In 1959 the Michrina Brothers would deliver their first mini-bike prototypes to former Indianapolis 500 winner Troy Ruttman to sell at his car dealership. These first prototypes were known as “Lil Indians” and they would spark the craze that had little kids begging their parents for a mini-bike. Other brands would soon follow, Taco, Bonanza, Arctic Cat, and Rupp, just to name a few, and soon the major department stores would be selling their own mini bikes as well.
Montgomery Ward’s offerings into the market included the “sassy” 323 which at only 3hp was no speed demon but certainly still looks like a lot of fun, the “lively” 424 which came with shocks and a 4hp engine, and the “swingin” 525 which packed a full 5hp, 2 speeds, and racing wheels.
Penney’s offered similar bikes, but with slightly cooler names like Big Blue, El Tigre, Swinger, and the super cool chopper inspired Duster with its high-rise handlebars and backrest.
And Sears? Yeah well, Sears was Sears. Though as a kid I would have been absolutely delighted beyond belief to have woken up on Christmas to find myself a new owner of a Puncher, it’s also quite obviously the least cool of the bunch.
In 1973 mini bike sales peaked at 140,000 units from over a hundred different manufacturers. There was even a new sport “Mini-Bike Soccer” which had racers from both teams merging at center field at full speed for the opening kick-off (I hope they were wearing helmets). Just a few years later in 1976 the craze was over and mini bikes fell out of favor with kids who now wanted dirt bikes. Blasphemy.
“This is Sears Today” is theme Sears chose to introduce their model store to the Cincinnati area.
The two story store (pictured above) featured 52 different departments including an auto center and a restaurant. In the 60’s Sears had the philosophy of which it was obligated to purchase as much of its merchandise as possible locally. In 1965 alone Sears purchased merchandise worth nearly 37 million dollars from 70 different Cincinnati manufacturers.
The above image shows a view of the Sears storefront at Tri-County Mall in Cincinnati two days before closing its doors for good in 2018, marking the end of a magnificent 51 year run at this location.
In 1987 Sears released their first in-home video catalog featuring an exciting collection of Sears exclusive electronic toys.
Some fun things to watch out for in the video:
Joey’s sweet shirt
Hillary being a great big sister offering to teach Joey to use the Computron
Ronny learns the true meaning of Christmas
Electronic toys can be fun
Humble Hillary admitting they could be better kids
Go ahead and put me down for a Lobo II and a Talking Computron.
I have no idea if Sears continued the idea of the video wishbook in following years or if this was a one year and done thing, though it does seem like a good idea as near the end of the 80’s nearly 90% of american homes had VCR’s, and in the 80’s we all loved our Christmas catalogs.
Missed out on all the great toys? You can still get one of these retro inspired buttons from Untitled Colours.