The Great Equalizer

There are many curious aspects of this picture that remain a mystery. Why do we all have neat bangs and feathery hair? Where did those yellow plastic (not orange) chairs come from? Why does Joey look so jolly while Edward is thoughtfully pondering the great mysteries of the universe? There is one question, though, whose answer is simple, effortless, apparent. Where did those jazzy clothes, worn ever so confidently by the grade eight class of Fatima Central High, come from? One place One syllable. One catalogue. Sears. Let’s take a languid stroll back to 1990, the pivotal year that this picture was taken, just two years before the moratorium. The wind is blowing a solid 50 km/h from the NorthWest. The Fall has planted itself firmly in Branch, transforming our signature verdant valley from lush green to nostalgic brown. The tired longliners are lazily bobbing up and down in the pond, having given all they can for another fishing season. The plant, closed for the year, is standing tall and proud, having sustained Branch for another year. People are preparing for the impending festivities of Christmas. They’re not driving into town for the third time this week to browse around Costco, nor are they shopping online, clicking “Pay Now” to order everything from boots to bongos. Not at all. They’re sitting at their kitchen tables anxiously browsing through the Christmas catalogue page by riveting page. That’s what people did. It was what the context of our lives insisted upon. There was little money, but enough. Cars weren’t new but they worked. The furthest holiday anyone ventured on was a jaunt somewhere on the island. Stephen (Roche) came back from Golden Bay Sands once telling Chris and his friends that he had stayed on a house boat. Well that was as good as a train trip to meet the king of Mongolia. Clothes arrived in the mail courtesy of Simpson Sears. It was a magical process. You saw an outfit on those glossy pages. You asked for it for Christmas or for the first day of school and in my case you hoped Vivian hadn’t seen it too!  The letter (on paper) was duly written to Halifax, 

“Dear sir or madam, 

          Could you pleae send the following order C.O.D. 

Then came the visit to the mail to pick it up. The sight of Mrs. Gloria holding that grey parcel was arresting. In exchange for your new fitout, which had graciously arrived cash on delivery, you gave Mrs. Gloria actual money.  

It was an age of sufficiency. You had enough. And Sears was a metaphor for that “enough”. The Sears generation that the 27 people in this picture grew up in was marked by our sameness. We all had the same experiences, the same everything , including clothes, which inevitably came from Sears (unless you were Mercia or Corrina whose mothers Lena and Rita sometimes bravely drove to Bay Roberts to shop)! As the doors of this great institution of equality close, I salute you Sears, as the great equalizer. You somehow anchored us humbly in our sameness at a time when we all lived quite simply and we all quite simply, lived.

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