BAKER CITY, Ore. — Bill Fulton doesn't remember losing his wallet, but its return helped him remember the past. The leather stayed smooth and the cowboy design unblemished. The zipper moved with ease. And when he looked inside, the contents brought back memories from 1946, when he apparently dropped the wallet behind the balcony bleachers in the Baker Middle School gym.
Fulton's Social Security card and bicycle license, bearing the address where he lived during his teenage years, were positioned in their respective compartments, apparently untouched since the year after World War II ended.
"After that long, my gosh, it stayed in good shape," Fulton told the Baker City Herald. "It's hard to believe."
Worker Nathan Osborne found the wallet — along with old homework, lost library books and a 1964 talent show program — while removing the bleachers for renovations on June 17. It was brought to Fulton's door the following day by Melanie Trindle, the Baker Middle School secretary.
"He was pretty much amazed," Trindle said. "He just kept saying, 'Thank you. Thank you so much.' "
Middle School Principal Mindi Vaughan said the brown pine bleachers were connected to the gym balcony's brick wall and had remained in the same place since the school, known as the Helen M. Stack Building, opened in 1936.
Likely lost during basketball game
Fulton, 78, said he probably lost the wallet while cheering for the Baker High basketball team with a group of friends. Though a high school team, the Bulldogs played at the middle school gym back then.
Fulton said he returned to the gym in the 1960s to watch a basketball game. It's likely he was within a dozen or so feet from his old billfold that night. Both of his children attended the school, so they also must have come near it.
Fulton said the bicycle ID was needed because he delivered medicine for Rodamar Drug. He was surprised, however, that his student ID wasn't inside. He said he always kept it there.
Wallet recovery spurs reflection
But rather than focus on what was inside the wallet, Fulton said the recovery has led him to reflect on his life — one that took him to the Korean War and Berlin before a return to Baker City. He worked at Ellingson Lumber Company for 30 years, from March 1964 to April 1994.
Since his retirement, Fulton has enjoyed spending time with his 11-year-old black lab, Smokey. The two often hike the nearby mountains.
Trindle's knock on the door, wallet in hand, induced a slight ripple in his life, prompting him to consider times he hadn't thought about in many years. Fulton said he's "covered a lot of country" since 1946.
"Where did all the time go?" Fulton said with a deep sigh. "It's hard to believe that the times have gone so fast."
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