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PostAnother Sears Memory (Miles Seeley, USA, 06/23/14 4:00 pm)
My contribution to the Sears Roebuck story:
My grandfather and his two brothers left the farm near Ypsilanti, Michigan and started a small manufacturing plant to make dashboard instruments (gas gauge, temperature, oil pressure, etc.) for GM and Ford, invented by a man named King (who was mentally ill and later died in an asylum). In World War II, they made torpedo and submarine instruments for the US Navy. After the war they switched over to making Craftsman tools for Sears. About ten years later Sears canceled the contract, saying in effect they were too well made and durable, and Sears lost money on them. My grandfather refused to make them cheaper, and that was that.
JE comments: So even Craftsman tools can be too good! It used to be that if Sears didn't sell it, you didn't need it: this included complete automobiles and even mail-order houses. (Mike Bonnie is next in line with his Sears contribution.)
Miles: I drove past Ypsilanti today, on my way to the dentist in Ann Arbor. It made me think of Rosie the Riveter, Ypsilanti's most famous resident. She came up on WAIS last fall:
Memories of Sears in Philadelphia
(Edward Jajko, USA
06/24/14 4:27 AM)
Philadelphia, city of my birth and early years until my first big job and marriage, was the site of a massive and imposing Sears, Roebuck office and warehouse building on Roosevelt Boulevard (US Rte 1).
A first cousin of mine worked there for a number of years, and I used to drive by that building several times a week. Now it is gone, a vacant space against the sky, in an area and a city that is somewhat in decline.
But my Sears story is this: my late best friend, also named Ed, used to shop in Sears a lot, buying tools and other gear. He told me, and this had to be 40 years ago, that he was in a Sears store once, browsing the shelves, when another customer came up to him and asked him where he might find product X. Ed told him, and the man thanked him and was about to move off, when Ed asked him a question: Had the gentleman thought that Ed was a Sears employee because he was ignoring the gentleman? After a moment's thought, the man said that yes, that was indeed so.
That was a story Ed and I laughed about for years.
JE comments: The Sears customer non-service was legendary. It still might be. My mother hasn't returned to Sears since she contracted to have a gas cooking range installed in a rental property in the early 1980s. The out-the-door price turned out to be much higher than the Sears estimate. This bait-and-switch was probably the fault of the contractor, but since the Sears store washed its hands of the problem, it ended up losing a life-long customer.
The retail flagship of Philadelphia was John Wanamaker's, one of the first great department stores. (I just learned that Wanamaker innovations included the price tag and cash refunds on returns.) On Saturday I walked past the Wanamaker's store on Chestnut Street. It's now--how blasphemous--a Macy's, but at least it was spared the fate of downtown Detroit's gargantuan Hudson's: detonation. Hudson's stores are now Macy's, too.