Long-gone book finds way back to WB man by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · January 17, 2014
“Flabbergasted” by what Paul Friis found when he opened the mysterious box from Wisconsin right before Christmas, the 80-year-old got emotional when considering the generosity and thoughtfulness of the sender.
A book, “The Story of Jesus,” carefully wrapped in paper for cushioning, included inside the front cover his name, city and even a telephone number not used for nearly six decades.
Friis said he does not remember the book, but he is “quite sure” that is, indeed, his handwriting — possibly from when he was in seventh or eighth grade, judging by the quality of the script — “Paul Friis, West Branch, Iowa, tel. no. 1946.”
“When I first saw it, I thought, ‘Wow, how can this be?’” he said.
The package came with a letter from Julie Krause of Nelson, Wis., who explained that her mother bought the book for her own children at a sale in Minnesota.
“She delivered it to us in Wisconsin,” Krause writes, “Upon opening the cover you will find that it contains the name, address and telephone number of a young boy named Paul Friis from West Branch, Iowa. I cannot be certain that this book about the Story of Jesus belonged to you. I hope that it does. I searched the telephone listings on the internet for ‘Paul Friis’ in the state of Iowa and it led me to you.”
Friis was born in 1933 and the book was published in 1934. While he said he does not remember the book, he said the artwork does look familiar. He assumes his parents gave it to a second-hand store and it somehow made its way up to Minnesota.
Friis has lived in West Branch his whole life, but his parents spoke Danish and so did he until he started first grade at West Branch Community Schools, picking English up as he progressed through the grades. His father learned English from being out and about in the community, but his mother only picked up bits and pieces of the language until Paul married an English-speaking girl. He finds it curious that his parents purchased The Story of Jesus, since it is written in English.
“It makes me feel like I was not quite the owner,” he said. “I don’t know if Mom and Dad read to me.”
The West Branch Times was unable to contact Krause, but she wrote more in her letter:
“I thought that perhaps in the years that have passed since you were young, if it really is your book, you might like to have it back,” she wrote. “If not, that’s OK, too. No trouble at all. I believe that my father, who would be just about the right age also (he’s 82) to have owned this book might find it special to see something like it again. Merry Christmas.”
Liberty Communications customer service representative Debbie Maxson said the phone company stopped using the “manual” phone numbers like the one found in Friis’ book back in 1957 in West Liberty. She is pretty certain that West Branch followed soon after. West Branch then used the “Niagra” exchange with a single-digit prefix and four-digit number connected by operators until 1965, when all phones were switched to seven-digit numbers.
Friis said he wrote a thank-you letter to Krause and hopes to meet her some time to thank her in person. He noted that Krause’s address is for Nelson, Wis., which is a small town of just about 300.