When a school janitor came across a lost purse wedged between a locker and a wall, he had no idea that he had just opened a time capsule into the past. The tattered purse was visibly old and the janitor assumed it had been missing for a long time. But when he opened it, he was stunned to discover that contents were over 60 years old. So, who owned this mysterious purse and what was their story?
In 2019, Chas Pyle, a custodian at North Canton City Schools in Ohio, was fixing a trim that had come loose on the last locker against the wall. When he pulled the trim back, he could see something wedged between the locker and the wall that piqued his curiosity.
The object that Pyle found was a withered red purse. He knew by the look of it that it had been there for a while, but he was blown away when he discovered just how long the dusty clutch bag was sitting there for.
When Chas Pyle realized he had stumbled upon a missing personal item, he immediately took it to the school office. The staff opened the purse in an attempt to find out who the owner was but they were knocked over when they found notes and membership cards from 1957.
So, who exactly owned the vintage, crimson clutch? Well, after checking out the rest of its contents, the school discovered it belonged to a former student named, Patti Rumfola who lost her purse in what was then Hoover High School 62 years before it was found.
The school made attempts to track down Rumfola and with the help of social media, they were able to locate her family. The school learned that Rumfola had since passed away, but her five children were eager to see their mother’s belongings from when she was a teenager.
In the fall last year, Rumfola’s children and their kids were together for a family gathering to open their late mother’s long lost belongings. They were struck with emotion and excitement when they were face to face with their mother’s personal items, wishing she were alive to reunite with them.
After Rumfola’s family got the chance to see their mother’s day to day personal effects including personal photographs of friends and family, they gave North Canton City Schools permission to post pictures of the purse’s contents on their Facebook page where they have since attracted the attention of the media.
As well as sentimental belongings inside her purse, Rumfola also had a wallet with money in it. As interesting as it is looking at these now vintage items, it’s sad to think that Rumfola would have been devastated to realize that her purse was missing. Little did the teenager know that one day her five children and grandchildren would be in possession of it and get a glimpse into her life as a schoolgirl.
The teenager who had peppermint-flavored Beech-Nut gum inside her purse, also had a wallet with several bronze “wheat” penny coins that dated back to the 1950s. On the North Canton City Schools’ Facebook page they posted, “Each of her five children kept one of the wheat pennies as a token of remembrance of their mom.”
The most surprising find in the bag was a relic of the past that isn’t usually kept past its expiration date: a stick of gum! The vintage brand was popular back in the day, but hasn’t been seen in stores for decades. But, this stick looks just like new, and that wasn’t the only surprising find in the purse…
In her red leather purse, 15-year-old, Patti Rumfola had a compact vanity kit that brought her family up close and personal with the teenage schoolgirl. The “Evening in Paris” rouge compact was complete with a mirror that the teenager would have used on a daily basis.
Along with her rouge powder, the teenager also had several tubes of lipstick in her purse. Hazel Bishop lipstick was among the brands that Rumfola owned and the shade, “Pastel Pink” was still clearly visible on the tube.
The contents of the purse show that Patti Rumfola was clearly an active teenager. The teen was heavily involved in several extracurricular activities and was a dedicated supporter of her school’s sports teams, including baseball.
As an adult, Rumfola worked as a teacher in Annapolis, Maryland. However, as a student she was regularly seen cheering on her school’s football team and even kept a copy of the team’s schedule and marked off each game as she attended.
Rumfola was an avid sporting supporter. Along with sports fixtures in her purse, Rumfola also had ticket stubs for games that cost her 30 cents a piece. The discolored tickets no doubt made her children smile at the thought of their energetic, carefree mother.
Religion was a lot more enforced into daily life in the 1950s than it is today, so it wasn’t uncommon for teenagers to carry a religious medallion around with them. Rumfola had both the Virgin Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus in her purse.
As well as sporting tickets and timetables for various games, Rumfola also had several sentimental photos of her family and friends including one of her friend, Bonnie who signed, “Never forget the wonderful times we had.” On another card, Bonnie wrote “Patti. Good luck to a swell girl and friend,” giving us more of an insight into the young woman’s disposition.
Flicking through past yearbooks, North Canton City School discovered that Patti Rumfola was a popular young student back in the 1950s who was photographed at various school events including her prom.
Patti Rumfola was known to be an intelligent student that was actively involved in school projects. A fellow classmate of Rumfola’s, Sally Krum recently remembered her as “One of the sweetest girls I’ve ever known. Everyone loved her. She had a beautiful character.”
Another trip down memory lane, Rumfola had a library card that was due to expire in 1960 inside her purse, along with a bunch of other personal documents that she would never see again.
It’s amusing to think that perhaps while Rumfola was studying in the library or bored in class, the teenager entertained herself by doodling. It sure seems that way, by the cartoon drawings found in the worn out red purse.
In her adult life life, Rumfola was also a costume designer and seamstress for a theater in DuBois and even founded a Theatre Arts Guild and Young Women’s Club in Punxsutawney. As a teenager, Rumfola was just as involved in clubs as she had a $6 YMCA membership card in her purse amongst her many other belongings.
As well as being affiliated with the YMCA, Rumfola was also a high school member of the American Junior Red Cross which was set up following WWI and continued after WWII. As a member, Rumfola would have worked on projects that provided assistance to war veterans an their families.
Along with membership cards, photos and make-up, Rumfola also kept a 1956 calendar from the Lilly pharmaceutical company. At the top of the 63-yer-old calendar, Ilotycin is advertised as “The most effective antibiotic for common bacterial infections.”
In the 1950s, seniors in high school often ordered calling cards that took note of commencement announcements and invitations that were given as messages to students. Rumfola had several calling cards in her purse with addresses of friends in Iowa, New York and Jamestown.
In response to the school’s findings, Rumfola’s daughter, Stephanie wrote to the school , “I cannot THANK YOU enough. We agreed that Mom would have been SO excited if she could see all of this. Would have made her smile so hard to know this has been found and reminisce about a day in the life of her old self.” Rumfola died in 2013 at the age of 71.
When the school found the purse, they then got in contact with Rumfola’s children, who were reunited with their mother’s belongings. Among themselves, they each chose one of her mother’s vintage ‘wheat’ pennies to keep as their own, as a memento of their late mother.