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Cataloging a lifetime of memories

July 18, 2010

Talk about nostalgia. My memory just got hit with a healthy dose of times past. It all started with my 55th class reunion and then my class photo in the Morning Journal. Maybe I should have worn my hat at the reunion, at least for the photo. I like the way columnists never age in their newspaper photos. I think Dick Morris uses his high school graduation photo.

My trip to the past continued when I found a 1955 Stoeger's Shooter's Bible at a garage sale and then my sister-in-law, Nancy, brought me a 1973-1974 Herter's catalog. Nancy is here on a visit from California and her good friend Sharon sent the catalog for my enjoyment. For those of you who did not live during the Herter's years you missed a fun era.

For outdoors people the Herter's catalog had everything, and I do mean everything. Today I get a catalog nearly every week from a modern outdoor supplier, but the content is nothing compared with a Herter's catalog. Herter's was never shy about their claims and the front of the catalog claims them to be "The authentic source for fishermen, hunters, guides, gunsmiths, law enforcement officers, tackle makers, forest rangers, commercial fishermen, trappers, explorers, expeditions, backpackers, precious gems for investors, couturier silks and hobby crafts." Whew! Is there anyone left out?

The catalog backs up their claim. I just opened to a random page and see that they carried checkering tools for gunsmiths. Another random opening displayed archery equipment.

The Herter's ads always touted the superiority of the product. Their Devil spoon, (obviously a copy of the Eppinger Dardevle with the spelling changed), claimed to be made of solid marine brass and not dime store quality of lightweight steel. Many of the items were actually named as perfect. An example was their "Herter's Model Perfect Rifle Powder". You just cannot get better than perfect.

I started buying from Herter's back in the 60s and spent many an hour leafing through the catalog and compiling a wish list. When I built my first boat, the hardware and paint came from Herter's. The recoil pad on one of my shotguns was actually installed by Herter's craftsmen. I still have a reel, some lures and my trusty Bull Cook Knife.

Without a doubt the Bull Cook knife is the most versatile knife I have ever owned. The hype in the catalog claims that these knives were invented by the lumber camp bull cooks who made the originals out of broken saw blades. I have no idea how true the story might be, but this is a great little knife. I have used it as a skinning knife on my trapline, filleted fish with it, dressed all sorts of game animals and helped Barb cut up vegetables. It sharpens easily and holds the edge long enough to get the job done. I bought it back in the 60s for a whopping $1.50, complete with leather sheath. Now, that is a bargain since I still use it in 2010.

Unfortunately, the Herter's I knew and loved no longer exists, but I'll spend many hours turning the 694 pages of this catalog and dreaming. Every so often I forget myself and start to order an item before I realize this is a 1973 catalog. I wish those items were still available, even at modern prices.

I also wish I could order out of the 1955 Shooter's Bible. That Winchester Model 70 for $120.95 would be on top of my list. How about a Smith & Wesson K-22 Masterpiece for $71? The prices make me wonder why I didn't grab up several of these back in 1955, except that I didn't make that much in a week working in my family's pottery.

Everything is relevant and those prices of yesteryear are related to the wages of the same era. You cannot go back in time, but the Stoeger Shooter's Bible and the Herter's catalogs will provide me with many hours of reflection. In many ways these books are my personal time machines.



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