When or where I met them, I don’t actually remember. Sometime in the mid to late 60’s, in my proto-concious pre-teen years. Somewhere between the pages of Superman, Richie Rich, Batman, World’s Finest, etc.
They had stuff.
Items that were just slightly sleazy.
Their offerings entranced and obsessed me. They seemed to be from another time and place. Someplace better, shinier, and much more fun.
Each purchase was an adventure. It’s execution a dangerous process.
Each step had it’s ups and downs, it’s hills and gullies.
Step 1: Selection: The overloaded ad screams it’s wares and I reel with wonder and not a little item-lust. Decisions are made, scrapped, re-considered, made again, scrapped, re-considered again, and finally made.
Step 2: Funds Allocation and\or Procurement: Sometimes I had money. Mostly I didn’t. Too much candy, cokes, etc within walking distance.
But there was my mother. If the $$$ needed was reasonable or only slightly unreasonable, funding was assured.
Step 3: Money Order: Johnson Smith accepted cash (not suggested), checks (expect a lengthy wait), or money orders (BINGO).
Step 4: Assembling the Order: Now I CAREFULLY and SLOWLY fill out the order form and CAREFULLY and SLOWLY address an envelope. The money order and order form are inserted. The envelope is sealed. A stamp is procured and applied. A short walk to the mailbox, drop it in, and raise the flag.
Now we proceed to the hardest step, the most worst step.
Not even kidding.
Step 5: Waiting: A textual description of the comprehensive physical and emotional effects of waiting is impossible. This simple image comes close:
(The average time from mailing to reception was actually around two weeks.)
Step 6: Reception and Evaluation: Surprisingly, the best part of a great many mail order adventures, from my childhood through today, is the process of seeing the box (on my porch or in the mailbox), moving it inside to an appropriate opening location (dependent on the nature of the item), obtaining the special knife (A small folding version, bought (by mail order!), but blade action was too stiff to carry), and, of course, opening the package.
Here is where all the dreams, all the hopes, all the mystery ends.
You open the outer box. (There’s almost always an outer box)
You see the inner box.
(Sometimes the magic ends here. The appearance and\or size of the box may start you on the bad path; the path to DISAPPOINTMENT.)
You open the inner box.
You are now well on your way to fulfillment, acceptance, or DISAPPOINTMENT.
Fulfillment is rare. Memories of only a few of the many items ordered that actually appeared as described and performed as described.
Much more common is acceptance. The item isn’t what you’d hoped, but it is valuable in some useful or emotional way.
And then there’s DISAPPOINTMENT.
This is when the item does not look like it should and does not provide any practical value, emotional or otherwise.
This is the worst.
And even so, the adventure is ALWAYS worth it!
There is treasure out there between the pages, whether those pages be in a comic book or website, there is treasure to be found.
And I am bound and obsessed to find it!