Workers Spot ‘Object’ Beneath Old School Stage, Then Unravel A Heartwarming Decades-Old Puzzle
By James Cannon
While renovating the interior of an old school, Armando Rodriguez spotted something below the floorboards of its main stage. Curious, he pulled it out of the darkness and discovered it was a retro purse. Then, when Armando saw what was inside, he knew that the owner had to be found right away. But finding them more than 60 years after the purse was lost would be easier said than done.
A real mystery
It was a mystery that eventually gained a lot of attention as the search intensified. But would that help unravel the puzzle? This intriguing story unfolded in League City, Texas, when the League City School was set to be transformed into a brand-new recreation center in 2021. It appeared to be a pretty simple job — until Armando made his discovery, that is.
How it all began
Looking back at that time, Armando spoke to the CityofLeagueCityTX YouTube channel in October 2022. The contractor summarized the pivotal moment at the old school, before sharing his reaction to the find. He recalled, “I was remodeling the stage, and that’s when I found the purse [under the boards]. The first thing [I did] was open it, and I saw pictures.”
“That’s somebody’s memories”
Yep, the purse was filled with candid snapshots. It was like a tiny photo album! Armando continued, “I didn’t want to touch it, because it looked old and I didn’t want it to fall apart on me. So I’m like, ‘I’m gonna turn it in, first thing.’ I saw [the photos] and I’m like, ‘That’s somebody’s memories, so they need to have this [purse].’”
On that note, Armando was true to his word and handed the item in to the local authorities. Describing the state of the purse at the time, a League City representative named Sarah Osborne spoke to The Washington Post in October 2022. She said, “The bottom of the bag had small holes that were chewed by a rodent, but everything inside was otherwise in great condition.”
The other contents
Now, Osborne wasn’t just referring to the photographs here. As it turned out, there were a few more bits and pieces sitting in the lightly-colored purse, waiting to be uncovered. The contents included a number of different pencils, a pair of decorated handkerchiefs, a plain nail file, and a small calendar. But that wasn’t all, as we’re about to discover.
Everything inside the purse, including the pictures, was originally held in an eye-catching red wallet. This item also housed a journal and several written messages, too. To say it was jam-packed would be a real understatement! Anyway, after taking a closer look at that stuff, one part of the mystery was solved fairly quickly — the period when it first got lost.
The first answer
Yes, the calendar was still sitting on the April 1959 page, while the notes in the purse all pointed to that time frame as well. So that meant it’d been sitting under the floorboards of the old school for just over six decades. Woah. That’s pretty incredible, right? But the big question remained unanswered. Who was the original owner?
Well, the photographs played a significant role here. One face seemed to pop up more than anyone else’s, suggesting they owned the purse. And on top of that, the messages provided a name for Osborne and company to work with. It was Beverly Williams, and as per the available information she was just 13 years old when the item vanished beneath the stage.
Just like that, it seemed as though a major breakthrough had been made. But unfortunately, the excitement was soon dashed when Osborne started to do some research. She looked for Beverly’s name in the local records and came out with nothing. The League City representative also tried to uncover her family tree and relatives, only to be left disappointed again.
Put on hold
Osborne’s efforts certainly couldn’t be questioned, but her frustrations continued to grow with every dead-end. What else could she do here? Ultimately, she made the tough decision to give up the search. As for the purse, it was placed in storage for safe-keeping at City Hall. For now at least, the mystery was on hold. Yet everything changed in September 2022.
At that stage, the new recreation center was finally set to open after Armando and his crew finished the renovations. The big day would attract a lot of local attention, so Osborne opted to take the old purse out of storage. She wanted to put it in a display case, showing off all the pictures and items housed inside it.
A clever plan
In Osborne’s mind, this was the perfect chance to see if anyone could identify Beverly and offer up some new information. A clever plan, wouldn’t you agree? The official told The Washington Post, “Her purse was such a nice peek into what it was like to be a teenage girl in 1959. We asked everyone, ‘Do you recognize the owner of the purse in these photos?’”
Asking for help
Despite her best efforts, though, Osborne didn’t receive any new answers at the opening. She was stuck in the same frustrating place as before. But this time, she had no intention of giving up for months on end. Instead, the official reached out to both the League City Historical Society and the Clear Creek Independent School District for additional assistance.
“Like looking inside a time capsule”
Thankfully, they answered the call. The League City Historical Society’s vice president Richard Lewis jumped straight into it, and was amazed by what he saw. Speaking to The Washington Post in October 2022, an excited Lewis beamed, “It was like looking inside a time capsule.” But would he have better luck untangling the mystery than Osborne? Let’s find out, folks!
