology. The recent
announcement of the closing of the 128 year old Montgomery Ward chain of stores
brought a little sadness to my heart. They were one of the first companies to
publish mail order catalogs and to operate on a policy of Satisfaction or
Your Money Back.
When I was growing up in the Oak Hill section of Rockcastle county during the
1930s and 40s, the two most important books in the family besides
the Bible were the Montgomery Ward and Sears & Roebuck mail order catalogs.
These catalogs made accessible modern worldly goods to the remote mountain
areas of Kentucky and the rest of the country. New catalogs were published
twice a year. One would be issued for spring and summer and one for fall and
winter. When the new ones first came out, the family members took turns looking
at them. Our first reliable radio was an Airline brand dry-battery powered
radio from Montomery Ward. My family enjoyed that radio for a number of years.
One could fill out and mail a simple order blank and order literally thousands
of items delivered by the U S Mail to your mailbox or through Railway Express.
Larger items could be delivered to the nearest railway freight office. For
example; everything from clothes for every family member, baby chickens, Carter
family song books and phonograph records, corsets for grandma, parts for the
family car, parts for farm equipment and even 3 pound packages of honey bees
About 1940, I thought that I had all the education I would ever need when I
managed to fill out an order blank to order some guitar strings and song books
from Montgomery Ward. There must be a piece of magic about buying stuff through
the mail. I looked forward to delivery of my order everyday until it arrived. I
made the path to the mailbox more evident everyday. It was like Christmas all
over again when my package finally arrived. It was wrapped in the familiar
brown paper with a mailing label attached with my NAME on it.
Montgomery Ward and Sears & Roebuck both issued a special Christmas
catalog. The boxes of chocolates, candy and fruitcake pictures in these
Christmas catalogs were very well illustrated. They certainly made your mouth
water for a taste of them. My sisters and I did not need to write letters to
Santa because our wishes were very evident in the catalog where our dirty
little fingers had worn a spot pointing to the different toys. I always wanted
one of those fancy cowboy outfits, but never got one.
Of course, the old dog-eared catalogs served a double purpose after the new
ones were issued. The particular use does not deserve much discussion here, but
every out-door toilet in the country with one of those little crescents of the
moon cut in the door had an old torn and tattered catalog handy. Some people
also used the old catalogs to make a colorful cylindrical shaped doorstop by
folding the pages in an accordion style in such a way that they could be stood
Oh! Sure you can send almost instant Email to your friends halfway around the
world today and you can order about anything on the Internet and have it
delivered by UPS to your door. There are also a number of catalogs still
available. However, with the demise of the Montgomery Ward and Sears &
Roebuck catalogs, we lost something that is not likely ever to come again.