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Column: Cleaning up, looking back

Column: Cleaning up, looking back

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Tammy Wilson

Every spring I conduct a search and destroy mission for old tax records.

This year, it was 2012. Those papers had been kept for more than the required seven years, so it was past time to set a match to the dead files.

In the process, I came upon two check registers. For you young folks, a check register is a wallet-sized paper ledger that you record activity in and out of the account. Checks, by the way, are small hand-written documents used to pay debts — an old-school version of the debit card.

As I thumbed through this record of my spending, I saw how some things haven’t changed.

I use the same bank. I support the same church and most of the same causes. I still subscribe to Poets & Writers, both local newspapers and Netflix, though I no longer receive CDs in the mail. Programs are streamed now.

I still use the same nail salon. I use the same computer tech guy who makes house calls and the same pet sitter, though I no longer have “Kitty Frank,” as noted for veterinary care.

I’ve had to switch physicians twice, thanks to insurance networks, though it meant circling back to the same practice I had in 2012. So was that a change? Maybe not.

I no longer receive direct deposits from the Library System. I retired from there in 2015.

In 2012, I wrote a check for tickets to see author David McCullough in Winston-Salem, back when hundreds could gather in an auditorium without people freaking out. Is McCullough still writing books? I hope so.

I bought my aunt a Dairy Queen gift card for her birthday in 2012. It would be her last. She passed in 2013. She was 98 but still loved her Dairy Queens.

I purchased a handmade birdhouse from “Clifford Wagner” down around Lillington. I was on my way to Topsail Island and spotted a front yard display of intricate birdhouses for sale. This one had several apartments. A friend came over with his posthole digger to install the thing in the back yard. It was fine until the bird apartments filled with nests and were later abandoned like a derelict apartment block.

I wrote a check to Harris Teeter in Lincolnton. By 2012, I was still bemoaning the fact that the Newton store had closed in 2007. And if you ask me, things have never been the same, grocery-wise. You HT fans know what I’m talking about.

In 2012, I bought some sewing supplies at Hancock Fabrics, which no longer exists, anywhere. The company was liquidated in 2016.

Some other places I patronized in 2012 are no more. Bottom Dollar, the cut-rate supermarket housed in the Hamrick’s strip mall. There were some decent bargains to be had at Bottom Dollar.

And what about Christopher & Bank? That ladies’ store left Valley Hills Mall years ago. Last month they closed for good nationwide. COVID did them in. Their core customers were Baby Boomer women, who were staying home last year instead of buying new apparel. I suppose this means my C&B labels are now collector’s items.

I see I purchased something from Sears, probably vacuum cleaner bags. They had the best ones to fit a Kenmore.

These days Sears is on life support. Less than 125 stores remain compared to the heyday when Sears and its acquired Kmart stores numbered 3,500. I knew that world. Both my husband and his brother retired from what became Sears Holdings.

Believe it or not, Sears, Roebuck was once the biggest retailer in the world. Its headquarters in Chicago was the tallest building in the world. It was the biggest employer in America and was even the biggest publisher, thanks to its famous catalog. Its flagship station WLS (World’s Largest Store) was where millions tuned in during the halcyon days AM radio. If only Sears had gone online when it killed the catalog.

But I digress.

In 2012 I wrote checks to Belk, which was no surprise. I’ve shopped Belk for years, but the chain declared bankruptcy in February. Uh-oh.

A. C. Moore is another blast from the not-too-distant past. I used to buy yarn there for various knitting projects. Note: used to.

There’s no longer a Honey’s IGA in Newton either. Honey’s was once the go-to place for special order breads from the deli.

Speaking of Newton, I haven’t written a check to Abernathy Laurels in over a year. Thanks to COVID, their CORE Fitness facility has been closed to non-residents.

Back in 2012, I was making bank deposits for book sales. I’d just released a story collection, “Dining with Robert Redford,” and was giving readings hither and yon, including the Virginia Festival of the Book.

Oh, and I was earning some interest on my checking account in 2012. Interest, in case you’ve forgotten, was money credited by the bank for having money on deposit. You know, more than a few pennies each month.

Which brings me to this point: You don’t know how good things are until they’re moved out, bankrupt, shuttered and discontinued — nothing more than figments of the way life used to be.

Tammy Wilson is a writer who lives near Newton. Contact her at

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