Thursday, January 28, 2016

Ephemera Catalogi


  All you dry fly fishers were possibly expecting another post on fur and feather or something from Wile E. Coyote. Sorry to disappoint you but stick around anyways, you might find this entertaining. "The Way We Were" was my first idea for the title but after thinking it over decided I'd miss my demographic and attract those pesky Streisand fanatics instead. Ephemera is Greek meaning short lived such as a mayfly. It's also a collector's classification for anything produced with a limited useful lifespan such as tickets, posters, newspapers, and catalogs etc..

  Ever since I was a little goober I'd had an unusual affinity for "goofy old stuff". Coin collecting was an obvious pursuit...I mean if you're going to collect anything, collecting money sure seems to make a lot of sense and it made my parents proud to see me diligently researching and saving for my future. What did concern them though, was my love of ephemera, particularly  magazines and catalogs. Their worry was that I was exhibiting signs of becoming a hoarder, long before it became popular with the advent of "reality TV". What they didn't understand was that every slip of old paper gave me small glimpses into the world that came before me.

We live in a time where a click of a button connects you to retailers around the world and your purchase arrives a few days later with no cash exchanged, so for some it may seem incomprehensible that a few generations ago, mail order catalogs were frequently the only way to access the goods you needed. I still remember the thrill of opening Sears, Simpsons, and especially Canadian Tire catalogs back in the '60s. They fueled the dreams of  generations of kids, It was a candy store window transported to our front door for our microscopic inspection, lovingly dog eared and fiercely protected  in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

  At a lawn sale several years ago, I picked up a wrapped bundle of paper being sold for a buck. On the back page was a full page ad for Tiffany& Co.. No brainer! Upon opening the bundle I found the Tiffany ad was a singe page which I regrettably gave away before scanning. The rest of the bundle contained several building supply and farmers catalogs from the '30s and '40s.

  I am totally amazed that a year and a half after the onset of the great depression, when some were standing in soup lines, these ads were targeting the tourism industry and cottagers and that the materials for a 4 room building could be had for under $500. On a lighter note, I've actually seen some of these buildings, particularly The Wasaga in the resort town of Wasaga Beach, on the shores of Georgian Bay.

  The first house I lived in, after moving out of my parent's, had a Sunbeam coal furnace that was converted to gas. There was no blower on the furnace and it worked on gravity, the cold air flowed down the return vent and forcing the hot air up. That was the coldest, most decrepit,  miserable house I'd ever lived in.  

   On closer inspection I see that the 3 piece outfit listed at $89.65 was our bathroom in that house!
The walls were papered, believe it or not, with turn of the century catalog pages!

   We jump forward a decade and 1500 miles west to Winnipeg, Manitoba, located on the northeast edge of the Great Plains. Even today the province's population is 50% rural, but 70 years ago farmers rarely had the time to travel long distances on poor roads to get supplies.

    It' not surprising that at the height of WWII, gas rationing had an impact on how some things were done and the first 5 pages reflect this, devoted to tack; harnesses and rigging for draft animals.

  It had never occurred to me before, having grow up in the city where dairy products were delivered to our door daily until 1970, that some rural folk had to make their own butter. I'm familiar with the old manual water pumps ( a source of amusement when visiting my aunts farm)  but I'd never seen or even considered the existence of a wooden pump.

  I'm not sure how those shoe prices compare to their modern equivalent, but on the bottom of the next page you'll see they also sell materials to repair shoes.

  So... here are several examples of the changing attitudes and times. In 1931 Hallidays accepted payment plans ( and possibly IOUs). In 1943 you were expected to do your patriotic duty and pay in advance in cash. In our modern "throw away" society, who repairs their shoes, and what child would admit they wanted to be "just like dad"?

   McCall was (is?) a domestic magazine full of recipes, fashion, and homemaker tips. Does anyone, except for religious exclusionists, make their own clothes any more

  And finally, a look at Family Herald from 1967. I've previously posted some advertising from this magazine that I'd found entertaining.
  I've always had a special relationship with Macdonald's highland lass logo. I know what you're thinking, that I'm some sort of freak, and yes I am, but not in the way you're thinking. In the words of Ricky Ricard... "let me esplain".

  I rolled Export cigarettes for a decade but it goes farther back than that, My earliest memories of Christmas  are forever linked to this image because all the tree decorations were stored in a large box with that logo on the side. At one time I believed Santa must have been a Scott and his wife was particularly fond of Export cigarettes. I once piled all the Sears, Simpson's and Canadian Tire catalogs on a chair to get close enough to her on the top shelf to whisper my Christmas wish list.


   That's all for now.I'll occasionally fit in a few old ads in the future. I hope you enjoyed my brief trip into the past. 


  1. Well buddy you found my weak spot. I love those old ads. If you are interested, Hoarders anonymous meets at my house monthly.

  2. Thanks Howard.
    There's no lawn sales this time of year but it is auction season so I don't really have time to be joining any new clubs.