"Do You Remember?"
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 by Ron Cruger
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        Once or twice a month I get a special and entertaining piece of e-mail. Most of these epistles have photographs and pictures attached to them. I’m not alone in receiving these poetic productions. Anyone with a computer screen has seen them. You’ve seen them. They are “Do You Remember?” tales.
        Some of these creative and often emotion-grabbing lists are splendidly done. They compare the value of a hundred dollar bill to a c-note today (a 1950 hundred dollar bill equals $835.41 today). It might show a picture of a new 1950 house and the selling price at $8450. It would state that the average American’s income in 1950 was $3210. A gallon of gas cost 18 cents.
        In 1950 a new car would have cost $1510. It would show a Russian soldier face to face with an American soldier, illustrating that the “Cold War” was really “hot.” The credit card was invented in 1950. The microchip was created in 1958. McDonald’s hamburgers cost 15 cents.
        We’re told that Texas Instruments invented the transistor radio in 1953. The popular movie stars back then were Gary Cooper, Bing Crosby and John Wayne. Elvis Presley was just getting started and driving the females of the nation wild.
        Children born in those years are called “Baby Boomers.”
         A guy can’t help but feel waves of nostalgia when reading these reminiscences. Thoughts and pictures of my childhood years trot across the fields of my mind. I think of mom, dad, gram, sister, friends, neighbors. So many of them no longer with us. Too many.
        I received one of those “Do You Remember?” pieces the other day. I read it and then spent the next thirty minutes daydreaming about those years – the 50s, 60s and 70s. Memories of old cars, malt shops, cheap gas, fender skirts for Chevys, steering wheel knobs, pimples, “duck butt” haircuts, styling gel, tight Levi’s, tight T-shirts, sock dances, crushes, proms, dates and good friends.
        The afternoon I received the “Do You Remember” e-mail I went for a walk up to local Costco store. A block from Costco is a Sears store. It used to be a K-Mart until Sears and K-Mart married.
        From the time I was a little kid, barely able to read, the Sears catalog was my reading companion. I learned how to read thanks to the Sears catalog. I dreamed of boots, of hunting knives, leather boots, tents, bicycles, tools and baseball gloves. I can still smell the ink on those thin pages.
        As I grew up I realized how big a part Sears had played in my life. If it didn’t have the name Craftsman on it I wouldn’t buy it. Sears guaranteed their tools for life!
        When our family needed clothes we went to either Sears or Penneys. When it was time to purchase a refrigerator or a washing machine it had to be a Kenmore. Sears stood behind it.
So, the other day I found myself in the Sears store that used to be a K-Mart. It’s a large store, with over 100,000 square feet in it.
        It didn’t “feel” like a Sears store. For one thing, it was nearly empty of customers. I took a walk around. There were seven people in the store, including me. The few clerks were trying to look busy, moving things around. They looked as lonely as the few customers.
        I walked around and tried to regain that feeling I had years ago when I would shop at my neighborhood Sears store. I went to the tool department and felt the shiny wrenches. I picked up a quarter inch Craftsman drill. I hefted a hammer and gripped a plastic handled screw driver. Back in those “Do You Remember?” years there used to be people who knew about tools who worked at Sears. They’d help. That doesn’t happen anymore.
        Sears used to be the biggest and the best. Something happened along the way. Sears is still a good place to shop. Their stores are large and clean and it’s easy to find things, but it’s not the Sears I knew.
        Times change. In the United States Wal-Mart is king (and queen) in retail revenue. Home Depot is second, Kroger stores are third, Costco is fourth and Target is fifth. Sears is still important in eighth place in sales revenue worldwide.
        Maybe it was that “Do You Remember” piece I got on the computer, maybe it was my memories of those old Sears’ catalogs. Maybe when I walked around that Sears store up the street I expected things to be like they used to be – just for a few moments.
         Things don’t work that way. Everything changes. Everything!

. . .

“Oh, Memory! Thou fond deceiver"
…Oliver Goldsmith, 1728-1774