Dateline 1886: The Baldknobbers, a hood-wearing, at first anti-crime/vigilante group including my great-great Grandpa Gil, were gaining traction in the southern Ozarks region. U.S. President Grover Cleveland got married in the White House. After almost 30 years of fighting, Apache leader Geronimo surrenders with his last band of warriors to General Nelson Miles at Skeleton Canyon in Arizona. October 28 – In New York Harbor, U.S. President Grover Cleveland dedicates the Statue of Liberty.
AND– “Richard Sears starts selling watches to supplement his income as station agent at North Redwood, Minn.” Sears would hire Alvah C. Roebuck and within the decade the two would create a true American treasure: Sears, Roebuck and Co. The company would shortly print their first catalog and, within short order, it changed America, selling tools, houses (yes, houses!) and appliances and furniture to fill it with. It was truly shocking the kinds of things that this retail giant sold. Here is a page that shows an 1897 catalog. They brought the availability of a huge variety of goods to anywhere in America that you could get mail, pretty much. In many ways, they ushered America into the modern era and bolstered its Capitalistic experience.
Fast-forward over 125 years to this week and the sad news that the once mighty retail giant and shopping mall anchor has fallen further and further. Our local Sears, the one in which I worked from 1989-1994 (during its “Softer Side of Sears” marketing push) and whose insurance covered the birth of my first child, announced that the will close their doors, forever, quite soon. In 1990, I left work on a Thursday while working in the venerable Sears hardware department, got married on Friday, honeymooned until Sunday night and returned to work Monday morning. I watched OJ drive his Bronco in the world’s slowest car chase from the edge of the appliance department. While going to college and working nearly full-time at Sears, I made another life-changing decision: I changed career fields from a path to teach school to entering the customer service/sales/technology realm, ultimately owning a handful of businesses and managing information technologies for several others. Why did Sears have to do with that choice? They paid me too much!! I made nearly double the starting wage of a teacher while working at the retailer and my young bride and I decided a 50% pay cut at that point of our marriage would cut into our Nintendo (and food) budget too deeply. (Maybe that is partially why they failed?)
This sad story reminded me of the sad news that happens every day in memory units everywhere including the one that houses the Sweet 17 and my mom. Memories of times past fade into dust minus someone to record them. Every day a victim of this disease loses a memory, never to retrieve it again. Libraries of Congress of memories…poof…gone. 🙁
Can I encourage you to do something this weekend? I mean, we are all friends here at the Cornbread table, right? OK. Find ya a nice senior, with or without the disease, and record his or her history...as much as you can!!! Technology that will help abounds. Recorders and phones are a dime a dozen. Write it down, scan it in and save it. Post it somewhere. Storage space is cheap. Post a YouTube video, with their permission of course, and keep their library open for all to see!! (Note: be careful to not ask questions like their mother’s maiden name, DOB, etc…that identity thieves might use…just keep it simple and tell his/her story). I will help if you need it. Let me know. 🙂 I have chronicled many of the ladies of the Sweet 17 here and have told mom’s stories, to a point, but there is sooooooooo much more I have not touched yet and time is running out.
Sears tried many times to reinvent itself, only to get gobbled up by the Amazon dragon. Don’t let death gobble up this critical cultural history. Do something, anything today. 🙂 Oh, and while you are at it, join the fight to #EndALZ too. That would buy us all some time. 🙂
Update: Mom had another good day yesterday. All is well on the western front. Have a nice weekend, all!