TGIF: Red-letter days, empty wallets, and obsolete cell phones

Brownwood Bulletin
Gene Deason

My weekly column had been appearing in the Brownwood Bulletin for just a little more than a year in 1978, but the otherwise humdrum article this newspaper published that year on Friday, October 6, was memorable for one special reason.

It was the day our first child was born, and I had to debate with myself about what the topic should be. Our baby was a couple of weeks “late,” by all medical indications, so my wife’s doctor said if nothing happened naturally before then, labor would need to be induced. The appointed day arrived, and we reported to the hospital before dawn.

I usually wrote my columns the day before, in case something topical needed discussion. Well, that’s just my excuse. It was usually due to procrastination. Still, I recall thinking, what should I write about? Do I write about the anxiety faced by a first-time father waiting for the birth of his child? I probably had done that a few weeks before. Besides, I didn’t want to report that the child was being born, only to be sent home because the baby didn’t cooperate.

To be safe, I wrote an “evergreen” column. It was about things (other than cash) you might find in your wallet.

I shouldn’t have worried about being disappointed by the stork. After checking in and going through the process the nurses called “prep,” my wife assured me in no uncertain terms that she wasn’t going to leave the hospital without a baby.

For a while there, however, we weren’t so sure. Happily, after 10 p.m., our baby indeed arrived. So, happy birthday to our daughter, two days late.

A few years back, I located the column I had published that Friday so long ago in a basket of clippings I had been keeping in the event I ever wanted to assemble a scrapbook. The column was rather unremarkable as columns go, but I hope readers at the time cut me some slack for writing it while wondering when I was finally going to become a father. I never did mention that fact in the article.

The somewhat lame concept of that old column — finding random things in your wallet — intrigued me. This week, I’ve decided to revisit my 1978 piece and compare the assorted stuff I had found in my wallet then, with the assorted stuff I’m finding in it now. I’m not adverse to writing a second lame column on the same subject more than four decades later.

Back then, I found a ticket stub to a 1971 music concert that I thought was incredibly fun.

Today, I’m not finding any ticket stubs. One thing that is there, is a Medicare supplemental insurance card. That doesn’t result in any fun, but it does help pay some bills.

Back then, I didn’t mention anything about finding cash.

Today, that’s a subject that still isn’t worth writing about.

Back then, I found a Selective Service draft card with my full name on it, issued during the height of the Vietnam War. I was in college, but nevertheless I had been classified I-A, eligible for induction. I was anxious when I opened the envelope holding the letter with that card, because I was still a full-time student. The paperwork confirming my deferment had been lost, but it was quickly resolved with a couple of phone calls.

Today, I find a sticky note with a name and password to some online portal that I had failed to identify — probably to prevent unauthorized access if my wallet became lost. I think it’s for my cell phone account, and I’ll be needing that. You’ll see.

Back then, I found some photos that I hope were relocated to a safer place where they wouldn’t be damaged by the rough treatment a wallet can receive. One thing’s for sure, they haven’t been transferred through the years from that wallet to my current wallet.

Today, I don’t keep photos in my wallet. Most of them are on my cell phone, and its memory is almost full. Plus, the phone’s so old, the company has informed me it will no longer work on its network beginning early next year. I’m being forced into staying up to date.

That’s nothing new.

Something very similar happened with my first cell phone almost 20 years ago, when the industry switched from analog to digital. But that was “back then.” Not as long ago “back then” as 1978 was, but still, “back then.”

Even wallets have to be replaced eventually, but at least they don’t become obsolete. They simply wear out.

Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column “TGIF” appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at