Posts Tagged ‘Norman Rockwell’

Poking Around the Vermont Country Store Catalog, or The Vibrator Essay

25 January 2010

The latest issue of the Vermont Country Store catalog had the most surprising two-page spread.

You may be familiar with The Vermont Country Store Catalog that features products from yesteryear that seem to have disappeared from store shelves along with the very drugstores and dime stores that carried them.   Here you can buy Evening in Paris perfume,  Bit o’ Honey candy bars,  hand-cranked Boston pencil sharpeners like we used in school decades ago,  Chatter Phone Pull Toys, Raggedy Ann,  Pokey and Gumby dolls.  They sell clothing your grandmother wore that you thought was so terribly old-fashioned thirty years ago, but now that Lanz of Salzburg flannel nightgown seems like a good idea on these cold Michiana nights.   And those Rib-Knit-Funnel Bonnets actually look kind of retro-chic.  Lavoris; Gee, My Hair Smells Terrific; and  Bun candy bars can all be found within its pages.  I am really surprised that they don’t sell Tab or Green River.

The illustrations in the catalog all seem to have a pink, wholesome, and healthy undertone to them; yes, even the inanimate objects.  All the illustrated models are Caucasian and look like extras from a Leave It to Beaver episode.  The demographic they seem to be appealing to are the straight-laced, Lawrence-Welk-watching folks whose last wild night of dancing was when listening to those new records by that Buddy Holly guy.  In short, white middle-America at its New England best, folks you imagine in a Norman Rockwell painting of a rural Vermont general store.

In an idle moment I was flipping through their catalog when, near the back, I found a two page spread offering vibrators.   Yes, vibrators.  I choked on my chamomile tea.  At first I thought this was a hoax.   How could the catalog that sells Squeeze-It Change Purses and Walnettos now be selling dildos?  Old-time Vermont weather sticks, yes, but private pleasure electronics?!  Terri-lined shower caps, real-rubber stair treads, wooden lazy-Susan trays with napkin holders, shoe horns, and Sweet Earth Solid Fragrances: these are the products one expects to find in a Vermont County Store Catalog.

I fired up the laptop to post this delightfully incongruous discovery on Facebook.   But when I tried to find the exact information on their site, I was a bit flummoxed about what category to choose.  Should I click on “Tried and True” or “Customer Favorites” or “Toys”?  After a little poking around, I finally found them under Apothecary, subcategory – I kid you not – “Intimate Solutions.”

And right there on the page was a picture of proprietor Lyman Orton, almost elderly himself, stating that “Here at the Vermont Country Store, we take a practical, no-nonsense approach to keeping you healthy physically, emotionally, and … well … sexually, too!”  Omigod, I thought I had walked in on my parents!  There were pills, and creams, and videos for men and women alike.  But the feminine solutions included seventeen different devices: lo-tech, high-tech, glass, plastic, even a $20 rubber ducky that you can get a heck of a lot cheaper almost anywhere here in Michiana.

Good golly!  I wasn’t in Norman Rockwell World any more.  Or, I guess they now sell vibrators in Norman Rockwell World.  Of all the catalogs I receive and all the magazines I subscribe to, this is the second-to-last one that I ever imagined would carry products like this, the last being Lehman’s which offers products to support the Amish community (I checked, and, no, Lehman’s doesn’t offer anything like this, not even non-electric).

There is a photograph on the About Us page of the Vermont Country Store website taken when the first store opened in 1946 that includes a woman in a crisp, cotton dress exiting the store with a wicker basket filled with her purchases, looking as if she is telling the three men on the porch something terribly amusing.  I can’t help but think she is saying, “Boys, you’ll never guess what I bought today!”