Jan Groves grew up in Elyria, but often went with his family into McPherson when they needed to do their shopping. It was on one such trip down McPherson's main street that Groves saw something lying on the sidewalk that caught his eye — a pocketknife inscribed with seven first names, each accompanied by a date.
"I looked down on the sidewalk and saw this knife and picked it up," Groves said.
Though he does not remember the exact day, Groves estimates that it was around 1969 when he came across the pocketknife. He does recall that it was a summer day, and that he found the pocketknife on the sidewalk in front of the Doll House.
The Doll House was located at 204 N. Main, in the space now occupied by the Delish restaurant. Its owner, Esther Edwards, started the store in 1961 and sold sewing materials, gifts and candy. Groves remembers going to the store to get caramel corn.
"It was a unique place," Groves said.
Being young, Groves had no idea how to find the owner of the pocketknife and it ended up going home with him in his pocket that day. Groves then decided to place the knife in a shoebox along with some of his other childhood treasures. He recently found and opened the shoebox he had saved since his boyhood and lifted out old Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, along with the pocketknife.
"I was just looking for some old toys from childhood and happened to see it in the bottom of the box," Groves said.
Six names and dates are inscribed on one side of the pocketknife: "Robert 4-7-41," "Patti 7-28-44," "John 3-25-46," "Tom 3-9-54," "Pam 9-24-63" and "Brian 10-29-64."
Figuring the small pocketknife has sentimental value to someone, Groves took the list of names and dates to the McPherson Public Library. He searched through genealogy resources and old newspapers, trying to find a last name and family he could contact to tell them about the pocketknife's existence.
"It's kind of a fun little mystery to look at," Groves said.
So far, he has not been able to find any further clues, but Groves is determined to complete his quest to return the pocketknife to its rightful owner. He suspects it belonged to someone who had his children or grandchildren's names etched into the metal.
A seventh name and date is inscribed on the other side of the pocketknife, and Groves said he will use that information to verify any claims to the item.
"I just want to get it back to whomever it needs to go to," Groves said. "I know if it was me and I had a grandparent like that, I'd want it back."
If you have any information about the owners of the pocketknife, contact the McPherson Sentinel at 316-241-2422.
Contact Patricia Middleton by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.