As a middle school custodian in Ohio was making some repairs, a strange item jammed between a locker and a wall happened to catch his eye. It turned out to be an old purse, caked in decades of dust, decay, and neglect. Inside of it was a veritable time capsule, absolute treasures that would leave the school staff — and the purse’s lucky recipients — utterly amazed.
Seemingly A Normal Day
It was spring 2019, and for janitor Chas Pyle in North Canton, Ohio, work days on the grounds of North Canton Middle School rolled by like clockwork. He swept, mopped, and took out the trash as usual. However, something happened later one day that interfered with his usual cleaning routine.
It seemed that the wall trim around the lockers had come loose, and Chas was tasked with fixing it. The janitor grabbed his tool belt and headed to the row of faulty lockers. As he removed the loose trim, understandably, he found years worth of dust and grime. Yet while most would pay little mind to it, something under that dust caught his attention.
Chas’ Ancient Discovery
As Chas removed the trim, he noticed something red peeking out at him from under a thick layer of dust. He bent down for a closer look and to his surprise, what he spotted turned out to be a worn leather purse. It definitely was a shock to find something behind that locker trim.
For as long as he’d worked there, he couldn’t remember anyone ever having removed it before. Also, the purse didn’t look like anything a current student would be found walking around with. So Chas did what any good janitor would do and took the old-looking purse to the front office. It was there that they’d realize there was far more than met the eye.
Revealing The Owner
To begin with, the front office staff at the school didn’t exactly know who the purse belonged to. Based on its deteriorated condition, they could have figured that it was most likely lost in the ’90s or ’80s. However, a quick investigation revealed something that would leave everyone floored.
It belonged to a former student named Patti Rumfola, but she wasn’t walking those halls twenty, thirty, or even forty years ago. She came from an era far removed from our own. She was walking the halls of North Canton Middle School at a time that predated much of the school staff’s existence.
A Trip Back In Time
The school’s small investigation revealed that Patti Rumfola lost her purse way back in 1957. When 14-year-old Patti misplaced her purse, Elvis and Buddy Holly were the hottest acts on the radio, The Bridge on the River Kwai won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and Dwight D. Eisenhower was the president.
Now that school officials knew who the lost purse belonged to, they had to track down Patti and return it to her. They knew that this now elderly woman would be beyond shocked to see her childhood purse returned to her. But their luck took a turn when they tracked down Patti’s family.
Sad News Surrounding Patti
Seems that the former North Canton Middle School student would never get the chance to see her lost purse. When school officials got in touch with Patti’s children, they were ecstatic to hear about the find. However, they then revealed that their dear mother had passed away back on October 21, 2013.
Sad news aside, Patti’s children were invited to the middle school to reveal the items that their mother had been keeping in her long lost purse. They wouldn’t just be pulling out a book of matches and a few pencils. Rather, they’d be opening a veritable time capsule.
What The Purse Can Tell
You can tell a lot about a person based on the contents of their purse. Despite being only 14 years old, Patti had quite a thriving social life full of extracurricular activities and clubs. She had a library card for the North Canton Public Library and was a member of the YMCA.
It was also revealed that she was a big fan of the Vikings, the school’s football team. In her purse was a 1956 football schedule that displayed all their home and away games. She had even marked off the games that had passed. Upon further inspection, they found something even more revealing.
A Hopeful Find
While the purse was filled with many things, one of the biggest attention grabbers was a faded wallet. Not being touched or opened in over half a century had sure taken its toll on the wallet, as the colors were fading off the old leather.
The old wallet had a spot of green on it. However, over the years a shade of brown seems to have taken over the green. Patti’s family were beyond curious to see what was in their mother’s wallet. While they doubted it was big bucks, it could have been something worth taking home with them.
A Small Fortune
Inside the wallet were 27 cents, made of two dimes and seven pennies. While that might not seem like much today, back in 1957 that 27 cents could have bought someone a small lunch. Losing that money at 14 years old would have surely been an annoyance.
