What Santa Left, 30 Years Ago

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It’s December 1979. President Jimmy Carter is in the White House, Abba is at the top of the music charts with “I Have a Dream” and somewhere in a Boston suburb, little 7 year-old GoRetroGirl waits anxiously for Santa to bring her gifts. Such anticipation had actually started a couple of months earlier, when the Sears Wish Book arrived in the mail. Without a doubt I have to admit that as soon as this big catalog arrived annually in our mailbox, I gave it more attention than any book I was reading at the moment. I could keep myself amused for literally hours salivating over my choices of what I wanted under the tree, and I was convinced that Santa kept a copy, too.

So I was delighted to discover that some apparently like-minded soul started an online library of the holiday wish books that every major department store during the 21st century issued – namely, Sears, JC Penney, Montgomery Ward, Spiegel, and others. As soon as I looked at the 1979 Sears Wish Book, the memories of what I received as a child came flooding back to me. Here’s a few of my favorite toys that were waiting for me Christmas morning during the 70s and early 80s:

Quite the budding homemaker, I always wanted a kitchen set. This is the exact Kombi Kitchen that I received, and I think it was my favorite large scale toy, which is a good thing, because years later I found out that my poor father stayed up half of Christmas Eve night putting the darn thing together. I had the pots and pans and fake food sets, too. The only disappointing feature was that the oven door didn’t swing open like a real oven, but slid sideways (not that I complained.) At some point I had a mini ironing board and the toy vacuum, too.

Just about every little girl loves horses, and I was no exception. See the black saddled horse in #11? He was mine, as well as the Brenda Bryer doll. My father made me a stable building, which I filled with dried grass to mimic hay.

I loved the Viewmaster. The pictures always seemed so vivid and three-dimensional – a testament to the technology of the time! I also had the Fisher Price home theater at the bottom – you’d insert a cartridge and hand crank it to watch the animation.

Loved this activity table. And the owl shaped Wise “N Timer at the bottom really did help me learn how to tell time (yes, the owl theme in the 70s that I posted about a few weeks ago really did touch everything - even toys.)

I received the #3 rocking horse when I was three or four. I’m guessing my parents opted for the non-speaking horse so that the noises wouldn’t drive them crazy. I remember I was afraid to get up on it first (it seemed SO big) but once I did, I didn’t want to get off! The metal springs were surprisingly sturdy. Do they even make them like that anymore?

I had the talking Big Bird, Tweety, and Sylvester at one point.

I received the black doctor’s kit (interesting how it wasn’t the nurse’s bag.) Sometimes I wish I had held onto it for when I meet my future husband...might make for some kinky fun. But why does the nurse’s kit seem to include more meds?

I had a couple of See “N Says and the talking phone, except I’m pretty sure mine was a Peanuts phone where Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, and the rest of the gang would talk to you.

The Speak & Spell played a prominent role in the movie ET – it was used as the alien’s communication device. I thought it was awesome, as well as the Little Professor math teaching tool calculator at the bottom of the page.

Well, I could go on and on - there were also Barbie dolls (and a very 70s Barbie townhouse), Matchbox cars, and video games, but these were definitely my favorites that left some lasting memories. What were some of your favorite holiday toys that you received?


  1. I love the tv with the record player on top!

  2. I remember a lot of those toys. I had a kitchen set, the owl clock and a rocking horse. They don't show the Little People and Weebles though. My favorites.

  3. It might have been nice if you had given a link to the "like-minded soul" who scanned in the catalog.

  4. Jen - I'm pretty sure one of the pages had the Weebles and Little People sets. I didn't go through all of the pages.

    Laura - the link is http://www.wishbookweb.com/


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