An Alphabet Of My Life: Y


I looked up this word to make sure I was using it correctly. I was.

a feeling of intense longing for something.
“he felt a yearning for the mountains”

I have definitely yearned for many things in my life. But nothing comes close to how much I discovered yearning when my mum got her Winter shopping catalogue from the Catalogue Lady who lived nearby. The catalogue was bigger than a telephone directory, and so heavy I could hardly lift it. It was like a Bible of consumerism, lavishly illustrated with photos, and containing everything a family might ever want to purchase.

The most popular companies in 1960 were Freemans and Littlewoods, both competing for an eager market of shoppers who wanted to have everything in the post war boom. And they could, because those companies offered credit with a simple and affordable system. Each item had a price next to it of course. If you could afford it, you could pay the catalogue agent outright when it was delivered. But there was also an easy payments system that went something like this.

Say you spent £50 on an assortment of items. (£50 was a lot of money then, my dad earned less than £20 a week at the time.) You could pay just £1 a week for those items, over a set period. That was usually 60 weeks, so ensured the company received £8 in interest. The Catalogue Lady would call at your house each week, take the £1 payment, and mark it off on your payment card. You could see the debt decreasing, and you were also able to order more items if you so wished, the card being altered accordingly.

Yes, this was something of a ‘Debt Trap’ for working people before the age of credit cards, and when bank loans were hard to get for anyone on a weekly wage. But working-class people no longer had to save up to buy something. From a new tea-set to a girdle, a vacuum cleaner to a pair of slippers, they could have what they wanted or needed, and it almost always cost just £1 a week.

The catalogues included toys, and the Winter edition included dozens of pages of toys, usually at the back of the catalogue. As soon as I was left alone with the catalogue, I immediately turned to that section, and began yearning for many of the toys shown in the photos.

It was real yearning, believe me.

Not allowed to mark the items on the page using a pen or pencil, I would turn down the corners of the pages I was interested in, then add scraps of paper sticking up from those pages with the stock number of the toy I liked best on that page. Then I left the catalogue for my mum to look through, and yearned.

Waiting for Christmas morning to open my presents and see if the intense research had worked.

Most years, it had.

47 thoughts on “An Alphabet Of My Life: Y

  1. We had the Sears & Roebuck catalog when I was a kid. I remember the yearning and the excitement of Christmas morning. I do that now with Amazon, dropping things in the cart, taking a week or two to consider! I wonder what will be next? Hugs, C

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I pretty much lost the feeling of Christmas when I started to work shifts and often had to work over that period. My wife gets miffed with me because I don’t care if we celebrate it or not.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so glad it worked for you! This must have been hugely popular, an easy way to buy and stretch out the money. It’s interesting that they came to your door to collect the weekly payment. When I was little the Sears and Roebuck Christmas catalogue was the big deal. Now Amazon has a toy catalogue. I bet whoever instituted that at Amazon dearly remembers the Sears and Roebuck catalogue when s/he was a kid. Best to you, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amazon has indeed become the modern online version of those old catalogues, Jennie.
      The lady who came to the door was a local agent for the company, and she received a commission based on what was spent. It was a good local job for her, and she could work it around school hours to be home for her children. People also trusted her, because they knew where she lived.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Over here it was Spiegel’s, and Penney’s, maybe Sears. Toys, of course, and to see the “cool” clothes that hadn’t made it to Oklahoma yet. Even the car accessories. It was a cover to cover read. With many re-reads of the women’s foundations section.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I cannot remember ever expressing my Santa requests. I was always a cynic…I knew Santa wasn’t real. We had all the usual things, mini bricks, mechano, board games, card games. My favourite card game was the one where each card had an animal picture and description. One year I got a horse that I could “ride” by moving up and down. No idea how it worked but my mother regretted it because it marked the lino! I don’t think I ever yearned for any “thing”, except a real horse. I did know yearning, but in a different way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Carolyn. At the time I am writing about, I knew there as no Santa and my parents were buying the gifts. That’s why I left notes in mum’s catalogues. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.


  5. I love this. We had the Sears and the Eatons catalogue. Living in the country, we seldom went into the city to shop so we loved those catalogues. Yes, we yearned for toys and later for stylish clothes. Santa was quite good at catching the hints.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah yes, I remember those catalogues – I used to have one myself. As you say, it was a way of paying for things over a period of time. As a kid I used to pester my mum for her old catalogues, and would cut out and stick pictures of catalogue people in my scrapbook.

    Liked by 1 person

All comments welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.