Escape to Sears

I would have rather been labeled a flight risk.

I wanted to talk about Sears (yes, again) because the closing of our local Sears store has hit me hard. The prospect of Sears not surviving hit me even harder. Still, I wasn’t going to tell the story, because I’ve talked about Sears before and I don’t remember what all I’ve said. Then Greg at Almost Iowa jogged my memory. I was about to make a snarky comment about that probably being the only jogging he does, but I don’t know him that well, so…oops. Anyway, I added a comment to that post that Ikea, his post was about Ikea, doesn’t have a tool department so you can’t hide there like you ustacould at Sears…before they closed.

I used to wait in Sears when we shopped as a family and my wife and daughter needed to go somewhere and try stuff on. We would have parked outside of Sears, the entrance to the tool department, so when they were done, we were done. One time, before my daughter had her driver’s license, I was roped into driving offered to drive her and three friends to the large Mall in not-so-nearby Holyoke, MA. I told them I’d drive, but I wouldn’t drop them off and return later – I wasn’t interested in making two 90 minute round trips. Faith was worried that they might run into me. I said: “just stay out of Sears.”

Entering through Sears and staying close to Sears is a family tradition. There’s a funny story about my dad and Sears that I thought would be good summertime reading. I thought I had written about this before, so I checked – that’s the kind of transparent blog-guy I am. I’m not trying to pass off a bunch of summer reruns for new stuff.

Uh-oh. I may have just dated myself. How many of you remember summer reruns? How many of you remember that, if you missed an episode of your favorite show during the season, that summer reruns were your one last chance to see it. Back then, we didn’t have VCR, DVR, Internet, YouTube, etc. etc. It’s why we said things like “they’re the best thing since sliced bread, or bottled beer” when they started showing reruns. There were people alive when I was a kid who remembered a time before sliced bread.

Bottled beer had been around a lot longer than sliced bread, but the impact had staying power. Lots of stuff was invented between bottle beer and sliced bread (steam engine, camera obscura, typewriter, telegraph, sewing machine, etc…) but we’re still left with those two milestones.

Among the things we didn’t know back then was the fact that old TV series would eventually go in to syndication. Lots of people didn’t know that. In fact, Dawn Wells, the woman who played Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island was the only cast member to ask for a slice of the syndication revenue. She and Sherwood Schwartz were the only two members of the show that made money in syndication (Schwartz made about $90 million).

Wow – I took a wrong turn somewhere. Oh yeah, with the reruns.

Anyway, the story starts when Sears agreed to join Nordstrom-like Joseph Horne’s and Gimble’s to anchor South Hills Village, the first major shopping mall in our area of Pittsburgh. Prior to that store, interacting with Sears was mostly a catalog process for us. Joseph Horne’s, Gimbles and Macy’s-like Kaufman’s all had downtown stores, I don’t remember where the closest Sears was. My dad didn’t care, he wasn’t much of a shopper. Mom was.

One day, Dad burned up the saw blade on his table saw. He decided to go to Sears to buy one. He asked my mom if she wanted to go to South Hill’s Village. Mom was thrilled. That mall had 102 stores!

We hopped in the car, and drove to the mall. Of course, we parked near Sears. The entrance led to the Hardware and Paint departments. We stepped inside, dad bought a saw blade, and we left.

We never entered the mall.

When I wanted to see if I had told this particular Sears story before. I checked, and I found this old one. I really like it. You can read it if you like.

Not much in the gallery today. A few photos from around the house, from which I wasn’t going very far.

