Apr. 13—While renovating Tanzillo's Barbershop, Todd Godfrey and his crew found something interesting in a hole in the wall of a bathroom.
Along with empty liquor bottles with the 10-cent liquor tax signs and an empty codeine elixir bottle from a time when codeine could be bought off the pharmacy shelf without a prescription, he found a wallet.
"The guy that was doing the stuff for me was actually going to throw it in the trash," he said.
Godfrey wanted a closer look, though.
The wallet, dusty and cracked with age, had no money in it but was filled with more interesting things such as family photos and green cards belonging to a woman and child — Elfriede and her infant son Franklin D. Jaks — who had emigrated from Germany.
Looking at the contents of the wallet Godfrey guessed it had been lost between 1960 and 1962.
Godfrey looked on Facebook for Elfriede but found nothing.
He then searched for the son and hit pay-dirt.
"The first Franklin Jaks that I went to said 'happy belated birthday,'" Godfrey said.
The post was dated June 18. The son's green card listed his birthday as June 17.
Godfrey scrolled down to June 17 and saw a slew of posts wishing Jaks a happy birthday.
He knew he'd most likely found the person he was looking for.
Godfrey reached out to him on Facebook Messenger, telling Jaks he'd found his mother's wallet. When Jaks didn't respond, Godfrey went back to Facebook and found one of the people who'd posted birthday wishes on Jaks' wall and reached out to them.
"The next day like at 2 (p.m.), he calls me — Franklin Jaks," he said. "And he says, 'yes. This is crazy.'"
It was April 1 when Jaks, now age 61 of North Carolina, received the news. Naturally, he thought it was a prank when an Army buddy of his from Tennessee told him someone in Junction City had found his mother's wallet.
Jaks nonetheless called Godfrey to hear what he had to say.
When he realized it was real, he started crying.
The wallet contained many pictures he'd never seen before. He had never seen the photo of his father holding him or the picture of his father in his uniform from the Berlin Brigade.
Jaks' mother, who died in 2005, would have celebrated her birthday April 11 and his father died a year ago April 5.
This is an emotional time of year for Jaks.
"My mama told me before she passed away, she said, 'son, when I do go, I promise I will always try to make contact with you if I can — somehow — letting you know I'm watching you,'" he said. "And so when I saw the pictures and heard everything, that made me think my mama is sending a message."
It was mind-blowing, Jaks said.
It was especially amazing to him that Godfrey had chosen to try to contact him rather than just throwing the wallet away.
"Everything is coming around," he said. "Usually this is a bad time for me for my mama's birthday and my dad. It's been a lot easier."
Jaks' father had told him the story of the wallet which had gone missing in 1960.
His mother had worked as a bartender at a bar called Frosty's at 924 N. Washington St. — where Tanzillo's is located now. She had been tending bar one night when her wallet went missing. Jaks and Godfrey strongly suspect someone stole her wallet while she was working, snuck into the bathroom with it, pocketed the cash and dumped the wallet and the rest of its contents into a hole in the bathroom wall.
His sister, who would be born on Fort Riley in February 1961, hadn't even been born yet. More than likely, according to Jaks, their mother was pregnant with his sister when the wallet went missing.
Jaks said he and his mother had to enlist help from Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina — where they were stationed at the time — in order to recover their lost status. She had to receive a new military ID and had to go through the process of immigration paperwork for herself and her son all over again. Despite the fact that his mother was married to a Fort Riley soldier and had come to America legally, there was talk of deporting her and her son over the lost green cards. After Ervin intervened, Jaks would become a naturalized citizen but until that happened it was a hard go for Jaks and his mother.
Jaks said he was bullied in school for being German, with classmates calling him "a Third Reich child."
Jaks' family has quite the history, even without the story of the missing green cards.
His father, Frank, was originally from Czechoslovakia. He had fled his country at 16 to join the American Legion as an interpreter. He spoke German, Czech, Polish, Russian and English.
Later, at 18, he and Jaks' uncle Joe joined the Army. Jaks' father would eventually retire as a Major.
According to Jaks, his father was hand-selected by President John F. Kennedy to serve on a special forces team. He served during Operation Crimson Tide, where he attempted to rescue an American POW being held hostage in Vietnam. A movie would later be made about the situation, also called Crimson Tide.
"He's done a lot of things," Jaks said.
Having his mother's wallet back — with its photos of his father and all the history they entail — is a blessing beyond imagining for Jaks.
"It's really amazing," he said. "I don't know how everything lines up like that, but I believe in faith and things like this and (Godfrey) was so nice to do that. You don't find people like that though — I mean, very few. Most people would have found the wallet — I work with a demolition company and we've found stuff in walls and things like that. I would just throw it away."
Jaks feels the wallet is a piece of Fort Riley history, in its way.
"It's like a time capsule and that gentleman — it's really nice," he said of Godfrey.
Godfrey plans to send the wallet and its contents to Jaks where he lives now in South Carolina after which Jaks plans to give the wallet to his sister.
"On all this construction I've done on this whole block, this is really the only really cool thing that I've found," Godfrey said. "It looks like nobody ever touched it."
This is not the only wallet that has turned up during the course of construction, according to Godfrey. Some people doing work on an air conditioner found about 13 wallets on the roof, all containing the IDs of soldiers.
But no one ever managed to track down the original owners of those wallets or their families.
"This is some good that came out of it," Godfrey said. "The fact that she was a bartender there is just awesome, I think. It just gives a little historical perspective on what actually was going on down here."