When a group of workers were sent to renovate an old building in Iowa, none of them could have predicted the incredible find that they would make just below the floorboards. The discovery of this intriguing object would have a big impact on the life of one old man.
The Talent Factory comedy club in Nevada, Iowa is currently owned by Larry Sloan, who was responsible for ordering the renovation of the place. But decades ago, this popular haunt for comedians, illusionists and singers was used for a different purpose.
Originally, the club was a movie theater. “It was built in the 1920s, so many people saw their first movie here and had their first kiss the balcony,” Sloan told KCCI’s 8 News. “I like thinking about what kind of history that made for those people.”
You might imagine that renovating a building this old would throw up a few surprises, and you wouldn’t be wrong. However, no one could really have predicted what the workmen toiling away on the third floor of the building stumbled across.
Indeed, they came across an object that had fallen between the gaps of the floorboard; it was a wallet. But how had it got there and whose was it? The truth would turn out to be pretty amazing.
“It was plastic,” said Sloan. “The first thing that went through my mind was, ‘This must be a child’s wallet.’” But that assumption quickly turned out to be far from the truth.
After looking inside, Sloan realized that the wallet was much older than he had first thought. There were a number of clues that pointed to its owner being a child, but if the contents were anything to go by, that kid would definitely have grown up by now.
Inside the wallet, for instance, was an interesting selection of historical items. There were old and faded photos, an antique Boy Scouts of America card and – surprisingly – ration stamps. Could this wallet really date back to World War Two?
It was an easy question to answer, because the wallet also contained a pocket calendar, and the year of the calendar was 1944. This old wallet had been sitting beneath the floorboards of the theater for more than 70 years. But who did it belong to?
Fortunately, that was a fairly easy question to answer too, because inside the wallet was a handwritten I.D. with the name Clare McIntosh scrawled at the top. But after seven decades, the telephone number on the card probably wasn’t going to be much use…
“It said, ‘In the event of an emergency contact R.E. McIntosh Colo, Iowa 8.’ Just eight,” said Sloan, referring to the phone number. “And I thought, ‘Wow, that’s old.’” Surely after all these years it would be impossible to track down McIntosh.
The search was on, but Sloan wasn’t totally confident they’d find the owner of the wallet after all those years. “The hopes of finding him alive and well were kind of small,” he said. But Sloan had a trick or two up his sleeve, thanks to his former profession.
Before renovating the theater, Sloan had worked as a private investigator. Using some of the skills he’d picked up on the job, he was able to track down a man called Clare McIntosh who was living near Des Moines, Iowa.
Sloan decided to give the mystery man a call. “I think I found your wallet,” he told McIntosh. But the man on the end of the line replied that he hadn’t lost his wallet. Had Sloan found the wrong Clare McIntosh?
“I thought at first it must have been some sort of a joke, it couldn’t be,” said McIntosh in an interview with KCCI. But the 85-year-old was in for a shock. He arranged to visit the theater.
When he got there, he was shown the long-lost wallet and, incredibly, confirmed that it was indeed his. It was the first time he’d seen it since he was 15 years old, “It’s unreal,” he said.
McIntosh was reunited with his wallet a full 70 years after losing it at a movie theater. And for Sloan, the secrets of this unexpected discovery were gradually revealed as McIntosh pored over the wallet’s long-hidden contents.
Pointing to a photo found in the old wallet, McIntosh identified his sister. It must have been a highly emotional moment for McIntosh to once again look at and hold these old pictures, which he last held in his hands 70 years before.
The wallet and its contents, which had been lost by a 15-year-old almost a lifetime ago, were finally reunited with their now-85-year-old owner. In the interim period, the world had become a very different place: World War Two had ended, man had walked on the moon, the Soviet Union had collapsed and the age of the computer had dawned.
But throughout it all, McIntosh’s wallet had been under those floorboards, just waiting to be discovered. When asked about what he was going to do with his long-lost mementos, his answer was simple: “I’m just going to cherish them.” As you might imagine, though, McIntosh’s isn’t the only treasure that has sat collecting dust in the crevices of an old building – only to be uncovered quite by chance decades later. An elderly gentleman from Germany, for instance, stumbled across a secret hiding place in his childhood attic. And the relics that lay within will take your breath away.