83 thoughts on “Escape to Sears

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  1. Happy Monday Dan. I’ll check out the old story later. The men in my life have done the same thing in Sears hardware dept. it was always Hubby’s favorite go-to for qucik tool needs. These days he goes to Lowes because Home Depot went down the tubes service wise. Oh my, we had a couple of episodes with hubby and my children when they were young. Enticing them with the promise of fun only to get to watch the roller coaster and smell the corn dogs as we drove past the carnival. Oh there were many actual fun outings. But a loving Mom remembers sharply those disappointing moments. Poor Sears. Poor Bob Denver. Poor Maddie. I always did think Maryann and the Professor were the only brains in the bunch.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And, they weren’t even mentioned in the song until the 2nd season! I am shopping for better quality tools these days, but I own a lot of Craftsman tools and they have held up very well. Hopefully the fireworks are over. Maddie has been pretty good, but the cats have been hiding under various beds. I hope you have a good week!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. During summers on my grandparents’ farm in northern NH, when my Grandpa said he was going to Sears I was in the car before he grabbed the keys. We always went to the hardware department and there wasn’t time to shop around because those pesky cows needed tending. We still go to Sears today, and it’s always to the hardware department. Hope you don’t need that wristband anymore and that you are feeling much better. You haven’t lost your sense of humor so that’s a good thing. :-) Day lilies are beautiful as is Miss Maddie. :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Judy. I hope Sears can find a way to hang in there. I can still drive to one. It’s not as close, but you can still park outside the tool department. There’s just something about walking into that department – memories and childlike glee.

      I have to keep Miss Maddie from stomping those day lilies when they hang over the steps.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As a teenager and budding clothes horse, I used to wait with anxiety for the latest Sears catalog so I could wish for/whine for the clothes I wanted to wear (that was always an ongoing battle with my mom). I remember coveting a pair of purple bell bottoms one fall! Now, I never go into the Sears store at the mall because their clothes seem to be outdated and I don’t buy tools.

    Yeah, I remember reruns, but I thank the wonderful people who came up with MeTV and Antenna TV so that I can watch a really young version of Clint Eastwood at any time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And my wife can find younger and younger versions of Tom Selleck :-(

      I used to paw all over the Sears catalog and the special Sears Tool catalog. I really wish they hadn’t gotten rid of those. They had such a good franchise, they just haven’t been able to move with the times. Maybe you should visit a vintage clothing shop to see if those purple bell bottoms are available :)

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you like them. These came free with my wife’s garden order, several years ago. She stuck them in the ground in this little patch by our door, hardly expecting them to even grow. They keep coming back strong!

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  4. My favourite store is also closing down in Nairobi. Nakumatt Supermarkets. They are going bankrupt. The owners are blaming it on bad politics and fraud. I couldn’t believe it when I first heard that they were going to close. Now I’m just sad about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is sad when our favorite stores close, Peter. They become part of our routine. We will be losing a lot of retail stores in the next five years. Too much competition from Amazon and other Internet options.

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  5. Every time we entered any mall, my father would say these two things:

    “Meet you uppah-level, in front of Seahs” and
    “Ruth, can I have some cigarettes?”

    And he would sit, sometimes for hours, in a hard-plastic, or modestly cushioned chair. If he was at the mall for something he needed, he would wait for my mother and they would look at driers, mattresses, etc….. in Sears.

    I don’t remember him going to into any other stores.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha – yeah, I’m not sure my dad knew this mall had other stores. Same with the amusement park. He would stake out a bench and that’s where we were supposed to meet him later.

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  6. Well, the mall culture is catching up in India, but I guess it is too late because the e-commerce guys are killing them already. So malls killed small shops, e-commerce retailers kill malls. It’s a dog eat dog world out there.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Have you heard of Amazon’s Alexa? It is basically online, but now we don’t have to order it. The appliance will order it, something like that.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I am familiar with Alexa. I don’t think I’ll ever see one in our house. I’m not sure I want the thing listening to me all the time. I’m also not sure I want to be any closer to Amazon than I am.

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  7. When we first got married, my husband always went to Sears to get a car battery…my Volkswagen Rabbit. Ugh. Don’t get me started….Our washer/dryer came from Sears. We haven’t been in there in ages, but their repair service was always good. Whatta’ you mean not much in the gallery? MiMi and Maddie are adorable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I knew you would like the picture of MiMi. She’s the little sister. When I don’t have subject-related photos, I know I can always count on those guys to pull me through.

