The Lowe’s receipt is several shades of yellow, the staple marks at the top are browned by rust, and the handwriting is largely illegible — perhaps to be expected from a 63-year-old piece of paper. Clark Whittington discovered the receipt not long ago. It belonged to his great uncles, who had shopped at Lowe’s in 1954 for materials to build their sister a house, which still stands in Concord, North Carolina. Maybe the most significant thing about the slip of paper is that it came from Lowe’s first store in North Wilkesboro, about 90 miles north of Concord.
“My great uncles drove to North Wilkesboro when there were only two stores to buy materials,” said Whittington, an artist now living in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “That was a long time ago. They probably had to borrow a flatbed to go and get the materials. You can’t read half the stuff on the receipt. It’s almost shorthand.”
For Whittington and his mother, Sarah, the receipt is a reminder of home. They understand that home is more than the collection of boards, joists, beams and nails that make up a house. It’s where the family’s passions, hopes and dreams were brought to life. For Sarah, now 80, the receipt is a connection to her youth and also a symbol of how her life has come full circle.
Nettie Thomas (center), Clark Whittington’s grandmother and Sarah Whittington’s mother, in front of the family home in Concord
“I moved here with mother and my uncle after my uncles built the house in 1954,” said Sarah, an artist by trade. “I lived here until I was married and my husband and I built a house behind Mother. After Mother and my husband passed away, I moved back here to my mother’s house, where I have been living now for 20 years, maybe.”
She doesn’t remember a lot about the house’s construction, she said, but can attest to its structural integrity.
“I have, of course, repaired it over the years, but it is really a well-built house considering its age,” she said. “I don’t know who designed it, but I still get a lot of compliments on the house.”
The house still has the original windows and coal fireplace, some of the same kitchen cabinets, the original kitchen sink, and the same hardwood floors in three rooms and the living area, Sarah said.
For Whittington, an artist like his mother, the house built with Lowe’s materials helped create some of his fondest memories of home.
“My great uncle Clyde Litaker (who helped build the house and lived there) was more like a grandfather to me,” Whittington, 50, said. “He made a lot of things in the basement. I still have some of his tools.”
Litaker’s name is on the yellowed receipt from Sept. 3, 1954, along with more than two-dozen items he picked up for $194.10.
“I can still see him sitting on the porch smoking his pipe and drinking coffee near the warmth of a kerosene heater,” Whittington said.
“My great uncle Clyde Litaker (who helped build the house and lived there) was more like a grandfather to me. He made a lot of things in the basement. … I can still see him sitting on the porch smoking his pipe and drinking coffee near the warmth of a kerosene heater.”— Clark Whittington
As the years progressed, Whittington moved away and founded his own company, Art-o-mat, which might be best described as part art/part business. He takes retired cigarette vending machines, refurbishes them and fills them with homemade art for patrons to purchase. When he needs new lights for the machines, he picks them at the Lowe’s in west Winston-Salem.
“I remember going to the Kannapolis store with my dad to buy stuff,” Whittington said. “Lowe’s has always been the go-to place, I guess.”
The original Lowe’s North Wilkesboro Hardware on C Street, just opposite the post office, was your typical small-town North Carolina hardware store. The brick-front store was stocked with rolls of barbed wire, kegs of nails, galvanized roofing and plumbing supplies, along with everything from overalls and wash tubs to horse collars. And in 1946, the store had one salesman roaming the floor.