British Columbia

Wallet lost in 1949 in California discovered in B.C.

A determined Whistler, B.C., woman whose thrift store employees found a wallet in a piece of furniture left there by a California man 63 years ago has reunited the memorabilia with the man's family.

Whistler woman uses blog to find wallet owner's family 1,700 km away

A B.C. woman's determination to return a wallet that had been lost for more than 60 years has spanned generations and two countries.

Lorna Van Straaten, who runs Whistler's Re-Build-It Centre, said staff members found the wallet in a hidden drawer inside a cabinet that had been donated to the store in December.

In the wallet were articles belonging to Donald Townsend of Burbank, Calif., including family pictures, paper credit cards and even a 1949 traffic ticket.

Townsend was 38 when he lost the wallet and died in 2005 at the age of 91, but Van Straaten wanted to get the wallet back to his family.

"I felt if I could find them, it would be a gift from the past, from their father," Van Straaten said.

If someone was to lose their wallet today, it would be like someone finding it and returning it in the year 2075, Van Straaten wrote in her blog.

Not knowing how the cabinet ended up in Whistler, Van Straaten used her blog to spread word of the discovery. Within two days, a member of the family called her.

"It's just cool," said Townsend’s son, Dale Townsend. "It brings my dad back to life for me. Like, ‘Hey Dale, I am still here.’"

Townsend still lives in Burbank.

"My sister is two years older than me. Between her and I, we were like, 'Gosh.' It's like my parents are still alive and they are trying to connect with us somehow. This story has gone around now to all our friends. I mailed it to everybody on our Christmas list."

Long journey

He said he was a little boy in 1949, but remembers their home being remodelled and he figures his dad put the wallet in a drawer and forgot about it.

"I'm sure he blamed my mom for doing something with the wallet. That's the way he would have been," he said, laughing.

Van Straaten writes in her blog that over the years, the cabinet changed hands a few times. It was taken to Canada from California in 1974 by Eileen Whiter, who then moved it to a vacation home her family bought in Whistler in 1985. It was later bought by another resident before it was donated to Van Straaten’s store.

Van Straaten said the Townsend family is paying to ship the cabinet to them in Burbank, and the wallet will be put back in the drawer where it was forgotten 63 years ago.

With files from the CBC's Leah Hendry