When Sears sold cars

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

Posted: Oct 15, 2018 11:25 PM
Updated: Oct 15, 2018 11:57 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.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 587049

Reported Deaths: 9287
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion810691296
Lake44121665
Allen31797541
Hamilton28178303
St. Joseph26684369
Elkhart24057340
Vanderburgh18519213
Tippecanoe17305121
Johnson14398284
Porter14342159
Hendricks13793241
Madison10509212
Vigo10432171
Clark10151129
Monroe9029108
Delaware8782129
LaPorte8721153
Kosciusko784677
Howard7834137
Warrick636790
Hancock633297
Bartholomew624294
Floyd6098105
Wayne5903156
Grant5799109
Dubois541670
Boone531467
Morgan512388
Marshall492484
Henry491164
Cass469060
Noble458757
Dearborn454544
Jackson413145
Shelby401178
Lawrence379475
Clinton363639
Gibson355056
DeKalb336363
Montgomery333851
Harrison326042
Knox325439
Miami308243
Steuben304940
Adams294435
Whitley292325
Wabash291645
Ripley290845
Putnam282447
Huntington281257
Jasper280733
White265738
Daviess260772
Jefferson248538
Fayette241348
Decatur241282
Greene232460
Posey230026
Wells228547
LaGrange223461
Clay216432
Scott216437
Randolph207540
Jennings191335
Sullivan188531
Spencer179917
Fountain178625
Washington175018
Starke170741
Jay162021
Fulton158829
Owen157837
Carroll151315
Orange150533
Rush148118
Perry145327
Vermillion144333
Franklin142533
Parke12788
Tipton127332
Pike113125
Blackford107022
Pulaski94637
Newton89020
Brown85530
Benton84110
Crawford7479
Martin69213
Warren6537
Switzerland6175
Union6063
Ohio4647
Unassigned0374

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 821507

Reported Deaths: 10135
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin96935704
Cuyahoga81526972
Hamilton60913438
Montgomery41445399
Summit33096726
Lucas29981591
Butler29513227
Stark24608400
Warren18792139
Lorain17916207
Mahoning16710335
Lake15255135
Clermont15053104
Delaware1374277
Licking12595132
Trumbull12352301
Fairfield1211380
Greene11532132
Medina11033165
Clark10557264
Wood9901154
Allen9481126
Portage8802105
Miami880173
Richland8748116
Marion7305113
Tuscarawas7095174
Columbiana7047124
Pickaway699850
Wayne6729162
Muskingum665342
Erie5866117
Hancock537090
Ross526087
Scioto514862
Geauga478255
Darke456089
Ashtabula437268
Union429228
Lawrence428951
Mercer423387
Sandusky419062
Seneca411755
Auglaize410959
Huron409138
Shelby408521
Jefferson400466
Belmont392840
Washington367940
Putnam363672
Athens36229
Madison337928
Knox334922
Ashland329138
Fulton324243
Defiance317078
Crawford311968
Preble310034
Brown294419
Logan291829
Ottawa280534
Clinton278143
Williams268966
Highland261318
Jackson255243
Guernsey239425
Champaign239227
Fayette224529
Morrow22194
Perry220517
Holmes217562
Henry208847
Hardin203032
Coshocton197120
Van Wert196244
Wyandot189949
Gallia189126
Adams165515
Pike163416
Hocking161923
Carroll148016
Paulding139021
Noble117540
Meigs102421
Monroe95227
Harrison8578
Morgan78227
Vinton65613
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 22°
Angola
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 22°
Huntington
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 22°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 22°
Lima
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 24°
Seasonal Monday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events