Memories of Sears

This thread got me thinking about growing up with Sears. Seemed like a good opportunity for a nostalgia thread.

When I was a kid, we lived in the Clairmont area of San Diego. Dad was a Naval officer, and I grew up with an appreciation for the ocean. He had a boat, whose hull was built at Sasubo Shipbuilding in Japan, and which the Navy brought over for him. He finished it out himself, and powered it with a blueprinted Olds V-8 connected directly to the screw. And he did it with Craftsman tools.

He had a big Craftsman radial arm saw that he would use all the time. (It’s got to be nearly 40 years old now, and is at my sister’s house. It still works.) And he had a Craftsman welder. All of his tools were Craftsman. Nothing else would do.

Dad told me once that in the 1960s his little brother bent a Craftsman tool. I think it was a large screwdriver. My uncle was angry that a Craftsman tool would fail. The story goes that he marched into the Sears store holding the screwdriver like a weapon, and with a scowl on his face. The tool guy saw him coming, and what he was carrying, and grabbed an identical tool. They met in the aisle and exchanged tools without a word, and my uncle turned and left. He was satisfied.

I’ve heard that Craftsman’s quality has declined; but growing up around dad’s collection, I buy them myself.

Sears had toys. I didn’t care about what the grownups were shopping for. I wanted toys. I remember spending a lot of time browsing and dreaming. I loved the Christmas toy catalogue. I must have spent hours looking through it again and again.

But I didn’t like the clothes. Shirts were okay, but as a child my jeans must be Levi’s. Oh, how it irked me when mom brought home Roebucks (was that what they were called?).

I liked the vacuum cleaner display that had the nozzle fitted to the exhaust port, and a beach ball balanced on the air stream.

I guess I was about ten years old when I watched a woman talking to a salesman about a piece of electronic equipment. I don’t remember what it was; too early for a VCR. Might have been a large radio/cassette player. Anyway, the salesman kept telling her about the ‘battery eliminator’. (Obviously this was the AC adapter.) The woman was a little confused and said, ‘It runs on batteries? I thought it ran on electricity!’ I chuckled because I knew that D-cells stored electrical energy, so of course it ran on electricity.

Dad had a certain whistle he’d use when he wanted me. Sort of a Morse code ‘dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah’. He used it everywhere, but I usually associate it with Sears while he was looking at tools and I was looking at toys. Do people still let their kids browse stores unsupervised?

Our washing machine, dryer and dishwasher were all Kenmore. The fridge and the freezer may have been as well.

My bed and dresser came from Sears. I still have the dresser, though I don’t know why. Just never got around to getting rid of it.

Our first TV (at least, the first one I remember) was a colour set from Sears. All my life dad always bought his TVs from Sears. He bought the service warranties on them too. Now, I think service warranties were a waste of money; but he used them. I don’t know how many service warranties he had. There were the TVs, the lawn mower, tha vacuum cleaner… What else?

Now Sears is old. I buy tools there, but little else. If I want a TV or something, I’ll go to someplace else like Best Buy. If I want clothes, I get them from Old Navy or Anchor Blue. (Hey, they’re decent clothes and they’re inexpensive.) If I want a suit, I’ll go to Men’s Warehouse. Shoes come from a shoe store. That is, I buy stuff from places that ‘specialise’ in the product I want (to some degree) instead of going to an all-in-one department store. But then, I’m not a shopper. I decide what I want, find out who has it, and get it. I don’t browse departments to see what’s available, and then decide what I want. (Actually, I don’t buy much more than the necessities nowadays.)

It seems to me that people who want low prices on consumer items are turning to Target and Wal-Mart; and that when they want a specific thing, they go to a specific place to get it. That is, they get high-quality stuff from high-quality places (my choices of everyday clothes notwithstanding), and for consumables they go to volume-discount stores. It seems that middle-American department store shopping, where you can get decent products at decent prices has been replaced by niche shopping where people choose either high-quality/higher-price or low-quality/lower-price. The ‘middle’ seems to have slipped down a few notches.

But I digress. I started talking about memories of Sears; and I have shared some. How about you?

I really like Sears for their extreme return policy. When we bought our house three years ago, I got a mower from Sears that my in-laws gave me for my birthday. It was a fine mower: for someone else. I had 2 1/2 acres of extremely rocky ground to mow with some grass and wild shrubs over 2 feet tall that I was trying to cut down too. I think I threw 5 blades and broke the crankshaft twice in one year. Each time I took it back, they were cheerful, said it was under warranty and had it fixed in less than three days even for the severe problems. One day, I broke it again by hitting a railroad spike that was still there from who know how long and I loaded it up and took it back. I talked to the manager and told him the mower wasn’t right for my needs and I needed a bigger, more heavy-duty one. He told me to go pick one out and I did. They gave me 100% credit for my old mower and I got a brand new one for the $100 or so difference in price. That was pretty cool.

BTW. I have heard that screwdriver exchange story a few times and even once from a comedian on Comedy Central so I think you may have gotten duped by a very subtle urban legend. I am not saying the end result is not the same, because I certainly believe that. It is just the angry charge followed by the silent exchange that makes the rounds.

Heh, heh, heh.

I’ve always like Sears for the most part, and one of the main reasons is that I am related to the Sears of Sears & Roebuck (but not closely enough to get in on the profit sharing, dammit).

Many moons ago, Sears’ credit cards were handled strangely. The card was accepted in any Sears store, but the account was handled through the store that issued it. They have since centralized their credit process. Anyway, I was living in Austin, TX at the time, but had come to Houston to visit the folks for Christmas. I was doing some last minute shopping at the Sears near the house, and when I went to pay for it, I handed the clerk my card from the Austin store. It was a different design from Houston’s, lots of gold on it, looked really cool.

The clerk was obviously a seasonal temp, sweet young thing with a great personality but not much experience. She looked at the card, then saw my last name and got somewhat perplexed. I promptly pounced on the opportunity and told her how I was the great-grandson of Richard W. Sears, the founder, etc., etc., and that I was entitled to a 40% family discount.

She was absolutely awestruck by being in the presence of a genuine Sears, much less the great-grandson. I strung this out for a while and then spilled the beans when she started trying to figure out how to ring up the discount. She took it in good humor; in fact, we were all laughing so hard that her boss came over to see what was happening. She joined in the laughter when I told her the story and I took the opportunity to give an attagirl to the clerk.

It’s become one of our family legends :smiley: