STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

When Sears sold cars

The Sears Motor Buggy brought drivers into the automobile age for just $395.

Posted: Oct 15, 2018 8:36 PM
Updated: Oct 15, 2018 8:57 PM

For so many people who grew up before the internet, the Sears catalog WAS the internet.

The thick, heavy books had tools, dishes, TVs, clothes, appliances and just about anything else you'd need around house. They even sold houses for a while.

The Sears Christmas catalogs provided hours and hours of entertainment for kids, who could flip through the dog-eared pages and dream about playing with the latest toys.

News that the once-mighty 132-year-old company has filed for bankruptcy is triggering nostalgia for many former customers who grew up with the brand.

Sears' extraordinary history: A timeline

Rick Smith said the catalog gave his family the opportunity to buy things that were hard to get in Paris, Kentucky, a town of about 8,000 people about 20 miles from Lexington.

"We bought all of our televisions and appliances from Sears, as well as most of the clothes that I and my two brothers wore," he said. "The Sears Christmas 'Wish Book' was a favorite at our house, and I can recall picking out toys from that."

Back then, Sears didn't ship your purchases to your house. Your order would come to a local catalog store aand they would call so you could come pick it up.

"When you knew you had something really neat ... it felt like it was taking forever to arrive!"

Smith also remembered saving up his allowance in high school to buy suede and leather dark saddle shoes, so he'd have a nice pair for speech tournaments.

He got his first credit card from Sears when he was in college because his dad told him he needed to establish credit.

Smith said he was a bigger than average young man, so it was an added bonus that the store had a good big and tall selection.

"For many years thereafter, Sears Flexslax were my go to dress slacks, and I also bought dress shirts and a couple of suits there, too," Smith said.

Smith said he hasn't shopped at Sears in a while -- the store at his local mall closed a couple of years ago -- but he still feels a bit wistful about the bankruptcy news.

The arrival of the Christmas Wish Book was also a highly anticipated event for Alexina Navarro and her brother and sister. They would dutifully circle the things they wanted Santa to bring them, but Navarro and her sister pined for clothes like their friends would be wearing.

"We weren't interested in the toy section of the catalog," she said. "We desperately wanted to fit in with our peers' clothing choices, and not be ostracized."

Her mom made their clothes, and Navarro said they weren't like what other kids were wearing in the '60s and '70s.

"We should have been grateful, but we really weren't. We didn't appreciate going to the local fabric store and sorting through the patterns and cloth. We wanted to look like everyone else," she said.

Her mom tried to make outfits like the ones in the catalog, but they weren't the same.

Navarro remembers her mom buying her a warm winter coat from Sears because she was going to college in Portland, Oregon.

"My last purchase before heading off was a very bright kelly green wool coat that I got to choose myself!" she said.

Her dad taught her to drive in a Sears parking lot, and when her first used car needed brakes, "my dad took me into Sears Auto Shop to learn how to take care of these things like a big girl."

Navarro doesn't shop at Sears now. She said she's had a few car batteries replaced there over the years, but it's been a long time.

Daniel O'Donnell made what he called "the first major purchase of my young life" from the Sears catalog.

He saved his paper route earnings for a year to get the $35 to buy a 3-inch refractor telescope and an extra lens and filters. That was a lot of money for an 11-year-old in 1968.

"When I was a boy, I was a 'space kid,'" O'Donnell said, adding that he loved building models of NASA rockets.

He now does information security for a company that makes next-generation satellites.

O'Donnell said his dad worked for Sears when Allstate Insurance was part of the company. He still shopped there occasionally until last year, when the store in his town closed.

The bankruptcy isn't the end for the chain, but Sears and Kmart's parent company plans to close 142 of its worse performing stores as part of the bankruptcy plan.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 30801

Reported Deaths: 526
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah6818130
Marion444790
Washington428958
Umatilla291341
Clackamas225661
Malheur152723
Jackson10394
Lane96415
Deschutes76912
Yamhill73814
Jefferson5138
Polk50215
Morrow4886
Lincoln47213
Linn46613
Union4352
Benton2856
Klamath2732
Hood River2450
Wasco2343
Douglas2093
Josephine1832
Columbia1541
Coos1380
Clatsop1170
Baker902
Crook601
Tillamook480
Lake280
Wallowa281
Curry270
Sherman180
Harney120
Gilliam80
Grant80
Unassigned00
Wheeler00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 786168

Reported Deaths: 15016
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2607976353
Riverside566811153
San Bernardino52471908
Orange520631128
San Diego44577760
Kern31379354
Fresno27668355
Sacramento21297375
Alameda20558374
Santa Clara20410296
San Joaquin19793414
Stanislaus16319335
Contra Costa15837199
Tulare15599256
Ventura12328143
Imperial11558314
San Francisco1074599
San Mateo9522143
Monterey946767
Santa Barbara8862110
Merced8750134
Kings728377
Sonoma7060114
Marin6557112
Solano608555
Madera429658
Placer346641
San Luis Obispo336927
Butte274835
Yolo274754
Santa Cruz22188
Sutter164210
Napa161413
San Benito130111
Yuba11187
El Dorado10684
Mendocino84918
Lassen7310
Shasta68714
Glenn5503
Colusa5096
Nevada5066
Tehama4984
Humboldt4826
Lake46510
Calaveras31114
Amador28616
Tuolumne2214
Inyo18714
Mono1652
Siskiyou1610
Del Norte1361
Mariposa752
Plumas490
Modoc240
Trinity150
Sierra60
Alpine20
Unassigned00
Medford
Clear
51° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 51°
Brookings
Overcast
55° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 55°
Crater Lake
Clear
40° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 40°
Grants Pass
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 54°
Klamath Falls
Clear
40° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 40°
Seasonal & hazy afternoon
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events

Latest Video

Image

Monday, September 21 morning weather

Image

Sunday, September 20 evening weather

Image

Sunday, September 20 morning weather

Image

Families return to Talent to find homes completely destroyed

Image

Saturday, September 19 evening weather

Image

Concerns of Breathing in Wild Fire Smoke

Image

Sunday, September 19 morning weather

Image

Community organizations come together to help those in need

Image

Friday, September 18th Evening Weather

Image

Picking up the pieces from the Almeda Fire