updated 2/8/2007 10:04:45 AM ET 2007-02-08T15:04:45

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Joan Martinek Barnes never imagined she would see her wallet again after she lost it at McKinley High School almost 60 years ago.

But the red alligator grain wallet turned up when a building engineer tracked down a broken hot water pipe. It was found on top of an air duct in a basement storage room that once housed girls’ lockers.

Barnes, now 75 and living in San Antonio, said her wallet was lost when her coat was stolen during the winter of 1947-48.

''I don't remember all those details,'' Barnes said on Tuesday. ''I just remember Mr. Paxson (the principal) got the coat back. I didn't have many coats.''

The wallet didn't have any cash in it when it was found, but did contain a $4 activity pass, a student ID card, and a membership card for the YMCA's teen club.

Photos still there
It also contained two black-and-white photos — one of a girl who could be Barnes and another showing a young man in an Army Air Force uniform, possibly someone she was dating.

Barnes graduated from McKinley High School in 1949. The school is now a middle school.

Barnes married Alf Barnes in 1951 when he was on leave from the Navy. They settled in Texas and haven't been back to Cedar Rapids in about 15 years, she said.

The school is mailing the wallet back to Barnes and she promises to return it for the school's archives.

''It was very much a surprise,'' she said. ''Doesn't everybody remember their high school days, anyway?''

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