Sears Was An Important Part Of American History

To The Reader’s Forum:

A couple of points were conspicuously missing from today’s historical references in the article about Sear’s impending closing and bankruptcy. One that probably affected a majority of Chautauqua County families was Sear’s creation and ownership of radio station WLS in Chicago. The station was Sear’s owned from 1924 to 1931. WLS stood for World’s Largest Store. It began airing the National Barn Dance also in 1924. One of the first announcers was George D. Hay who soon left and created the Grand Ole Opry on the same pattern. The show continued when Sears sold the station to the Prairie Farmer magazine. It reached the isolated farms of the entire mid-west with a clear channel 50,000 watt signal. Many stars including Gene Autry, Red Foley, Lulu belle and Scotty, and the Hoosier Hot Shots achieved fame there. Bill Monroe who later created bluegrass music got his start there as a dancer. Altogether this is a major part of one of the most colorful and uplifting chapters in American history.

In the late 20th century historians realized the early Sears catalogs gave an unequaled insight into vernacular American life in earlier decades. Several were reprinted and became widely popular with nostalgic and history conscious moderns. At the Fenton museum we frequently use these reprints to identify and date donated objects. Fraternal and organization related items with puzzling symbols can often be identified by resort to the jewelry section of the catalogs also.

Norman P. Carlson