In 1954, Marty Ingham Everett’s black purse containing her checkbook, lipstick, school dance photos and letters from three boys — including a junior prom invite — somehow ended up behind a cabinet in the science room at her school, Jeffersonville High, in Indiana. She was 16 when she lost it.
There it sat, undisturbed, for 65 years, until last month, when a construction crew tearing out cabinets for a school renovation found it and gave it to the Greater Clark County School District in Jeffersonville, a city along the Ohio River.
School district employee Erin Bojorquez put up a “lost and found” post with photos of Everett’s handbag on the school district’s Facebook page. She thought it was a long shot to find Everett.
But Facebook did its thing, and she was soon directed to Everett’s son, John Folea, who then connected her with Everett, known in high school as Martha Ina Ingham. Both women were astounded and very pleased.
Bojorquez mailed the clutch to Everett, now 81, at her home in southwestern Florida. The great-grandmother said she felt as though she’d been zapped back to the decade of poodle skirts and bobby socks when she opened her old purse on Feb. 15.
“It was like opening a time capsule,” said Everett, who is widowed and has a second home in Grasonville, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
The story was so charming that Everett was featured in news stories that showed the contents of the purse, which included handwritten letters from three boys she’d dated — Paul, Carter and “Torchy.” They were found neatly folded and tucked inside her purse.
“Dear Marty, I’ve heard that Paul has asked you to go the prom with him,” read one of the notes. “If he hasn’t, I would like very much to take you. Love, Torchy.”
“Dear Marty, Bobbie and I aren’t going back together,” began a letter from Carter. “I’m just continuing to walk her to classes. She asked me if I would, and I told her that I would. I’m just trying to be friends with everybody.”
After the story ran, inevitably, people across the country started wondering: Who did she end up going to prom with in 1954? Everett was amused.
“Ask her who she went to the prom with!” one woman posted on the school’s Facebook page. “I gotta know!”
"Does anyone know who she ended up going with? Burning question!” wrote another.
"We all want to know who she went to the prom with! I'm rooting for Torchy,” added a third.
Everett’s date was Carter Williams, she said. The two rode the school bus together every day from the “company town” where they lived outside of Jeffersonville, when their fathers both worked for DuPont, she said.
“He was my first boyfriend,” Everett said. “I had an awful lot of things in my purse, but I know that the letter from Carter was special. That’s why I kept it.”
She added: “The letters from the other two boys meant something to me, too. Why else would I have carried them with me everywhere?"
Her lucky date, Williams, now 81, lives in Phoenix and hadn’t spoken to Everett since they graduated from high school. He said he was thrilled to hear from her this month after she divulged that he was her prom date.
“It was amazing to reconnect and reminisce about a time that is so different from today,” he said. “We respected our teachers, we respected the law, and we respected our parents. We had more time to sit around a table and just talk or listen. I feel very lucky to have grown up when I did.”
Although he has been happily married to Suzie Williams and has five children, nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, Williams said he will never forget the first girl he kissed in 1954.
"Marty was my first love, a real sweetheart and a great gal,” he said. “What a treat it was to talk to her again for the first time in 65 years. I'll never forget dressing up to take her to the junior prom."
It turns out that the black-and-white photos of him and Everett enjoying themselves on prom night were among the items stashed away in Everett’s handbag, along with a compact, a comb, five tickets for an Italian spaghetti dinner at Everett’s Episcopal church, several bobby pins, her old Social Security card and driver’s license.
“So many years have passed that I don’t remember a lot about that time, but I do know that I enjoyed high school life,” she said. “And I do remember some of my dates.”
Torchy, she said, was actually a big guy named Clyde Morris who had a flat-top haircut and a winsome smile. Paul Moore was a star on the track team who attended her church, and Williams used to hang around the neighborhood swimming pool with her every summer, she said.
Now that the letters are back in her possession, Everett said she won’t let them — or her handbag — get away from her again.
“I was floored when I sat at my dining room table and took everything out of the purse,” she said. “How incredible that everything was still there and ended up back in my hands.”
Then she wondered aloud about her 75-cent tickets for the “genuine” Italian church dinner.
“Do you suppose that they’re still valid?” she quipped.