When construction workers were pulling down a former high school in Jeffersonville, Indiana, they uncovered an old purse. What’s more, the bag’s contents seemed to practically provide a time capsule of life there in 1954. And one of the vintage treasures that was concealed inside revealed the story of a heartwarming teenage romance.
Many adults look back fondly on their school days. In fact, in a 2015 survey reported by The Guardian, 50 percent of the respondents thought of their years in education as their happiest times. And as a result, reunions remain a popular way for people to reconnect with their pasts and swap memories with their former classmates. But what’s the cause of all this nostalgia?
Well, our tendency to place so much emphasis on our formative years may well be down to biology. The memories that we have held onto for the longest amount of time actually become our strongest, you see. And it’s for that reason that someone with Alzheimer’s may remember decades-old details but otherwise struggle to recall events that took place earlier that day.
As Sasha Dall, a mathematical ecology lecturer at the U.K.’s University of Exeter, explained to The Boston Globe in 2012, “All complex life develops from a single cell. What that means is that the early conditions that an individual finds himself [or herself] in will have a disproportionate impact on where he [or she] ends up in a lifetime.”
But while attending high school reunions may help people reminisce about the good old days, it’s not the same as actually being able to see or touch said memories in the form of souvenirs or treasures from the time in question. And that’s why so many of us hang on to our school yearbooks, class projects, report cards and other memorabilia that remind us of a certain period or place.
However, although significant memories that have been etched into our brains may stay with us for many years, physical objects are easily misplaced. And as a result, some of the reminders of once-cherished moments get lost in the passing of time. Often these keepsakes are gone forever, too. Fortunately, though, in a few rare instances, such precious items re-emerge – and sometimes in the most unexpected of circumstances.
Take the story of Ann Caldwell of Augusta, Georgia, for instance. In 2017 she happened upon a class ring in her wardrobe. And while the item of jewelry was unfamiliar to her, there was a perfectly good reason why that was the case. You see, the ring had originally belonged to a former student of Weatherford High School – located more than 1,000 miles away in Oklahoma.
Eager to return the ring to its rightful owner, Caldwell reached out to the superintendent in Weatherford: Chad Wilson. Armed with two clues that had been etched onto the ring – the graduation date and two letters – Wilson subsquently combed through the 1959 senior year book in search of a student with the initials C.S. And it was then that he found Coy Sullivan, who, as it turned out, had lost the piece of jewelry back in 1960.
After Wilson had tracked Sullivan down, moreover, Caldwell learned exactly how the ring had come to be in her possession. Her late husband, you see, had come from Clinton – a town next to Weatherford where his family had owned a laundry business. And so it seemed likely that Sullivan had left the ring inside the pocket of an item of clothing that he had taken to be cleaned.
Remarkably, then, Caldwell was able to reunite Sullivan with his high-school ring. And the alumnus says that he plans to wear the jewelry to his class reunion in July 2019, which marks the 60th year of his graduation. But Sullivan certainly isn’t the only person to have had a long-lost item from their high school days emerge in the most unexpected way.
Another astonishing turn of events involved the Greater Clark County Schools district in Indiana. The organization runs 20 educational establishments across the state and is responsible for about 10,500 pupils. It is one of the biggest of its kind in Indiana, in fact, and prides itself on its cutting-edge approach to teaching.
Consequently, in 2019 Greater Clark County Schools was in the process of tearing down the old Jeffersonville High School building in Indiana in order to make way for a new establishment. The campus had originally shut its doors in 1971, after which students had been taught in a different facility in the East End district of the city.
Before being closed down, though, Jeffersonville High School had been housed in a building on the corner of Meigs and Court Avenues since 1913. And, naturally, some considerable changes had taken place throughout that period, including the integration of African-American students into the school some time in the 1940s.
It’s fair to say, then, that when building professionals began dismantling the Jeffersonville High School structure, they were also taking apart a piece of local history. However, little did the workers know that among the ruins of the school they would uncover a vintage gem – one that had been misplaced decades previously.
