Wirth Watching asks how did we ever shop before the internet?


SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – 30 years ago, a quarter of America still lived in the country or in small towns. They were out of reach of the big box stores. And this was long before on-line shopping. But they could buy about anything they wanted at the center of town. Yes, that center of commerce known as the sears catalog store.

Such as in Heber 25 years ago. Everyone knew what you meant when you asked for ‘the big book’. Or if you choose to be formal, ‘the big catalog’.

In that ‘big catalog’ you could order bath tubs, doors and kitchens. And they arrived five days later at the sears catalog store.

Candy Mifflin ran the long gone sears catalog store in Heber. Keep in mind there were about 8500 people in Heber back then. And it was a long way to big city stores.

Yes, you looked at the catalog, placed your order and then waited for the truck to come to the store. The catalog store was always big news in your town. Especially when there was a managerial change, such as in vernal. Or when a new catalog store opened in Garfield County.

You could find a camcorder in the big book. And about everything else

In an, 1992, interview Mifflin told showed me, “Let’s see what else can we find. Swimming pools,

Sump pumps and boots. You can’t get a nice pair of boots in Heber, you have to go to Salt Lake or Provo to get a pair of boots.”

It was all years ago. Years ago when people ordered cassette players and I had black hair

Yes, all in the big book of bicycles, beds and batteries. There were some floor samples. But all came out of the big book.

My goodness, you could be in the middle of nowhere and this was better than shopping on the internet. You could buy anything you wanted. You could buy a car. You could buy a tractor or you could buy your house. Yes, a house. Sears once sold the house plans and everything you needed to put it together.

There was the puritan for that New England look in the 1920’s. And years before that there was model 158. It was a pretty swell place. All for $1548. It was just a telephone call away. And your windmill will arrive in five days.

And if you didn’t know what you wanted, you could consult Miss Margaret Davis. She would get you just what you needed.

It seems most of America had the big book.

But by the early 1990’s retail had changed. The catalog stores were closing. And then sears stopped the big book in 1993.

Sears and a few other stores still print specialty catalogs. But, nothing where you can order everything from a tea pot to a tractor with hats, gloves and pianos in between.

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