Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

An unexpected time capsule

Sometimes the past is just waiting there to be discovered:

Crews demolishing old military barracks on this sprawling base near Paso Robles stumbled on a surprising find: wallets. Tumbling out of heating ducts suspended from the ceilings, the wallets were stuffed with remarkably well-preserved personal belongings dating from World War II and the Korean War. Love letters. Religious medals. Base passes. High school identification cards. Driver's licenses. Dog tags. Snapshots. Tips for surviving an atomic blast. The only thing missing was money. The discovery posed unusual challenges for officials at the former Army base, now used by the California Army National Guard: How did the wallets get there? And could these leather-bound time capsules be returned to their owners? An intensive search for clues among the wallets' contents, and for addresses and phone numbers of owners now in their golden years — or deceased — has reunited all but three of 25 wallets with their owners or relatives. And the work has yielded at least one theory about how they got there in the first place: 'The fact that there is no money in any of these wallets leads us to believe they were stolen,' said California Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Tom Murotake. 'The thefts usually involved a trusting guy from a small town who set his wallet down, then got distracted. 'Someone else, in one fluid motion, nabbed the wallet, snatched the cash and chucked the rest into the heating duct overhead.' Over the decades, the heat turned the leather into something resembling beef jerky, but left everything inside intact.
Who would have thought that someone's meanspirited and dishonest action so long ago would have yielded such interesting results?