Girls Want Diamonds
By: Ed Tisdale
The year is 1977. Rock pioneer Elvis Presley dies in Memphis. Charlie Chaplin passes away at 88, and Bing Crosby at 83. President Jimmy Carter pardons almost all Vietnam draft evaders and calls them home from abroad. Woody Allen's Annie Hall wins the "Best Picture" Oscar. Other 1977 Hollywood releases include Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, George Lucas' Star Wars, and the disco-crazed Saturday Night Fever. And in 1977 Lynn E. Swarts, Jr. is a proud graduate from Newton High School in Newton, Kansas.
Lynn wanted a class ring so bad he could almost taste it. Unfortunately, neither he nor his parents could afford to buy one, but Grandma somehow came up with the money to surprise Lynn with the ring as a graduation gift. That coveted class ring is the foundation of the following story.
Now let's skip forward ten years. Upon his 1987 retirement as a baker working in Wichita, Kansas, Frank Cannan moved to Cape Coral, Florida. Frank has enjoyed the hobby of metal detecting since the mid '70s for relaxation, exposure to fresh air, and exercise. Working part time in retirement to supplement his income, Frank has become a regular customer of our store, a friend of mine, and an admirer of the new metal detectors we sell. He has been wanting to upgrade from his old 5000D. From time to time Frank brings in items he has found to exercise his bragging rights over some of his better finds, and he proudly wears a hefty, custom-made solid gold ring made from rings he has found over the years.
In May 2001, Frank brought in three Mason jars and a mid-sized jewelry box full of detecting finds accumulated in Kansas before he retired, for us to evaluate for possible display here in the store. Before pouring out all the items in the jars, Frank told me most of his items were probably junk, but perhaps there might be some stuff that people would want to see. He then showed me an impressive collection of rings, as well as interesting old tokens and other miscellaneous finds.
Spotting a 1977 silver class ring with a light green stone, I asked Frank if he had ever thought about trying to locate the owner to return the ring. Frank said he would love to return the ring but didn't know where or how to find out if the school was still operational, or how to identify the owner from the initials ES on the sides of the ring, and the school logo, which is a locomotive sweeping through the letter N.
"The ring isn't doing anyone any good kept in the Mason jar," Frank said. "If you can locate the owner for me, tell him I'm willing to send him the ring if he will agree to donate a $25 check to the Cape Coral Police Department's 'Do The Right Thing' program that you guys support at the store."
We went to my office to get a magnifying glass to view the faint inscription on the inside of the ring: Lynn Edward Swarts. The next step was to go to the computer and bring up the American School Directory website:www.asd.com/cgi-bin/asd/ASDHomePage. From there we entered the school name of Newton High School and town name of Newton, Kansas, to find Newton High School listed as "Home of the Railermen." There was no doubt that we had located the correct Newton High School. We then clicked on the "Alumni" link, entered Lynn's name, and were provided an address and phone number. The listing was for Lynn's parents, which was the last address of record the school had for Lynn.
Lynn's mother answered the phone and listened in disbelief as I explained that we thought we had her son's lost high school class ring here in Cape Coral, Florida and wanted to return it. She took the information for her son to contact us, and the next day we received a call from an astonished Lynn E. Swarts, Jr.
Lynn told us that in 1981, in Wichita, Kansas, his van had been broken into, and his stereo and radar detector stolen. The thief didn't realize that Lynn's class ring was dangling from the power cord of the radar detector, as it apparently slipped off and dropped to the ground. Imagine the great sense of loss Lynn experienced. The stereo and radar detector could be replaced, and the window in the van repaired; but the class ring was one of a kind, a keepsake that would never be enjoyed again as he remembered the hard work studying for classes, the good times and all his high school friends, and how his grandmother had bought the ring for him when she really couldn't afford it either.
Imagine, too, Frank Cannan's delight that evening in 1984 as his White's 5000D signaled a good target and he recovered a class ring from the gravel and sand of a Wichita parking lot- another nice find to add to his collection. For years afterward, Frank had wondered about who had lost the ring, and the circumstances of the loss. Thanks to him, the ring is now back with its rightful owner. And thanks to Lynn, the CCPD's "Do The Right Thing" program has another donation to its coffers.
"Heck, I've never even been to Florida, and now I find out that my class ring has lived there for 20 years," Lynn said laughingly. "In the past I've thought about that ring and wondered if the person who stole it had enjoyed it as much as I missed it. Now that I have it back, I'm planning on calling my girlfriend to see if she'll go steady with me! "I've already gone to see my grandmother and thank her again for the ring," he continued. "I gave her a big hug and kiss, then told her for the first time that I had lost the ring 20 years ago, and how I got it back from Frank Cannan in Cape Coral, Florida."
Frank Cannan is like most detectorists in that he enjoys making nice finds and helping others through the hobby. We hope you'll take a tip from him and go through your own collection of recoveries. Determine which items you think would make up an interesting display and arrange to loan them to a local library, museum, or metal detector store. Make up some cards identifying and explaining about the items on display, and about the hobby as well.
Also like Frank, when you find someone's class ring or other item of personal nature that can be traced, think how good both you and the owner will feel about its return.
And Lynn, as a friendly word of advice... girls your age really don't want a high school ring, nor do they want to "go steady." Girls want diamonds!