      We have so many appliances from Sears, and you’re right, their service has always been good. Except once it got to the point that the only “component” in the washing machine was the one that does everything and would cost more to replace than a new machine. I bought a lot of tires, batteries, shocks and exhaust systems there. The best part was dropping the car at the Auto Center and then going to Sears!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Sadly, I think we will see the ultimate demise and disappearance of Sears in our lifetime, and the malls that house them won’t be far behind. What little mechanical skill I had as a kid, came from the friendly and knowledgable clerks in the store. Hell, I would not have been able to keep my Schwinn bicycle going without those Craftsman tools! After I got out of the USAF, I think my first credit card was from Sears and always had my first car serviced there and always bought my tires there. Unfortunately, the world passed them by in the next five our six decades and they are nothing like what they were back then, so if they do indeed disappear from the retail landscape, there are not enough people around who will care . . . or miss them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That Sears card meant that my used cars would stay on the road a little longer. You’re right Bob, they won’t be missed by the generations coming behind us, at least the ones in the 2-5 slot. I can’t understand how they missed the change. They were amazing at catalogs, they did well in malls, you would think they would have seen the internet wave coming. They were in a position to be a leader. They were already everywhere, distribution, ordering, finance, they had it all. This was management at its worst.

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    1. We’re back to a 45-minute drive to an actual store. Since they no longer send the tool catalog for me to drool over and work up an appetite, I have no reason to get excited about making the trip.

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  9. We’ve never had a full-blown Sears outlet store here. Just an appliance store in with the catalogue pick-up, and that closed up a few years ago. I used to love shopping at Sears from the catalogue. A lot of people are saying that its downfall was “not changing with the times”. Well, I’m afraid I disagree. I think the biggest mistake Sears made was thinking they COULD do what everyone else seems to be doing: Raise their prices an exorbitant amount and start pretending like they were a high-end over-priced boutique in the heart of Times Square.

    The whole reason that Sears was so popular for so long (I had parents who were in their early 20’s in the ’70s who loved to shop the Sears catalogue) is precisely because they had an incredible selection of goods at reasonable prices. Now, I suppose Sears can’t shoulder ALL of the blame here though. My mom and dad were good friends with the woman who ran the catalogue outlet back in the day, and she told them how customers had a growing tendency to abuse the company’s “you can return anything for free, even if you’ve had it for a year, no questions asked” policy. People buying TVs, using them for 6 months… then sending it back for a new one.

    Yeah, I can see where THAT could get expensive for Sears in a hurry. And that was in the ’70s. But I’m not sure that alone excuses my $25 jeans suddenly jumping to $95 in a matter of months, or a handling fee that went from $1 to $10 in a year’s time. Or the new $10 fee if you want to call in your catalogue order and talk to an actual person. Yeah, the shoes I used to pay $20 for now START at $110, yet the quality has decreased — which means Sears is paying less for the product from the manufacturer, yet charging the customer even more than before. And that’s a problem. Maybe some snooty stores can get away with that crap, but obviously Sears is learning that not everyone can. They’ve totally alienated their catalogue clientele, and they’ve overpriced their products to a nauseating degree. Which is really too bad because Sears was an amazing place at one time, and it’s a shame to see it going. I’ll miss my Christmas catalogues!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know yo miss the Christmas catalog, Wendy, probably as much as I miss the Craftsman Tools catalog – the last section was always those amazing 30-50-100-200-…750-oiece socket sets and the rolling tool cabinets they fit in. The prices did rise, without a corresponding increase in quality, or even holding the line on quality, and the ordering/shipping process went…in a hand-basket. Also, the people at the store didn’t care, or were spread so thin they couldn’t possibly know what to tell you if you had a question.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Last week, on one of our rare trips to the Twin Cities, we stopped by Burnsville Mall. While my wife did what wives do (if anyone knows what this is, I would be willing to listen), I toured the mall…and sure enough, the Sears Store was closing… and sure enough, I headed for the tool section where I had this conversation with a guy whose wife was also doing the mysterious stuff that wives do in malls.

