Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Deep In the Heart of Searsville

A cross-section of part of 'Searsville'
You've probably heard of Sears Roebuck and Co., the great department store based in Chicago, that is still going strong today. Its catalogue, first published in 1888, is famous too - for its size and for the enormous variety of goods on offer.

But have you ever heard of Searsville?

No, it wasn't a real town - not in the usual sense. The Sears mail order division home office in Chicago was the subject of a Popular Mechanics article in May 1943. It was the size of a small city, and they called it Searsville. Searsville had its own hospital, bank, its own newspaper and police and fire departments. It even got its water supply from its very own private well.

Not clapping to the music
There were 9,500 employees at Searsville and they moved hundreds of thousands of packaged orders (ordered from the 15 million catalogues Sears sent out in the 1940s) from Chicago every day. You can see some of those packages in the photo below. It's amazing to think that they kept them all straight - but they did.

My favorite part of the 1940s Searsville is this:  four times a day, band music was played through the loud speakers to cheer and energize everyone - don't you just love that? They did have to stop playing "Deep in the Heart of Texas," though, the shipping department manager explained, because "They all stopped to clap their hands."

Sears came to Canada in 1952 when the department store Simpson's joined with Sears to strengthen the Simpson's mail-order catalogue and help develop stores in parts of Canada which had neither a Simpson's nor, of course, a Sears. Buy the 1970s, Simpson-Sears stores were known just by the name of Sears - to avoid confusion. I know I would have been confused. I came to Canada in the 1980s and remember shopping occasionally at Simpson's - usually around Christmas time. And I'm sure the Sears association did strengthen the Simpson's catalogue sales - how could it not, with a home office like Searsville? Just as long as they played a little John Philip Sousa in the mail room - not "Deep in the Heart of Texas" - I'm sure that they were just fine.


Gregorian said...

I wonder if they play marching music in the eBay offices?

Lidian said...

Gregorian - It would be quite good fun if they did :)