The JC Penney Christmas Wishbook

JC Penney Christmas 1974.

The arrival of the Sears Wishbook and the JC Penney Christmas catalog was almost as exciting of Christmas day itself. If you grew up in the 1970’s like me, you’ll understand what I mean.

I was astonished to read recently that these catalogs came out in August of every year. I didn’t remember that.  Mom never ordered from the catalogs anyhow. But, they gave her a good idea of what I wanted that year. Then she would go to Grant’s Department store or G. Fox to Christmas shop.  She would let me take my sweet time pouring over every page, circling what I wanted.  Think of it as an early version of your Amazon wish list.

Now, I was more partial to the JC Penney Catalog. I’m pretty certain it was because of the covers. They appealed to me more. I was kind of a dreamy kid. I was drawn to the images that portrayed adorable little cherub kids in their feeted jammies, woozy on the magic on Christmas.

Are you feeling nostalgic for your childhood wishbook like I am? Apparently, we aren’t alone. File this under the, “Oh my God, I love the Internet!” tab and check out the Wishbook Web Project.  A wishbook-lover named Jason has taken up the project of scanning as many Christmas wishbooks as he can and making them available on-line for all of us to relive our childhood.  I found myself going down the rabbett hole at this website. My intention was just to look around, but an hour later I was still clicking on page after page.


Rub-a-Dub Dolly? Oh how I wanted her! Baby That-A-Way? She walks, crawls, squirms…just like a real baby! Yes, please!

I was crazy about the miniature sewing machines. “Machines pre-teenagers can use to acquire basic sewing skills.”  I was sold. I wanted in. My mother and my older sister, Lynn, both sewed beautifully. My mother made many of our clothes growing up. I imagined all the dolls clothes I could make. I had big plans. Alas, I never did get one of these. 

Despite having 5 kids in our family, I never felt deprived on Christmas. Times were tough. Dad lost his job as a mechanical engineer when the bottom fell out of aerospace engineering in the mid 70’s. But even though I circled a ton of thing in these catalogs, my mother always knew which one I wanted the most, and I would always get that one gift. I was never disappointed I didn’t get the other 50 things I circled. It was just fun to dream big.


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