When I was a tot, I thought getting mail was just about the coolest thing in the world. I guess probably most kids did. So anything that would get me mail–addressed to me, not “here, you can have this”–was a good thing.
I watched a lot of WANX and WTBS on weekday afternoons. (They were cable channel 8 and 9 respectively, and though they were nascent “superstations,” this was before that term was in widespread use, and they were still UHF channels 46 and 17 too). During The Brady Bunch, the Good Time Gang, and so forth, there were a lot of spots for something called the Consumer Information Catalog. “To get your free catalog, write to Consumer Information Catalog, Pueblo, Colorado, 81009.”
Well, I did. So I got my free catalog. It was full of government publications that you could order. You could get a brochure on saving energy around the house, or a booklet on nutritious and inexpensive meal planning, or what have you. There were hundreds of publications like this. And many of them were free!
So I got a lot of mail from the U.S. government. And at some point I figured out that I could request more than one catalog, so I said yeah, put me down for 100. Then I started getting heavy mailers at taxpayer expense. Good times. (Can’t remember what I ever did with my huge stacks of catalogs, but I’m sure it was needlessly wasteful.)
I idly wondered this weekend “I wonder what happens if you write to Consumer Information Catalog, Pueblo, Colorado, 81009 now?” Alas, a little research revealed that the Consumer Information Catalog is now discontinued. However, it lasted all the way to 2016. (I am simultaneously delighted and appalled that such a thing would last so far into the Web age.) So if I’d had that idle thought just a little earlier, I could have had a new one. Oh, well. Here’s the Web equivalent.
(In our next exciting episode of Children of the 1970s and the U.S. Mail, we’ll discuss the ease of alarming your mother with free copies of The Book of Mormon.)