One of the fun things about being a kid was sending away for stuff and then waiting in anticipation for what would come in the mail. A toy, game, or hobby item. Maybe a magazine subscription or a book.
In the days before U.P.S. and other private companies claimed a larger share of the package delivery business, the U.S. Postal Service was the main show in town. This was still the heyday of mail order. For young boys, especially, the back pages of comic books, ad listings in magazines such as Boy’s Life, and catalogs issued by novelty toy companies like Johnson Smith offered tempting discoveries. Sometimes the products would fall short of expectations, providing youthful lessons in advertising vs. reality!
When I became a postage stamp collector, I’d look forward to periodic deliveries of stamps-on-approval, a quaint service whereby small stamp businesses sent selections of collectible stamps for review and possible purchase, with unwanted items to be returned within roughly a two-week time frame. (Stamps-on-approval services remain popular today.)
When I became a sports fan, I’d eagerly await weekly deliveries of The Sporting News and Sports Illustrated, and then pore over the statistics and feature articles in each issue. The Sporting News was the real deal, packed with updated player statistics, boxscores, and in-depth coverage of the major U.S. pro sports, especially baseball. In the days before the Internet, this was a must-have subscription for serious sports fans.
With an allowance that stretched only so far, and before part-time jobs entered the picture, being able to send away for free stuff was especially tantalizing, and this book was a gateway:
The cover was better than the substance inside. OK, there was a lot of free stuff to send away for, but company promotional items and information from the government predominated the listings. I must’ve sent requests based on dozens of listings, but I cannot recall receiving anything of lasting interest!
Today, of course, the daily mail brings a lot of bills, junk mail, and fundraising pitches. I subscribe to a lot of magazines, so those goodies still await me every week. And yes, I send away for stuff on occasion, though usually via online signups. Indeed, in terms of convenience and speed, the Internet is a consumer marvel.
So, this definitely isn’t a call for a return to the mail order era of the past! Please indulge me, however, while I get a tad nostalgic about the days of sending away for fun stuff and waiting to see what arrives in the mail.