The Wallet in the Attic
BY MARY WARNER ’21
During the monotony of lockdown, four roommates in Medbery Hall discovered a wallet lost more than 60 years earlier — and set out to find its owner.
“The whole thing really started from boredom,” says Gib Shea ’22.
In February, amid a new surge of COVID-19 cases, Shea and his three roommates were spending most of their time in Medbery Hall. There was only so much coursework and sleep to accomplish in a day. The attics above were waiting to be explored.
“We found some old ski team memorabilia and we started to move some stuff around. I lifted up an old bottle and found a wallet that wasn’t water- or animal-damaged, and I was just amazed,” Shea says.
Sorting through the ancient leather wallet, they found fraternity dues, ticket stubs and photographs, all “in remarkable condition.” The wallet also included the driver’s license of Gary Getman ’55.
Then and there, the Hobart students decided to do whatever they could to return the wallet. Consulting with the Office of Alumni and Alumnae Relations, they tracked down Getman’s contact information and wrote to him about their find.
“It was kind of a shock,” says Getman. After so many years, the wallet was almost beyond memory. Getman, who played on the Hobart baseball team, recalls that he last saw it in the locker room downstairs in Williams Hall but “completely forgot about it till I heard from the boys.”
In his reply, Getman invited them to his Long Island home for lunch. It took a few months of planning, but early this summer Shea and Teddy Ruppenstein ’22 made the drive to return the wallet.
“When we got to his house, Gary and his family were all there,” Ruppenstein says, “and we went through the contents of the wallet and each item brought up a story. The first standout was his and his girlfriend’s gym cards, as well as his ROTC vaccination card, which we all found to be very ironic.”
The visit revealed more than a few parallels across the generations at HWS. Ruppenstein by chance had lived in the same room that Getman occupied in Hale Hall decades earlier. As Getman recalled his friendships at Kappa Sigma, he phoned his fraternity brother James Caird ’56, L.H.D. ’12 and together the group caught up on all things HWS.
“We had some amazing laughs and realized many of [Getman’s] stories from the ’50s were not too far off from some of our stories 70 years later,” Ruppenstein says.
It was clear from the start, Shea says, that Getman was a Hobart grad. “We knew because he just talked about life in a way that was intricate and inquisitive but also mellow and very easy-going and had a point of view that was very focused on other people. And that’s what HWS has taught us, too.”
“It was a very pleasant surprise,” Getman says, “and when I got to meet the boys, I was really impressed. Hobart can be proud.”
The wallet is once again with its owner, and Shea and Ruppenstein are approaching their last semester, but they expect they’ll see Getman again sooner rather than later.
“He hasn’t been back to campus in a while,” Shea says, “but we’re hoping to get him back for the Bicentennial.”