On that particular day in January 2019, construction laborers were busy clearing out what had once been used as a science room. And as they dragged out the old, worn-out furniture, an unexpected object sparked their curiosity: a small, black purse. But this little find was just the start of an incredible story.
After opening the bag, the workers discovered that it contained several everyday items, and together the objects painted a vivid picture of their owner. Among the contents was a lipstick, which was accompanied by an old Kleenex with coral-colored smudges on it. Also inside the bag was a pin and a compact as well as Juicy Fruit gum wrappers. In addition, the builders found an old bus schedule and fixture listing for the Jefferson High School 1953-54 basketball team.
But while all of these treasures certainly offered fascinating insights into the clutch’s long-lost owner, none were quite as charming as a handwritten note that had been secreted within the bag. The heartfelt letter was addressed to a girl named Marty and appeared to be from a lovelorn teenager who was hopeful that he could accompany her to the prom.
What’s more, the sweet message revealed that Marty was in hot demand. The note read, “I’ve heard that Paul has asked you to go to the prom with him. If he hasn’t, I would like very much to take you. Love, Torchy. P.S. If you have already consented to go with Paul, please forget that I have asked. If he has asked, but you haven’t consented yet, please consider my invitation.” What a gentleman!
Upon further inspection of the purse’s contents, then, the construction workers discovered that Marty was in fact Martha Ina Ingham. They also uncovered her wallet inside the bag, you see, as well as her Social Security card and identification. After a little digging, the builders therefore concluded that Marty had been a senior at Jefferson High School in 1955. And as a result, the woman to whom the purse had once belonged would now be an octogenarian if she was still alive.
Furthermore, given the dates on the basketball schedule and some accompanying newspaper cut-outs, it seemed likely that Marty had misplaced the bag back in 1954. Remarkably, then, the item had sat lost in the old school science lab for more than six decades. And owing to that passage of time, it seemed likely that Marty would have forgotten all about the clutch in the interim.
Nevertheless, when the folk at Greater Clark County Schools learned of the unexpected discovery, they decided to try and reunite the purse with Marty. And so in February 2019 the organization turned to social media – specifically the Greater Clark County Schools Facebook page – with a photograph of the bag and an appeal to help track down its rightful owner.
The Facebook post read, “Lost and Found Alert: Martha Ina Ingham’s handbag from 1954 has been found in the Franklin Square demolition. We would love to return it to her or her family! Please contact Erin Bojorquez, Public Information Officer.” And it didn’t take long for the story to take off online, either.
Within a matter of days, in fact, the Facebook post had attracted hundreds of reactions and dozens of comments. Even more incredibly, someone had managed to track down a profile that they believed belonged to Marty herself. And a relative subsequently saw the post and shared it with Marty’s son, who in turn was able to alert his mom to the amazing discovery.
Greater Clark County Schools public information officer Erin Bojorquez revealed exactly what went down to the News and Tribune in February 2019. “Marty was found thanks to the power of social media,” she explained. “A family member came across our post and then shared it with [Marty’s] youngest son. I’m thrilled I was able to connect with Marty’s family.”
So, just days after the appeal, Greater Clark County Schools announced on Facebook that Marty had indeed been located. The joyous update, which was posted on February 9, read, “Martha Ina Ingham has been found! Thank you to everyone who shared our original post.” And promising the supporters that there was more to the story, the post also teased, “We will provide an update soon!”
But now that Marty had finally been tracked down and her purse had been safely returned to her, there was one important question left on people’s lips: who did Marty end up taking to prom? Was it Torchy, the well-mannered boy who had sent her the adorable love letter, or was it Paul, his alleged rival for Marty’s affections?
Yet social media users weren’t the only ones who were desperate to find out which suitor got to be Marty’s date. You see, Bojorquez admitted that she, too, was curious, telling the News and Tribune, “I hope this little piece of history brings back fond memories of [Marty’s] year at Jeffersonville High School… I also hope to answer the community’s burning question about who took Marty to prom.”
