JARDINE: Hands across the water reconnect camera and owner

jjardine@modbee.comMay 27, 2013 

From the emails, voice mails and other trusted sources:

FROM ACROSS THE POND — Last week, we received an email from Mike Riley of England. He'd just gotten home after a "holiday" — what the English call vacation in their native language, which is still spoken here.

"Whilst there (in Las Vegas), I found a camera," Riley wrote.

He took it into the hotel, hoping to reunite the camera with its rightful owner. No such luck.

So he took it back to Jolly Old England with him and let his inner Sherlock Holmes emerge.

"I've since looked through the photographs and two of them suggest the owners come from Modesta (sic) CA," he wrote. "I can send you further details explaining my reasoning and photographs, if you are willing to help find the owners."

I replied, asking him to send me the details.

"There are over 400 photos on the camera, I have attached a few from a sequence that appear to be taken around the owners' home," Riley responded.

"I believe the car belongs to the lady and the licence plate refers to somewhere in or around Modesta. The photo of the gent in the restaurant has a receipt on the table. The address on the label refers to an IHop address, 1669 E Hatch Rd. I believe this is also in Modesta. I have tried contacting Hyundai and IHop, but have had no response."

He sent me a couple of the photos, one of which included the Hyundai's license plate. Karen Aiello, our information center guru here at The Bee, checked with the Department of Motor Vehicles and found it is registered to Gregg Clifford of Ceres.

I called him. Clifford is an insurance adjuster in Modesto. The car is registered to Gregg and his wife, but is his daughter's car.

Was she recently in Vegas? And if so, did something of hers — her camera — stay in Vegas accidentally?

Yes and yes, dad confirmed. She'd been there with her fiancé.

"We'd been walking all day," Jackie said. "We sat down on the bench, got up to go and we forgot it. We went back the next day, but no luck. I never expected to see it again."

Certainly, they didn't expect someone across the Atlantic to make such an effort find the owner.

"It's unbelievable," Gregg Clifford said.

FRAMED! — Oakdale Police Chief Lester Jenkins needed to tear down a rental home he owns in Oakdale. Built in the 1890s, the small home on First Street simply had too much wood rot and termite damage to merit saving. During the demolition, he pulled a cabinet off the wall and noticed something slip out from behind it.

It was a letter from the Southern Pacific Co. to Mrs. T.J. McLain, who presumably lived there way back when.

The contents of the letter? A schedule, handwritten in pencil, detailing the morning and afternoon times the trains departed from Salida, stopping in Tracy and ending in Patterson. The postmark on the back of the envelope reads "Oct 11, 3 p.m., 1912"

Either option meant nearly a three-hour trip.

Train No. 49 left Salida at 8:28 a.m. She'd arrive in Patterson two hours, 47 minutes later, including an hour layover in Tracy.

The No. 1 train in the afternoon left at 2:55 p.m., getting her to Patterson at 5:35 p.m., again with an hour layover in Tracy.

Of course, the mystery of history leaves inquiring minds wondering … Which train did she take?

Jenkins used wallpaper from the home as backing and framed the artifacts to keep in his office at the Oakdale Police Department.

JUST A THOUGHT — My May 19 column focused on a $250,000 estimate to remodel the restrooms at the downtown transit center in Modesto.

Totaling 393 square feet, they need to be gutted, replumbed and fitted with "prison grade" sinks, toilets and urinals, according to the architect's plan for the building that opened as a Southern Pacific depot in 1915.

A reader called to suggest that for $250,000 — or $636 per square foot — they could build a new restroom building next to the old one, without encountering the kinds of problems that come with remodeling old buildings.

Duly noted.

Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at jjardine@modbee.com, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or at (209) 578-2383.

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