Seth Baltzell is the pastor for the City Of Hope Church (CHC). Seth always wanted to do some good to change the world. When Centralia High School closed, and the city put the building up for sale, Seth knew that he had to buy the school. He was fortunate enough to have the money necessary to buy the school in 2019. He was planning to make ti the new site of CHC’s community outreach center and church.
Seth knew that the school needed to be renovated. It was very old, and certain moves needed to be made to turn the school into his vision of the community outreach center. One of his first phone calls was to a plumber, who wished to remain anonymous. He needed to make changes to the school’s old bathrooms, so he hired someone to do the work. The plumber never expected to find stashed treasure.
The plumber was hired to demo part of the old girl’s bathroom. When he removed a vent over one of the toilets, he found that it was a hiding place for a collection of objects. When the plumber removed the vent, the objects came falling out of the vent. The plumber assumed that these objects had been pressed against the vent from the other side. When Seth heard about the hidden objects, he got excited. He was hoping that something exciting would come from the renovations, and these hidden objects were precisely what he was hoping for.
The items that fell from the vent were many wallets. Seth wondered why Centralia High students would have stashed their wallets in the bathroom vent. There were a total of 15 wallets. None of them contained any cash, but they did hold photos, information, and other documents that belonged to the students who left them behind.
After going through each of the wallets, Seth determined that these wallets belonged to female students who attended Centralia High School during the mid-1940s. Seth was very careful with the information, and he tried to categorize them by name. Each of the wallets was worn out, and so were the contents. Many of the wallets contained information that gave Seth an idea of what each of the students’ lives was like. At the time, the war was coming to an end, and many of the wallets contained photos of soldiers. Seth may have had some information on the students who left the wallets behind, but he still didn’t know why they did.
Because there was no money in any of the wallets, Seth came to the conclusion that someone had stolen the wallets, taken the cash, and left them in the vent, never to be found again. Since so much time had passed, Seth knew that the identity of the thief would never be uncovered. Even if they knew who stole the wallets, it had been close to 75-years since the crime took place, which would have made it impossible to prosecute. Even the owners of the wallet would be difficult or impossible to find. The owners could have moved out of state, out of the country, or even passed away after all this time. Seth didn’t want to give up on finding the owners. If he couldn’t find the actual owners, he might be able to find some relatives. He decided to use social media to find the owners of the wallets.
He used social media to release a list of the student’s names whose wallets he found. He also included photos of the wallets. In the post, he mentioned that most of the women’s names were likely their maiden names since the wallets were found in the high school. He also mentioned that if there were any living relatives of the names that he posted, that he would like for them to come forward to claim their relative’s belongings.
It didn’t take long for Seth’s post to go viral. In a short time, it was shared over 3,000 times. There were many comments on the post, and some of them were from relatives of the owners. Betty June Sissom was the owner of one of the wallets. She graduated from the school in 1947 and was 89-years-old when she found out about her wallet being found.
When the local news heard about Betty and her wallet that had been missing for decades, they wanted to be there when the wallet was delivered. They were able to capture the moment that Betty saw her wallet for the first time in decades. She remembered the wallet being red, but over the years, the color faded. Inside the wallet was a photo of Betty when he was a young girl. The boy was Jimmy Kane, a boy that she once had a crush on.
An Amazing Gift
What Seth did for the owners of the wallets and their families, was terrific. He could have simply thrown the wallets away and continued with his renovation project, but he didn’t. He decided to reunite the wallets with their owners, which for those who came forward was a welcomed blast from the past. When a plumber was working on a school restroom, he found a stash of stolen treasure from the ’40s. He did the right thing and made sure they were returned to their rightful owners.