The Three "R's"

Ramblings, Reflections, Reviews … From the "Pen" of William Land

The Magic of Christmas: the Wish Book

The Magic of Christmas: the Wish Book

by William Land

Merry Christmas
When I was a child, the forthcoming excitement of the Christmas season was marked by a huge occasion. This event was the arrival of the Sears Canada (formerly Simpson’s Sears) Christmas catalogue known as the Wish Book in our home.

My childhood and young adulthood (my twenties) was spent living in a small Northern Ontario uranium mining town: Elliot Lake. The town was somewhat isolated; it is located approximately 30 kilometres off the Trans-Canada Highway. The community is found approximately halfway between the larger cities of Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie.

Shopping was limited in this remote area. Many goods and services, if they were actually available, were expensive. Like many families in Elliot Lake, the Land family ordered frequently from the catalogue outlets offered by Sears and Eaton’s. It was a sad day for Canadians in remote areas when Eaton’s ceased publishing their seasonal catalogue of merchandise for sale in 1976.

Fortunately, we still had Sears Canada and their annual Wish Book – a catalogue filled with pages and pages of holiday merchandise for the Canadian consumer. Most importantly for the five boys in my family, we found much to covet within the bright, colourful pages of this annual publication. Toys, games, and other childhood delights were among the offerings.Sears Wish Book 1975

My brothers and I poured over these pages constantly, it seemed, trying to decide which treasures to request on our Santa wish lists. My four younger brothers generally favoured sports items, games and what could be terms as “boy toys” while I wanted books and games. Each year the catalogue offered the newest releases in the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series which I desperately wanted to acquire – I was a boyhood fan of these thrilling adventures.

I recall my mother advising us one year not to lose the pages of the well-thumbed Christmas catalogue because she wouldn’t be able to order. As one might expect, the binding became loose and pages were lost due to frequent handing by five rough boys! Our mother was smart, though – she acquired a second catalogue that she kept hidden from her sons until after the holidays. (An aside: This practice was adopted after she spent considerable time one year in the catalogue office completing order forms because she didn’t have a complete catalogue in her home. We had literally “read” that issue to shreds that year!)

As a younger adult, I still enjoyed poring over the annual Wish Book – not searching for the childhood novels any longer (I still can remember the unhappiness I experienced the year the series books were discontinued from the stock of this catalogue), but for other things I might enjoy: china, crystal, clothing, jewellery, home décor or anything else catching my fancy. I also searched for gift ideas for those on my Christmas list – the shopping in Elliot Lake was still limited in the 1980s. Citizens still needed the merchandise available through the Sears Canada catalogues much of the time.1971 Sears Wish Book - Children's Books

As an older adult, I still enjoy the annual tradition of pursuing the Wish Book. I’m not searching for anything particular – as I age I discover that I have for too many belongings and don’t want a lot of anything more – but still look at merchandise that captures my attention. Due to aging with a disability, I no longer enjoy shopping like I did in my youth. To avoid having to go to stores, I online shop – this saves a significant part of my energy.

I realized that I didn’t leave my apartment to get my reserved copy of the catalogue from the department store last week. In the absence of making a physical trip, I ordered a copy through the Sears Canada website last week. I expect its arrival in the mail sometime within the next few days. Of course, the current issue of the Wish Book is online, but I don’t want to deny myself the pleasure of turning the bright, colourful pages to see with fascination the festive offerings from this annual holiday publication. This activity represents a favourite Christmas tradition for me!Sears Wish Book 2015



  1. Linda

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane! How the times have changed…


    • Julie Domenico

      Wow – me too. I loved the Wish Book, and spent hours deciding on what Barbie would want for Christmas, and hoping the outfits would come with shoes! I haven’t had a Wish Book in my possession in a few years, but when I do, I still look at the toys. I’m starting to think that I will never get a set of “Lincoln Logs” – my mother vetoed these as being “too American”. Later on she married one. American, that is, not Lincoln Log. My guess is there were already enough building toys and Barbie accessories lying around to choke up ten vacuums, so we didn’t need a pile of Lincoln Logs adding to the mayhem.


      • I absolutely love reading your comments and memories! You have a wonderful way of expressing yourself, making this reader feel like he is along on your memory (well I am) and it’s actually stronger than that – I feel like I’m part of your memory and either shared or missed out on the fun depending on which chord the memory reaches inside my soul.

        Every girl should have a set of “Lincoln Logs” even if their are too many other building toys. Barbie accessories – a girl can never have enough of anything Barbie related! 🙂


    • So very true, Linda! 🙂


  2. Ken L

    Dear Bill:

    Your article resonated very well with me. I remember going through the Sears wish book and the Eaton’s one as well. Dad always made sure we saved them even after they were worn out. I never understood why until the spring and summer fishing season began and we would use the pages for the bathroom of Mother Nature. I always dreamed of getting an expensive toy or a fancy bed. The momentary joy those pages brought me were an important part of my youth. Even now I find myself journeying back to those days of cold hockey games at the school yard, tobogganing down the hill by the ball field, and building snow forts; fond memories of good friends and neighbours.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Ken Lewis

    Sent from Windows Mail


    • The Christmas catalogues even had another use – I never thought of the use you described. But the books served their original purpose and were outdated and no longer needed so your dad had a good idea.

      Our Elliot Lake neighbourhood was definitely an ideal setting for children. The activities of winter you mentioned were part of what everyone did. Our neighbourhood was chock full of families with children of all ages.


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