The 1981 Sears Wish Book

The arrival of the Sears Wish Book each year was a major deal for our family. Living out on a rural farm, this was our strongest connection to physical goods of the world.

I poured over this 1981 edition for days on end—maybe months—carefully making a birthday and Christmas list.

I was 10 years old, trying my best to include selections both reasonable and outlandish.

I’m sad to hear that Sears is filing for bankruptcy. I’m angry that it’s another result of private equity saddling a company with debt and stripping it of value—lining the pockets of hedge-fund operators.

Alas, I’ll set those feelings aside and remember the joy of wishful thinking, carefully turning each page.

View a bunch more spreads on Flickr

1981 Sears Wish Book bomboxes

Sears Wish Book instruments
p 452 – If only I got that guitar or violin, I would learn to play… (We eventually got a fiddle, I did not learn.)
Sears Wish Book sleds
p 487 – That snow jet sled would make it so awesome to go down the hill and be able to steer! (Never got it, bet it was top heavy and dumb anyway.)
1981 Sears Wish Book Ventriloquist dolls
p 534 – I did get the Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist doll. We removed the monocle and mom made us matching plaid shirts
Sears Wish Book toys that were targets to girls
p 549 – I learned printmaking from the Great Greetings Plates (and wanted the Fashion Design Center)
1981 Sears Wish Book Speak n Spell
p 555 – Brushed up on math with the Little Professor
Sears Wish Book Crayola Caddy
p 559 – Used the heck out of that Crayola Caddy
Sears Wish Book Rock Tumblers
p 562 – Paint & Swirl was a mess, but the Rock Tumbler was SUPER fun
Sears Wish Book Stompers
p 624 – I once was laying my head on the ground playing with a Stomper 4×4, trying to get the perspective of a camera shooting a movie. The battery operated truck’s tires got wound up in my hair and they parents had to use scissors to cut it out.

1981 Sears Wish Book Star Wars spread
p 637 – Star Wars! Probably the page I looked at The Most. I wanted that AT-AT soooooo bad.