In One Sears & Out The Other

My old gang from Division 9

For someone of my advanced years, it’s truly unthinkable.

Just a week ago, the parent company of Sears said it was doubtful they would survive. The vultures are circling, a younger generation says, “So what?”

Admittedly, Sears is not anything close to what it used to be. Then again, none of the stores are these days.  Macy’s, Penney’s and yes, Sears are all closing stores nationwide. To help the younger folks understand, think of where you’ll be 30 years from now and how you’d feel when you hear Amazon is going away.

There was a time (and it was in my lifetime) that Sears was all that and more. OK, it was Sears & Roebuck, the American retailer that every Christmas put out a catalog of all the things that Santa might bring to the good little girls & boys.   I remember ripping out pages and cutting out pictures to include in my letter to Santa, so he could get it right.  When other kids got gifts from Santa from Schwinn or Lionel, my Sting Ray bike and model train set had the Sears name on it.

Sears was the anchor store at the Del Amo Mall in Torrance, California, just three blocks away from my home.  It was in 1966 that I rode my bike over to the Sears parking lot to see a couple of guys running for office. They gave their speeches from the back of a flatbed truck. One was a guy named Valentine running for congress. The other, a former actor running for governor named Ronald Reagan.

Sears is where I got my first job in high school. Those who know me will find this hard to believe, but I was on the Sears Teen Fashion Board, which meant I modeled clothes in a couple of fashion shows at the mall, and I was able to work part-time at the store.  As a ‘floater’, I could find myself in the Garden Center or Men’s and Boy’s departments. But my favorite hangout was Division 9: Hardware. I got pretty good at selling circular saws and Craftsmen tools, because after all, they had a lifetime guarantee.  I remember a guy bringing in a ratchet he had bought in the 1940s. It was broken, and of course we replaced it because it was a Craftsmen.

I also remember that I was there when they first introduced “computerized” cash registers. I got so good at inputting numbers that I would often be done and would wait two minutes for the register to catch up and print out the receipt.

I have no recent stories about Sears because, heck, who goes there anymore?  On the rare occasion I find myself in one of their stores, I see bored employees standing around, talking with each other. It just looks like a dying store.

I mean, think about it: what does Sears have that you couldn’t get for less at Amazon?

And so, we continue to evolve as a society and, sometimes, at a cost of losing some things we’ve had around for a long time.

Remember how records became cassettes and 8-tracks that evolved into CD’s which became digital music files that we downloaded?  This past year, for the first time ever, the #1 way that people bought music was through streaming services. 51% of the music sold was purchased through those streaming services you’ve come to enjoy.

All this to say, the next time you’re near a Sears store, wander around and take a good last look. They’re soon to join the ranks of Montgomery Wards, The Bon Marche, White Front, Pay ‘n Pak, Pay ‘n Save and so many others.

The future does not bode well, but I fondly remember that time when Sears was “where America shops.”

Tim Hunter

 

 

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