As a way of remembering their late mother, each one of her kids took one of the faded pennies that she kept in her old wallet. While that old loose change is definitely a treasure, her children found something even more precious inside of her purse. What they got was a look far deeper into their mother’s childhood.
Inside the purse were a number of family photos dating as far back as 1950. Her children got to peek at photos they had never seen of their mother before. There were several photos that featured the family dog, and one of Patti’s own mother sitting cross-legged on a chair.
Surely, for Patti’s children, this was an emotional journey as they looked through their deceased mother’s belongings and keepsakes. They could vividly picture their mother walking down the halls of that middle school with all her hopes and dreams. And the next array of items were bound to paint a picture of the type of student she was.
Signs of Her Faith
When Patti was going to school, religion was far more at the forefront of American society than today, and the contents of Patti’s purse were a living testament to that fact. While her children were looking through their mother’s belongings they found a Catholic necklace.
There was also a medallion that had a picture of Jesus on it. It read: “Sacred heart of Jesus. I place my trust in thee.” One of the more shocking surprises in the purse was something that was in relatively good shape and still had some scent after being tucked away for over half a century.
Something She’s Always Loved
One of the more interesting finds was a finely wrapped piece of peppermint Beech-Nut Gum. Anyone who knew Patti in her younger days remarked that she loved her peppermint gum. One question that sat on everyone’s mind was the brand of the gum, as no one had heard of it.
Beech-Nut was a major brand that first came about as far back as the late 19th century. While it isn’t as popular as it once was, the company is still quite active, especially when it comes to baby food. The company’s chewing gum hit its peak in the 1980s and is likely very hard to find these days. Beyond this relic, there was one item in the lost purse that was absolutely heartwarming.
Giving To Others
One of the most touching finds inside the purse was Patti’s American Junior Red Cross membership. While people won’t be too familiar with the Junior Red Cross today, it was once very popular amongst young Americans. The organization first rose to popularity during the First World War.
However, by the time World War II had come to an end, the organization’s popularity began to fade. What Junior Red Cross members would do was knit scarves for the needy, send Friendship Boxes of school supplies to impoverished children in the Third World, and build furniture for nursing homes across the United States. Beyond being charitable, Patti apparently had style and class to boot.
For fourteen, Patti had a solid sense of fashion and class. Not only was she rocking an elegantly folded handkerchief, but she had an array of lipsticks by a brand that vanished with the bygone era. We can almost picture her looking in the mirror and trying to do her best Elizabeth Taylor or Marilyn Monroe.
There was also a comb for a quick hair fix-up. It wasn’t all fashion in Patti’s purse; she had a row of freshly sharpened pencils and a pen. It’s absolutely amazing that the pencils were able to stay sharpened after all the years that had gone by. There were also some erasers and a ruler in there. However, one makeup accessory in particular proved to be truly remarkable.
A Look Into Mother’s Mirror
Amid her makeup and school supplies was something of Patti’s that really stuck out to her children. It was their late mother’s teenage compact. They opened it up and saw the powder still in place, and the mirror with one long crack going right through the middle.
Her children knew at that moment that the last person to open up that compact and look into it was their own beloved mother over half a century ago. She had glanced into it, with her future and a whole world freshly opened up to her like a brand new adventure calling her to come forth.
Proof She Was Beloved
One of the nicest mementos they found inside the purse was a picture that had been signed by a former friend named Bonnie. It read: “Good luck to a swell girl and friend. Never forget the wonderful times we had. I hope we can be good friends always even though we’re far apart.”
While she sadly passed away at the age of 71 in 2013, Patti had lived a rather full life. She was an active member of her community and a founding member of the Theatre Arts Guild and Young Women’s Club in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. In 1980, she got married and proceeded to have four children — who would one day come to behold these treasures long hidden in the depths of a middle school.
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