Incidentally, those hoping for answers didn’t have to wait long to receive a response from Marty – who was more than happy to fill in the gaps. In the years after her graduation from Jeffersonville High School, she had married twice, and now she goes by the surname Everett. Marty’s also a great-grandmother of four as well as having four children and seven grandchildren.
Now in her 80s, Marty resides in Maryland but migrates to the warmth of Florida each winter. And so, until she heard about the discovery of her purse, it had probably been a while since she had thought about her high-school days. She had no recollection of even misplacing the bag in the first place, in fact!
Indeed, in February 2019 Marty told the News and Tribune, “Honestly, I didn’t remember losing [the purse]. I think it was just more of a huge surprise that something from that long ago would suddenly come back into my life. It brought back memories I hadn’t thought about in a long time.”
Recalling her high-school years, Marty added, “I remember the biggest thing was basketball. We had a really good basketball team and a lot of celebrations. It was just a happy time. It felt like a small-town, close-knit lifestyle. We knew everybody [and] had a lot of friends. It was a good feeling.” Then another mystery was finally solved.
Yes, during her interview with the News and Tribune, Marty finally divulged the identity of her junior prom date. Surprisingly, though, he had been neither Torchy nor Paul. Instead, Marty had gone with a third suitor: a boy called Carter Williams. And he too had written Marty a letter that was also ultimately found inside her lost bag.
Apparently, Williams was Marty’s first boyfriend, and his letter read, “Dear Marty, Bobbie and I aren’t going back together. I’m just continuing to walk her to classes. She asked me if I would, and I told her that I would. But I am just trying to be friends with everybody, and I decided to start on the girls that I have done wrong.”
Williams’ candid message continued, “Is there anything wrong with that? I’m just going to date everybody and be friends with everybody. I figure that’s the least I can do. When I leave here, I want to be everybody’s pal! Don’t you think I have the right look at things?” And next, Williams – like Torchy – referenced the infamous Paul. “I think Paul is an alright guy, but you’ll never catch him; he runs too fast,” he wrote.
Despite Williams’ seemingly liberal approach to dating, however, it was Marty who ended up bagging him as her date to junior prom. And on February 19 Greater Clark County Schools once again took to Facebook to share some vintage snaps of the young couple that had been captured after the dance. This latest installment of Marty’s story was met with further enthusiasm from social media users, too.
Beneath the black-and-white photographs of Marty and Williams, Facebook user Lynn Vaught wrote, “Such a great story! [I’m] so happy they located her.” Another commenter, meanwhile, said, “I’m just speechless over this whole situation! I think I speak for everyone when I say we are all so thankful for your follow-up and persistence, Erin. This has been so fun… Times really have changed!”
However, that was by no means the end of Marty’s sweet story. The news of the discovery of Marty’s purse ended up reaching none other than Williams himself, you see, and he subsequently decided to reach out to his former flame. “We had a great time talking on the phone and helping each other remember back then,” Marty revealed to the News and Tribune.
It’s fair to say, too, that Marty and Williams’ adorable reunion may never have occurred without social media. But while the internet certainly helped Marty reconnect with her past, the advancement of technology has also changed the dating game considerably since she was in school. And somehow a text just doesn’t seem as romantic as a handwritten note.
Speaking to the News and Tribune, Marty explained, “These boys wrote letters. Today you would never see that. I guess I’ve been thinking about that and how different the days were back then.” She added, “I don’t recall a problem with crime. I don’t recall a problem with bullying or any of those issues that are affecting students today.”
In the end, then, the discovery of an old black purse led Marty on a heartwarming journey into her past. And the treasure trove of vintage belongings inside the bag seem to have unlocked memories that she can now cherish forever. “It’s amazing what it contained,” she told the News and Tribune. “I think that was quite something – to unravel my life at that time by looking at what was in that purse.”