    “They say everything is 10% off.”
    “Yup.”
    “10% off what?”
    “That’s what I wondered too.”
    “You think they jacked the prices up 20% in order to lower them 10%?”
    “Probably not on everything…”
    “Probably not..”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The discount goes to 40% before they shut the doors – at least that’s what happened here. Of course, if the whole place is in danger of failing, it doesn’t seem like a good time to buy a Craftsman Snow Blower.

      As far as my dad was concerned, the rest of the mall was the backup band – The Pips, as it were.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Ah, Sears. Sears makes me think of tools.

    I know, they sell lots of things, and I’ve made some non-tool purchases from them over the years. But I think mostly of tools. Why? A couple of reasons. One is the Craftsman name. They make good tools, and let’s face it — that is one place where you don’t want to skimp.

    Secondly, the entrance that I go in from the mall parking lot is right into the tool section. I’ve always enjoyed poking around in there. Even when I don’t have to buy something from that section, I like to look around a bit.

    I wonder why it appeals so much. I think it has to do with my grandfather on my mother’s side. He was an electrician who could DIY like no one’s business. I went on plenty of trips to 84 Lumber and places like that growing up. Now, we didn’t go to Sears (at least that I recall), but we DID go to Montgomery Ward’s. I still think of him when I go to the hardware section of a department store. Or a hardware store itself. Or the lighting section of the hardware store (remember, he was an electrician).

    They used to have popcorn for sale, and he’d often get me some. The smell of popcorn still takes me back to that point in time.

    Ha, I also saw a lot of reruns with him back then. You name it — The Flintstones, I Love Lucy, Leave It to Beaver, Gilligan’s Island. Yes, I was one of the ones helping to put millions into Mary Ann’s and Sherwood’s pockets. Hope they appreciated that!

    I know I appreciate those memories. Department stores are definitely on the wane. Imagine having memories of online shopping. You have to feel sorry for kids these days …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One of my earliest memories of Craftsman tools was a story my father told about taking a breaker-bar to be replaced. He broke it, by extending it with a pipe and banging on it. He took it with him so he would know what size to get. They replaced it for free, even after he told them how he broke it! He never went anywhere else for tools after that, until he started working for an industrial tool supply house.

      Popcorn in the mall, the whole mall experience, and the whole downtown shopping experience before that. At least my daughter will remember going to the mall.

      Reruns, I’m still helping to support the Wells and Schwartz estates! I’m guessing they get a slice of the DVD sales.

      On the other hand, I remember our local lumber yard complaining when the first 84-Lumber opened. I guess it’s all a gradually changing landscape, but it seems like it has gone too far.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s just how a generous return policy should work — by making you a lifetime customer. And ha, funny to think about 84 Lumber being a problem for a local shop (being a childhood memory for me), but yeah — I guess they ARE kind of like what Barnes & Noble are to small bookstores.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Pretty lilies, I’ve got identical ones :)
    The closing of Sears stores has meaning for us as well. Parking at Sears has been the tradition my whole life! Same with The Wish Book!
    The Mister ran a couple of Sears Auto Centers for several years. During that time, we bought nearly everything at Sears, because discount. Our van still goes to Sears, and is treated by my husband’s favorite mechanic, Rick. When Rick retires, we will be sad.
    Our local store is not closing. It does well, consistently, which is why The Mister should never have taken a raise to go to the other, which closed about six months after he left. The whole mall over there is dead now. I sometimes wonder if my husband kept it alive ;)
    It’s the end of an era for many people. I’m glad we get to keep on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Mister continues his reign as my hero! We have a favorite independent mechanic. I’d drop my car off with a blank check taped to the steering wheel. When he retires, “sad” won’t being to cover it.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Fun memories. Still shop at Sears. I remember when blue jeans became a thing. Sears had been the only store before that time to carry them- for the farmers, of course. Wow, I’m really dating myself! Have you seen a real Sears craftsman’s house? They are charming (not many remaining). Can you imagine buying a house from a catalogue?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t seen one, but there are several in the town where my brother lives. I read an article about them in Fine Homebuilding which was fascinating. So many of us dated ourselves in these comments. thanks for adding to the fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Then Greg at Almost Iowa jogged my memory. I was about to make a snarky comment about that probably being the only jogging he does, but I don’t know him that well, so…oops.

