I’m not a Gen X’er like Tam, but we share some common experiences:
If you’re a Gen X’er, like me, Sears loomed large in your childhood. They sent out this huge catalog that was full of cool stuff. When I was home sick from school, I wasn’t allowed to watch TV (being sick wasn’t supposed to be fun) and so I’d while away my time in bed with a calculator, a note pad, and catalogs, “spending” a million dollars. Sears got a lot of that imaginary money, because they had everything.
One of my earlier projects was trying to find out about Mr. Roebuck, and why Mr. Sears hardly ever mentioned him. Turned out that Alvah Roebuck had asked Richard Sears to buy him out, circa 1895. But he didn’t quite stay gone:
After several years in semi-retirement in Florida, the financial losses he suffered in the stock market crash of 1929 forced Roebuck to return to Chicago. By 1933, Roebuck had rejoined Sears, Roebuck and Co., where he largely devoted his time to compiling a history of the company he helped found.
In September 1934, a Sears store manager asked Roebuck to make a public appearance at his store. After an enthusiastic public turnout, Roebuck went on tour, appearing at retail stores across the country for the next several years.
And Roebuck was the one survivor of the Old Days: Richard Sears had died back in 1914. Roebuck died in 1948, and was mentioned only once after that, in Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell”: “They furnished off an apartment with a two-room Roebuck sale / The coolerator was crammed with TV dinners and ginger ale.”
I have, of course, my own memories of the Softer Side of Sears:
That side, too, is gone now.