It has been almost twenty years but I can still vividly recall the day I gave the 1935 class ring back to the owner. (Actually, the owners sister). Rison High School had probably shut down in the late 1960's. One could still hunt for coins on the school grounds. I hunted the place to death until I found a Mercury dime. I just had to find silver at this site. One could still peer into the windows and catch a glimpse of the old school. You could just imagine what it looked like in it's glory, with students running up and down the hallways. Now, trees were growing up through the floor and out of the roof.
Metal detecting and research go hand in hand. In this case it was research after the find. I went to Huntsville High School and talked to the officials there and as luck would have it (I believe the correct word would be serendipity) one of the more mature secretaries just happen to know the old Rison High School Principal. She gave me his phone number and when I got home I called him. We arranged to meet the next day. I could hardly wait.
The principal was an older gentleman, perhaps in his 70's. Again, as luck would have it, he just happened to have all of the records of Rison High School! I gave him the initials J.H.R. and the year 1935. He told me to give him a couple of days and he would call me. He called the next day and asked for me to come over again. When I arrived he greeted me at the door with school files in hand. He appeared as excited as I was. The initials stood for James Henry Routt. He had a sister, Mildred who after graduation and college had become a teacher at...you guessed it...Rison High School. She worked for the very principal I was talking to. He did not know the whereabouts of James but did have the phone number for Mildred.
I called Mildred Routt Fanning the very same day and relayed my story to her. I asked her about her brother and she invited me over for a visit. Mildred was a very southern and proud school teacher. She told me the story of her brother and how he lost the ring. He was at football practice, the year 1934. He had lost it during drills. He was very heartbroken about losing his ring as he had to work very hard in order to purchase the ring. This was during his junior year. Sometime during his senior year he got on the bus to go home just like any other day and had stuck his arm out the window for some unknown reason and a passing truck in the opposite lane was a little to close and he lost his arm! No football and no class ring. He was devastated.
I gave the ring to Mildred as her brother was in Mobile, Alabama in the hospital. She asked what I wanted for a reward and I told her a letter would be nice. A few days later the letter arrived in the mail. Attached to it was a $10 bill. The following is word for word from her letter:
Dear Sergeant Hoff,
My brother and I haven't words to convey to you our appreciation for your recent courtesy and service to us. Your hobby not only brought joy to you but joy to our family as well. You will never know how much happiness you and your metal detector brought to my brother when he laid eyes on his high school ring which was bought and lost in 1934, while playing football for Rison High School on a field now known as Optimist Park.
Even though the ring had been cut by something, like unto a "Bush hog" while cutting grass and embedded in four inches of thick sod, it still remained bright and gave off the glow of that old Rison spirit as it displayed with honor the Rison emblem, the date 1935 and initials J.H.R. (James Henry Routt).
My brother is terminally ill. Your bringing this ring to him at this time renewed his youthful spirit and he is enthusiastically re-living those glorious years. He's as proud of his football years as is Joe Namath. His friends, nurses, and doctors will surely hear all about this treasure that has been buried for forty eight years. Nostalgia is refreshing therapy for a terminally ill patient. Thanks to Sergeant Hoff and his metal detector for giving his time and sharing his findings with so many.
Mildred Routt Fanning
Sister of James Henry Routt
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