    Okay, just to clear this up. I raced the 100th running of the Boston Marathon… but that was more than twenty years and fifty pounds ago – now Scooter and I walk the gravel roads for exercise. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Great pics!! Sears….believe it or not I worked the Hardware Dept of Sears while I was going to college. I knew my tools, power tools etc and Craftsman was everything. In those days our store still had old cash registers where you had to either mentally tally the items and then calculate tax or write everything down and do the math that way….before I left that job, we got new registers that did all of that…I still can’t believe I was able to tally all that in my head and put the tax on….the mind of a youth……

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s pretty cool Kirt. I did the manual cash register at a bowling alley. Today, they just have pictures of stuff on the keys :(

      Sears was such a strong brand. Amazon seems like an alien threat. Seats felt like a neighbor.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Sears stores here are closing left and right. I believe we only have one left and it may be on the chopping block.
    I grew up with Kenmore appliances so naturally I bought Kenmore when I started my own house.
    Our first credit card (He-Man & I) was Sears. We had a gas card but the credit card where we could buy stuff other than gas was Sears. Back then they only took their own card. They take other cards now. I bought a new Kenmore vacuum cleaner last year..or was the year before? Time flies! I don’t know where I’ll buy my appliances when/if all the stores close. It’s sad.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I remember the security of having that Sears card and a gas card. I felt like I could handle anything life could throw at me. We’ve bought all of our appliances from Sears. If they close, that will be very sad. We are now 45 minutes away from the closest one, in that mall where I took my daughter, and the highway between here and there is under construction forever. I guess the problem is that they never captured the imagination of generations after us.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. No, they didn’t. :( Sears here is all the way across town about 30 minutes away. San Jose is so freaking HUGE now, and the traffic going that way can be awful depending on the time of day which could make the trip even longer. The Sears that closed by us was 10-15mins. away.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. We bought our first washer and dryer at Sears. They kindly extended credit so we were able to get out of the laundromat. Seemed like so long ago. Well, it was. 52 years ago.(those Kenmores are probably still working)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They won over a generation with good products, good service and the Sears Card. I still have Craftsman tools I bought over 35 years ago. I have a bandsaw my wife won in a nearby Sears store 34 years ago.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I remember summer re-runs, Dan, but we didn’t even have a TV until I was in high school. How did we survive????? Oh, yeah, we played outside, read books, played sports, and did family things. I remember that when we went to Sears, sometimes Mom would buy us maltballs from the candy department. And Craftsman tools are/were the best. The passing of an icon is always sad.

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

  19. We had a Kaufmann’s in Louisville! Reckon it was the same franchise, or different guys? They used to make fun (gentle fun, of course) of my mother when she lived in Corning, New York, because she said Searses, so she learned not to. When she moved back down this-a-way, she said, “Now I can start saying Searses again.”

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Aw, poor Maddie and the fireworks. MiMi is so beautiful.
    I know it’s sad when our favorite places or brands fall by the wayside, Dan. There are a lot of things that I’d like to hang onto too. Then I think about the long list of changes that happened to businesses and jobs from…(drum roll) the automobile. When you really think about every job and business that changed, especially from things tied to horses. It’s a gigantic list. It would be really inconvenient to go back to horses and buggies. My point is that change is constant, and exponential. Everything has to have a contingency, an alternative route. Just my two cents…
    It is one steep hump day! Wishing you a wonderful Wednesday.
    (I hope I’ve finally fixed my comments problem… no thanks to Word Press. We’ll see when I hit “Post Comment.”)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay – your comment arrived safe and sound, Teagan! I do understand change, and I agree that you make a good point. I think what’s troubling about Sears is that it didn’t have to be. Give the infrastructure, the network, the people and the money they had, they should BE Amazon, not being wiped out BY Amazon. I just don’t know how their management missed the turns along the way.

