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This 1950s High School Girl's Purse Was Found In Ohio, Became A Time Capsule

Culture | March 26, 2020

Source: North Canton City Schools Facebook

Patti Rumfola's purse, found behind a locker at North Canton Middle School in Ohio wasn't just a purse -- it was an accidental time capsule. Rumfola graduated from North Canton's Hoover High School in 1960, and the purse was lost a couple of years earlier, when she was a sophomore. It was full of ticket stubs, makeup, school supplies, chewing gum, and photos of friends and family. Her belongings provide insight into the daily life of a high school student on the precipice of a new decade. The contents of Patti’s purse aren’t just pieces of ephemera, they’re a way to look back at a time that’s lost to us forever in a physical sense. This purse is a piece of that past that you can reach out and touch.

An Archie comics drawing

source: Fox

We don’t know if Rumfola was a budding artist or just bored in class, but she definitely read Life With Archie and enjoyed passing the time by drawing high school principal Mr. Weatherbee. Archie comics had been around for a while, but the late '50s was when the comic book institution began featuring longer stories. They were full of wholesome love triangles, malt shoppes, and sock hops - just the kind of things that a high school sophomore could relate to.

Sacred Heart pendant

source: Fox

This is one of the more telling pieces of ephemera in the purse as it gives us insight directly into this girl’s life. She was raised Catholic and devout enough to carry the sacred heart pendant with her along with a necklace. Even if she didn’t attend weekly services it’s clear that she lived a life of faith and wasn’t afraid to let anyone know how she felt.

YMCA membership cards from 1956 and 1958

source: Fox

There are a couple points of interest here. There's the fact that this young woman trained at the YMCA often enough to need a membership. We tend to complain about inflation from year to year in the 21st century, but that kind of uptick in cost was present in the 1950s. According to these cards, annual dues for the North Canton YMCA were $6 in 1956 and $9 only two years later. Today, that $9 annual fee equates to about $80. What kind of high school sophomore was running around with that much cash?

 Burjois Evening in Paris rouge compact

source: fox

The Bourjois cosmetics company is based in France and it’s been around since 1862 and by the 1950s it was one of the most trusted makeup companies in the world. It’s not a surprise that a young woman would have makeup in her bag, and it’s genuinely fascinating to see how little the exterior packaging of makeup has changed in more than six decades. It’s odd that she was using rouge, but maybe extra rosy cheeks were a thing in the late 1950s.

Photos of friends and family

source: fox

Who could these people be? Each photo looks like something from a photo day so it’s likely that they’re all high school chums and maybe even a classroom crush. The outfits suggest that these were for yearbook - especially the photo the furthest to the right. The contours and shadows on the photos of the two women are absolutely perfect. As far as digital photography has come in the ensuing decades it’s really cool to see the kind of looks that professional photographers were able to get.

The handwriting on the photo farthest to the left is the unmistakable illegible scrawl of a teenage boy. Whether he was a crush or just a friend is unclear, what we do know is that the handwriting of a high school student hasn’t changed in decades.

Beech-Nut Gum

source: Fox

The Beech-Nut brand was named for the fruit of a beech tree, but that's not what the company sold -- it as actually hams, at first. Beech-Nut expanded into variosu foodstuffs, including candy and gum. In the late ‘50s this was one of the preferred ways of keeping your breath fresh and minty. The company's claim to fame is that it patented the first vacuum jar that was able to keep products from spilling in transit. Today, Beech-Nut is best known as a brand of baby food.

Ticket stubs to a local game 

source: Fox

These ticket stubs to a local high school football game show that this young woman loved to support her local team and that she wasn’t shy about dropping some coin to do it. Adjusted for inflation 30 cents is $2.69, which is about the amount of money you want to pay to see a high school football game. The same year that it's believed this purse was lost - 1958 - movie tickets cost around 68 cents, which still isn’t bad for a movie when you compare its adjusted rate. The more we look at the contents of this purse the more we want to start doing some activities in 1958.

Pastel pink lipstick

source: Fox

If its not immediately clear what this is that’s because you’re not an avid makeup user. “Pastel Pink” is the shade of lipstick that’s being sold by the Hazel Bishop company - the first makeup organization to manufacture a “no smear” lipstick. Everything about this color - its flirty shade, the cute name - are the exact kind of things that would appeal to a teenage girl in the 1950s and today.

Comb, pencils, and erasers

source: Fox

If nothing else in this purse takes you back to the days of high school then this photo is the real time machine. The color of the comb is unlike anything we’ve seen since the ‘60s and the handkerchief is the kind of thing that’s simply gone away as tastes and habits change. Take a look at the pencils, they’re freshly sharpened just like they were going to be used on a test. She probably shoved her purse in her locker, unaware of the crack in the back that lead to the wall, and wondered about where her lost supplies for the rest of her career as a high school student. Can’t you just smell those erasers right now?

The back of a hi-Y card

source: Fox

If you’re not sure what you’re looking at it’s because you were never deep in to the YMCA organization. In 1927 the YMCA organization created the Hi-Y, meaning High School YMCA and the Tri-Hi-Y which is the version of the organization for young women. With the popularity of these organizations came the Jr. Hi-Y and Jr. Tri-Hi-Y for junior high students. This young woman must have been a major influence in her local YMCA. Not only does she have a membership (as seen earlier) but she’s a part of their inner organization, at least in a local capacity.

Loose change

source: Fox

Who doesn’t have a few pennies rolling around their purse? It’s hard to see the date on any of this loose change but maybe one of these coins is worth something. Or at least worth more than one cent.

Viking Sr. Hi Booster club card and photo

source: Fox

Everything in this young woman’s purse culminates in her photo and membership to the Viking Sr. High Booster Club. Aside from being a student and devout in her faith it’s easy to see that she was a vital member of her community with plenty of friends. She may have been busy with the YMCA and her studies, but this card shows that she also played a part in supporting the various teams in her high school by helping with fundraising events. It’s somewhat ironic that tithout her knowledge she’s continued to help later generations see what the world was like in the 1950s with her accidental time capsule.

Tags: Rare Facts And Stories About History

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Jacob Shelton

Writer

Jacob Shelton is a Los Angeles based writer. For some reason this was the most difficult thing he’s written all day, and here’s the kicker – his girlfriend wrote the funny part of that last sentence. As for the rest of the bio? That’s pure Jacob, baby. He’s obsessed with the ways in which singular, transgressive acts have shaped the broader strokes of history, and he believes in alternate dimensions, which means that he’s great at a dinner party. When he’s not writing about culture, pop or otherwise, he’s adding to his found photograph collection and eavesdropping on strangers in public.