My all-time favorite eccentric catalog is the Vermont Country Store. In the market for something that was rendered obsolete decades ago? Electric typewriter? Rotary dial phone? VCR tape rewinder? Cassette Recorder? All available from VCS. Alternatively, you could buy an iPhone, load some apps, and use it to replace all of the foregoing products.
Here is a review of the cassette recorder, which gives you an idea of the age and mindset of most of VCS's customers:
So, here are some of my favorite products from VCS:
1. Retro Salt and Pepper Shakers
I can understand yearning for a by-gone era when you get older, but salt shakers? Please, if I ever start getting nostalgic over ugly Corning 1970s salt and pepper shakers, slap some sense into me. Because:
these never have to come back in style.
2. Desk Phone Book
My grandmother had one of these ... in the 1970s. Since then, most have been replaced many times over, first by the Roladex, then by computers, and now by cell phones.
3. Real Latex Rubber Swim Caps
The roses cap comes in "6 different fetching hues." To die for! They're so cherry! I vividly remember seeing old ladies wearing those swim caps at the pool when I was a little girl, but I hadn't seen anyone wearing one for years until I saw this picture today:
That's Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka's twins, Harper and Gideon. She looks, dare I say, fetching? In sum, old lady swim caps on old ladies = avert eyes. Old lady swim caps on adorable toddlers = smushy face squee.
4. Hands-Free Hair Dryer
If you've been a long-time reader of this blog, you may recall back in November of 2012 I discussed this product in conjunction with lice removal. The non-toxic at home way of killing lice (by the way, I'm scratching my head at the mere mention of lice) is by smothering them with Cetophil cleanser and then drying the cleanser into the hair. If you have long hair this takes about an hour with a handheld hair dryer. It might take twice as long with this baby, but at least you wouldn't get a cramp in your arm. So, I concede that the bonnet hair dryer has one possibly helpful use. Otherwise, welcome to 1970. Get you a handheld hair dryer.
5. Muumuus (of course)
When you get to the double page of muumuus is when the genius of the VCS catalogue really sinks in. I had no idea the number of ways to describe a tent-like dress in flattering terms: "Unrestricting Fit With Flair," "Featherweight and Easy to Wear," "Ceylon-Print Muumuu, As Memorable As It Is Comfortable," "Color, Style, and Comfort," are just some of the descriptions of essentially the same dress, in different fabrics. Comfortable is definitely the most-used adjective. And who could really doubt the comfort of something resembling an inverted bag with holes cut for your arms and head? It's just when they try to describe the muumuus as being fashionable and stylish that you start to think they're selling you a bill of goods.
6. Latex-Free Douche/Enema System
VCS is truly a full-service company. I wonder if those coffee enema people from My Strange Addiction have tried this product.
7. Tired Old Ass Soak
You have to give it to product names that don't hide the ball. Like Boudreaux's Butt Paste you kind of know what to expect. Compare to brands like "Crest" or "Cheer" or "Dove" which give you no hint as to the nature of the product. Tired Old Ass Soak is featured as a good Father's Day gift, so get your order in early before they sell out!
8. Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific and Lemon Up
In that same vein, we have this walk down memory lane:
I think Lemon Up is a weird name because it reminds me of a criminal suspect "lawyering up." So, right now I'm picturing a crime-ridden world ruled by fruit where the lemons are the law and some kiwi gets arrested and the grapefruit complains to the apple that the kiwi has lemoned up. Hmmmm, hope I didn't lose too many of you all on that one.
9. Penny Candy
Remember all the worst trick-or-treat candy you got on Halloween? All available at VCS because apparently the elderly love gross candy. Oddly, a lot of the featured candy is very sticky, which would seem to be incompatible with filings and crowns, dentures, and 60-90 year old teeth. So maybe this is candy with which to torture grandchildren.
10. Frownies and Wrinkies
These are little patches that you stick on your face and they help remove wrinkles. My favorite part of the ad is the assertion that these are, 'The secret of Hollywood beauties." Right. Sure. Perhaps "Hollywood beauties" like Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, and Hedy Lamarr used this product in the 1940s because these things called Botox and Juvederm hadn't been invented.
11. "Intimate Massagers"
Just when you think VCS is all retro products and muumuus, we see this and answer that age-old question: "I wonder where the elderly buy their vibrators?"
Probably even more surprising is seeing vibrators and taffy together in one catalogue is this picture of the proprietors of the VCS:
Because they're kind of, well, younger and handsomer than I would have thought. Eliot, in particular looks way too hip to be selling rubber swim caps and retro salt shakers to octogenarians. Here is their corporate mission statement:
In 1946, Vrest and Mildred Orton printed and mailed the first catalog of 1,000 people on their Christmas card list. Vrest, a frugal Yankee at heart, insisted that what they sold must be useful, work, and make sense. Our family still holds true to this principle as The Purveyors Of the Practical and Hard-To-Find.Wow! 1,000 Christmas cards. I would literally have to start addressing envelopes now. But, I digress. I don't necessarily agree that these products are "practical" or that they "make sense" but that's what's so awesome about the catalog. It's just a grab-bag of odd items and retro stuff for Great Depression-era babies. For me, it's a good source of gag gifts, but you better believe that I hope it will still be around in 30 years so I can get my 1970s nostalgia fix and buy a six-pack of Tab, a Holly Hobbie doll, and a Super Friends poster.