      I hope you have a great day. Up and over the hump.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Coming from a small town, my only experience with Sears was through their catalogue. We waited for each new one with great anticipation. When I finally moved to the city, I was more enthralled with the Hudson Bay Company (a more upscale department store) than Sears, so I’ve never really had the in-store experience.
    As for shopping with my Dad? Never … except for grocery stores. As a butcher/grocer, his idea of a good time was browsing grocery stores in the city. Funny, I just had a visit by my younger-older brother a few weeks ago, and he’s JUST. LIKE. MY. DAD.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My brother and I are just like my dad. I took our daughter shopping a few times. I think I wrote about one of those. Between women’s fashion and women’s sizes, it was never going to end well. I’m pretty sure my wife enjoys grocery shopping without me.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. It’s only 4 days ago! Yay!
    My parents swore by Sears appliances. When I was married the first time in our early 20’s my parents treated us to Sears appliances. Five for $500. It was a great deal! The last house we built from the ground up ( with last husband) was in 1999. Their gift was five appliances for $2000. Still a bargain for washer, dryer, stove, refrigerator and dishwasher.
    My brothers liked the jeans at Sears, possibly calling them Sears Roebuck and Co jeans. Rich wore husky jeans and now wears skinny (my word, definitely not his) jeans.
    I just took last week a picture of Sears brass plated sign. I am going right now to add this post to my picture, someday in the future it will show up.
    I love Sears having added Land’s End clothing so my daughter Felicia could get her coats, boots, clothes there and I could charge them and get coupons and Save My Way credits. (That’s not what they call them, cannot remember real name, Dan. Oops!)
    Anyway, these are best posts today, so far. I will go see if I already liked the other Sears story. :) 👏👏

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have fond memories of Sears jeans. I remember those being the only other thing besides tools that I was buying there. We’ve bought our appliances there forever. My parents bought theirs from a friend who owned an appliance store, but those were already a thing of the past by the time I was buying my own washer and dryer.Kenmore, and Whirlpool have been with us a long time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I checked out your Edge or lawn trimmer needing a battery (and cord?), but my memory of this post only remembers the choice of first owning a straight Sears Credit Card, then Sears spin off to Discover Card, then Sears Master Card. I am saddened the KMart’s are also closing. We still have Sears (separate) Hardware in Delaware, Oh. We can and do drive to Sears at the Polaris Mall. It takes 25 minutes most of the time, probably only 16 miles away. Those Shop Your Way coupons which were coming out of your current post’s cash register (not what I called it before) used to mean I earned money while buying, which usually helped purchase an extra Christmas gift. :)

        Liked by 1 person

          1. This is too bad about Sears Hardware, Dan! I was surprised that our warehouse of auto parts (Advance Auto) used to sell Sears tires right off the shipping dock. This was when we were called Western Auto.
            It’s okay, Dan. My Dad once made a crack (joke) about “coupons being for women since They are the ones with purses.”
            Mom didn’t laugh. She had this serious teacher look which all of us got once in awhile.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Well, Advance Auto surprises me how this particular warehouse has been around more than forty years, with iron train rails still visible in parts of the building. It is cool, even if only a small part was “new” to share with you. It acquired CarQuest last year. The guys who have been here are friends of mine, Bill was here on his first job at age 20. Never left but tells all sorts of stories of the old days “shenanigans!” He, Gil and Ron have been managers of every department and two stepped down when given an “opportunity” to take a test and become salaried. Gil and Bill politely said, “No, thanks” and are in receiving department till they retire making more than salaried since they get time and a half, when working overtime. :D

            Liked by 1 person

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