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When I was a kid, the weeks and days leading up to Christmas were almost as much fun as Christmas itself. The Sears, Roebuck & Co. Christmas catalog arrived in our mailbox right after Thanksgiving.

Up until a couple weeks before Christmas, my two brothers and I pored over that precious catalog. Instructions from our parents—you can select one toy and one article of clothing. And that’s what we did, although it wasn’t easy because that “Wish Book,” as it was commonly called, had so many choices.

My choice for a “toy” from about the time I was about ten years old was usually a book of some kind. That year if I remember correctly, I looked at the vast selection of books until I struck on the one that I absolutely had to have. The title was “Fun For Boys.”

This book had everything a boy would want to know. Chapters included: “How to be a Ventriloquist”. I had heard about people being able to throw their voices, and here I would learn how to do it.

“How to Identify Aircraft.” We were in the midst of World War II, and by reading this chapter, I would learn how to spot enemy planes, such as German Messerschmitt’s. Reading this chapter, I would be prepared to identify such an enemy aircraft flying over our farm and notify the authorities—although I wondered how I would do that with our party-line telephone.

Other chapters covered how to build things and handle a rope like a cowboy—and much more.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Sometimes it’s fun to just sit back, and think about how things were.

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to www.jerryapps.com 

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