If someone found a bag that had been tucked away in your school for over 50 years, you'd want to know what was inside of it, wouldn't you? That's exactly what happened at North Canton Middle School in Ohio in the spring of 2019 when someone discovered a former student's purse that had been tucked away, collecting dust between a set of lockers and the wall.
Discovering The Bag
In May 2019, North Canton Middle School custodian Chas Pyle discovered a red, dusty purse tucked in beside a set of lockers after the metal trim from years ago had come loose and fallen off.
How Long Could It Have Been There?
The custodian said he thought the building was opened in 1957 and that, at the time, the trim blocking the space likely didn't exist, which would explain how a bag could've been stored there.
He Knew He Should Pick It Up
Pyle knew he couldn't just leave the bag there to keep collecting dust, so he brought the purse to the office, where the secretaries made the decision that any sane person would make: they opened it to find out what was inside.
Meeting Patti For The First Time
The staff members opened the purse to find a time capsule of items and learned that the bag had belonged to Patti Rumfola, who graduated from Hoover High School in 1960. North Canton Middle School, where the bag was found, is in what used to be the Hoover High building.
Documenting Their Findings, Just In Case
The women who first went through Patti's bag decided to take photos of everything they found inside as they learned more about Patti. In an effort to find Patti or anyone who knew her, the school district posted to Facebook about their find.
Finding Patti's Family Through Facebook
Thanks to social media, the school was able to locate Patti's five children after someone shared Patti Michele's (born Rumfola's) obituary from 2013. Her five children came together at a family gathering a few months later to go through the contents of the bag.
The District Knew They Had To Share The Story
With permission from her children, the school district decided to share photos of what was inside the purse on Facebook, thinking that others would be interested. The post has since garnered more than 50 thousand shares, with tens of thousands of people learning about Patti and life as a teenager in the 50s & 60s.
A Snapshot Of Life
When Patti's children were first contacted, her daughter told the school how much she and her family appreciated the care and effort that North Canton put into reuniting the purse with her family.
Patti's Children Knew How Happy Their Mother Would've Been
Patti's daughter described the purse as a snapshot of life of the average socially involved student and talked about how her mother would've smiled so hard to have been able to reminisce on her life as a teenager.
Tokens Of Remembrance
Inside of Patti's purse was a wallet which contained nine coins, and as a token to remember their mother by, each of Patti's five children kept one of the wheat pennies that was found in her wallet.
Learning More About Patti
Thanks to the person who shared Patti's obituary, as well as contacting her family, the school was able to learn more about Patti and her life despite her passing away on October 21, 2013, at the age of 71.
Patti's Life After Hoover High
After her time at Hoover High School, Patti went on to have a career as a school teacher for many years in Annapolis, Maryland. She was married for 27 years to John Michele, had five children, and was active in the community theater scene.
A Teenager Involved In Her Community
The items inside of Patti's purse, like her daughter mentioned, tell the story of a teenage girl who was clearly involved in her school community and spent her time socializing with her friends and classmates.
A Friendly Note
On the back of one of the many photos that were found in Patti's purse, a friend of hers from the Booster club, Bonnie, wrote a message to Patti acknowledging the wonderful times the pair shared.
A Love For The Theater
Patti went on to work as a costume designer and seamstress at a local theater called the Reitz Theatre in DuBois, Pennsylvania. Her love of the theater was clearly something that started when she was young considering a setlist for a show called "Passport Previews" was found inside of Patti's purse.
An Avid Reader
Another interest of Patti's that was prominent in her later life that was also shown from her purse was her love of reading. In her adult life, Patti was involved in a book club circle with her friends, and inside her purse, her family found two library cards. One belonged to Patti while the other belonged to her mother, Rose Rumfola.
All The Essentials
Along with all the photos and membership cards, Patti also had all the typical things you'd expect to find in a high school student's purse, such as a comb, makeup, pencils, and other basic items.
A Throwback For Older Generations
A number of items from Patti's purse felt like a blast from the past for Facebook users, including her identification card from a time when students used to be given insurance through their school at a discounted rate.
Proof That No Woman Cleans Out Her Purse
Inside the purse, there were a number of membership cards for things such as the YMCA, one of which was already expired by the time Patti lost her bag. The expired card made a lot of commenters chuckle about the fact that she clearly didn't clean her bag out very often, like most people.
Patti's Classmates In Photos
Inside Patti's purse along with these three photos were three name cards for people named Jean, Dean, and Marilyn, which many assume to be the three friends in these photos. Giving a photo to your friends of yourself was a common practice for students at the time, which likely explains these photos.
She Didn't Just Love To Read
A girl who loved to read and was involved in the theater might have been stereotyped to have not been interested in sports or physical activity, but inside her purse, they found two schedules, including one for the high school football team that had been marked off.
Keeping Her Family With Her
Though not much information was mentioned about her family besides her children and husband, Patti's purse contained a couple of photos of what looks to be Patti with siblings, as well as a photo of her mom and their family dog.
Finding Patti Rumfola's purse was like finding a time capsule that no one knew was buried, and it brought joy to a lot of people, especially for her children who were able to learn more about their mother's life as a teenager. Beyond Patti's family, her story and her purse gave everyone a brief look into the life of someone they otherwise would've never had the chance to know.
Patti's Purse Isn't The Only One To Be Lost
Unsurprising to anyone who has ever been a teenager or raised a teenager, Patti was not the first—nor would she be the last—teenage girl to misplace her purse somewhere in her high school.
Nearly Lost To A Demolition
While demolishing what was the Jeffersonville High School in Indiana, construction workers discovered a purse tucked in behind a science classroom cabinet. The crew handed it over to the school board, who then posted about it on Facebook.
Searching For Its Owner
When they opened the purse, the school discovered that the bag belonged to a Martha Ina Ingham. More surprisingly, Martha had been a student at Jeffersonville who graduated in 1955, so they knew this bag would be a nostalgic item for Martha.
Connecting It To Martha
The Facebook post received plenty of shares and comments, which eventually led to it ending up in front of one of Martha's family members. Ingham (now Everett) was contacted and the long-lost bag was sent back to its owner.
Taking A Look Inside
After all the engagement that the post received on Facebook, many were curious as to what was inside the purse, if anything. Martha shared that the lost purse held lipstick, her Social Security Card (which seems important), the school basketball schedule, and a first-place ribbon for the mile relay at a 1954 track meet.
A Letter From An Admirer
In addition to the odds and ends that were found in the purse, Martha shared that there was a handwritten letter in the purse from a boy asking her out on a date. "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," wrote the suitor who called himself "Torchy."
Her Choice Of Prom Dates
On top of the letter from Torchy, there were two other letters inside the bag, including one from Carter Williams, whom she attended prom with. Williams was Martha's boyfriend at the time, and there were accompanying photos of the two of them at the prom together.
Thanks For The Memories
Martha was 16 years old when she lost her purse, and she never expected it to be returned to her more than 60 years later. Everett says it was like opening a time capsule and gave her a nice reminder of her time in high school years ago.