Another photo of Aunt Eliza at the Sears Retiree’s Luncheon, July 28, 1960, Grille Room Restaurant, Philadelphia.
Years later, Msgr. Thomas Craven wrote about Aunt Eliza and Sears in his column for the weekly bulletin of St. Agnes Church in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Msgr. Craven was the parish pastor. This dates from November 6, 1994:
“I did not want to watch the Sears tower come down last Sunday. That place was too close to home, not physically, but too close to my family not to feel pain.
“We had an aunt, my father’s sister, whose life was synonymous with Sears. Liza was her name and she lived and breathed that place on the Boulevard. She went there when she was fifteen and stayed for almost half a century. What did she do? She inspected electric toasters, with a fidelity so strong you might have thought she was the Chairman of the Board.
“Liza lived with us for a good while and even when she finally went on her own she was with us, never left, and Sears was always with her.
“Sears and Roebuck were among the first words my sister and I ever heard. The catalogue had an almost biblical veneration in our house, and we often joked that Liza’s faith was Father, Son, and Holy Sears.
“Her job was inspecting toasters, but that wasn’t her life’s work. She lived to be 92 and right to the end her life’s work was loving her brother, my father; and my mother and my sister and me; and her sisters and her other brothers, all of whom she survived.
“The toasters helped put me through school and into the priesthood and filled my pocket more than once through all those years.
“She was gregarious and liked bus trips anywhere. She talked to all who would listen, and often that listening was a chore. Once she walked straight up to a Cardinal whom she, of course, had never met, and said ‘Hello, Cardinal, I’m Father Thomas Craven’s Aunt Elizabeth.’ I’m not sure His Eminence was impressed.
“In her last days when the lights were going out she thought I was my father and would repeatedly ask how Tommy was, was he happy as a priest, did he need a new coat, and would you please make sure to get him one at Sears. Ten percent lifetime discount, you know.
“Liza was more than toasters. I could not stop thinking of her when the tower went down last week. It was her place.”
The Sears tower referred to was part of the massive merchandise center on Roosevelt Boulevard. I did some research and found out that the complex was the largest distribution center for Sears’ mail-order catalog. It won awards for industrial design, but everything was demolished in October 1994. Wal-Mart and Home Depot now occupy the space.
I think Aunt Eliza was older than 15 when she started working at Sears. She had just celebrated her 62nd birthday when she retired after working for 34 years.