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Whatever happened to Mr. Roebuck?

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The need for economy having been decided upon -- and for household economies this seems to be the year -- one is confronted by the baleful question of where the ax will fall. A family conference is to be recommended and will undoubtedly provide salutary advice. The case is well known of the father who, on being asked how decisions within his family were arrived at, declared that his wife made all the minor ones such as which school or which dentist the children should go to, while he made the really significant ones such as what to do, for instance, about Poland. Under this dispensation the father may flee questions of the budget, leaving to his wife and children determinations which even Mr. Stockman might quail before.

I recall during years of the Great Depression the consternation created among us children when my mother ruled that soft drinks (this was before their excess sugar was considered harmful) were an unjustified extravagance. She also ruled that the allowance for meals would be a dollar for each person per day. The dollar must have had a remarkable purchasing power, for it never seemed to me that we suffered in the least from this limit, nor were there complaints from the servants, who were under the same strict regimen. My grandfather, who lived with us much of the year, suggested as his own form of economy that family purchases be confined to the Sears, Roebuck catalog.

We children found that to be no deprivation at all. Leafing through the enormous catalog was a source of joy, and the arrival of a package, no matter how utilitarian its contents, provoked a scene of family celebration. So devoted did my grandfather become to these merchandisers, and so frequent were his orders, that he received on his eightieth birthday a visit from Messrs. Sears and Roebuck themselves, along with an assortment of gifts out of their compendious supply. At least we children supposed the visit to have occurred, though we were puzzled by the fact that our two uncles, my grandfather's sons, were mysteriously absent during the encounter. They came in a little later with many excuses for being late at the party.


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