Getting to work
After getting hold of the purse from Osborne, Lewis inspected each of the photographs, hoping to uncover any helpful details. Then, once that was done, the Clear Creek Independent School District’s Facebook page dropped a video on the social media website, where he outlined his findings. Thanks to those efforts, a few more pieces of the puzzle were now starting to come together.
“Youngest of four sisters”
Lewis said, “One of the photos in there was [Beverly] at nine-and-a-half months, and it said 1946 on it. So that approximates her age at 76 years old. She’s the youngest of four sisters and we have all the ages of them [in the purse].” Plus, the League City Historical Society’s vice president also scanned some of the messages, as well.
“The mother signed a note as Mrs. Frank Williams,” Lewis continued. “So, we certainly know the father’s name, and we have a picture of him.” From there, he turned his attention to the red wallet, touching on the journal it housed. The historian added, “Picture it as today’s Facebook. You’re putting everything down. [Beverly] wrote about her love life, [and] who she broke up with.”
A regular ’50s teenager
In that respect, Beverly seemed to be like a lot of other teenagers living in the 1950s. Back then, romance was high on the agenda for many students. According to History.com, the average age for those getting hitched for the first time during that period was 20 for girls and 23 for guys. So youngsters weren’t waiting around for love!
The civil defense card
Meanwhile, there was another reminder of ’50s life in Beverly’s old purse — and it wasn’t quite as cheerful. Yes, the teen owned a civil defense card, which confirmed that she’d received training in how to respond to a crisis. We can’t forget that she was living through the Cold War, so those were some helpful skills to have at her disposal.
“Please reach out”
Anyway, going back to the Clear Creek Independent School District’s video, a message was included in the accompanying Facebook post in October 2022. The final passage simply read, “If you know Beverly, or someone in the Williams family, please reach out to us!” On that note, the waiting game began. Would anyone get in touch? Or was the mystery set to continue?
A pivotal moment
Well, someone did step forward and reach out to Lewis soon after. They were familiar with Beverly, and shared the contact details for a woman named Deborah Hicks. She’s the purse owner’s adult daughter. Finally, it looked like we were on the verge of a huge breakthrough. “That purse suddenly took on new importance with the discovery of her family,” he noted to The Washington Post.
So, Lewis gave Deborah a call and told her about everything that happened. In return, he found out that Beverly had nine children in total. As for why there was such a struggle to find any record of her, it was discovered that they weren’t using her full name. The mom went by Andrea Beverly Williams at school. Who saw that coming?!
Very sad news
Following that conversation, Deborah and two of her sisters, Rhonda Dohr and Andrea Sanchez, went to the recreation center a few days later to see the purse. But would their beloved mom be joining them in League City for the big moment? Unfortunately not. Beverly sadly passed away back in 2015 while living in Washington. She was 69 years old.
So that made the reunion even more bittersweet for Deborah and her sisters, as they marveled at the contents of the old purse. She also informed The Washington Post, “We learned about the purse just two days after what would have been [our mom’s] 77th birthday.” What timing. Meanwhile, there was another interested observer at the recreation center that day, too.
“Saved my life”
His name is Robert Schleyer, and Beverly had a snapshot of him inside the lost purse. Speaking to the KHOU television station, he said, “When I got that information [about] Beverly Williams, it opened up the past. In a way, she saved my life. I came from a really disturbed childhood, and she lived right down the street from me.”
Robert continued, “We walked [together]. We walked along the beach, sat on the pier. We talked.” Then, after spending a spell with the marines, he tried to reconnect with Beverly again, only for this to happen. He recalled, “She was living with her grandmother, and they shooed me away. That meeting was foiled.” That would be the last time they crossed paths.
Despite that disappointment, though, Robert still joined Beverly’s daughters to reflect and reminisce about the past. And speaking of the trio, one part of the mystery continued to baffle them long after Lewis reached out. Quite simply, they had no idea how the purse found itself under the floorboards all those decades ago. Their mother wasn’t even a student there!
“One of [Beverly’s] sisters might have gone to school here,” Andrea pondered to The Washington Post. “So they would’ve attended events there. [And] her sisters were practical jokers. So there’s also a possibility that one of them tossed it under the stage.” Rhonda then said, “The funny thing is this is the smallest purse our mom has ever carried. Maybe losing it is why she always had larger purses.”
Put on display
As for the purse and its contents, Beverly’s daughters opted to send it to the League City Historical Society, where it’d all be displayed. What a lovely gesture! Deborah added, “It was a special time — we can all remember what it was like to be 13. Our mom was an outgoing teenager who loved going to dances. It’s been a special treat for us to follow her back in time.”