It arrived at Vancouver’s Union Gospel Mission thrift store in January: a well-traveled, vintage suitcase bearing travel decals that would be at home in an Indiana Jones movie.
“The very first thought that occurred to us was oh, this must have been donated from a movie set, it looks that cool — it looks that old, unique, special,” UGM spokesperson Jeremy Hunka told Global News.
“And then we realized, oh, hold on a second, I think this is real.”
The suitcase itself was unique, but it was the contents that Hunka said were the real treasures.
The contents include an aged pair of binoculars, correspondence between soldiers, a brief love letter, and one item that may eventually find a place in the Canadian War Museum.
“This really shocked us, it appeared to be a cable on VE day from 1945 announcing that there had been victory in Europe,” Hunka said.
“To get this kind of thing donated to our thrift store, completely surprising.”
Saturday, May 8 is the 76th anniversary of VE day, the historic day when the Allied forces accepted Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender in the second world war.
Dated on that historic day, the cable was sent from Marg Stout in New Westminster to Flying Officer Edwin Wainwright through the Indian Radio & Cable Company.
“VICTORY WONDERFUL – STOP – WRITING DAILY ALL MY LOVE,” the brief message reads.
“When we got it, everybody just kind of stopped, and said hold on,” Hunka said. “This is history, donated to a thrift store.”
“They’re definitely personal treasures and mean a great deal to somebody if not historical treasures.”
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UGM staff did some online research, and believe they may have located Marg Stout’s obituary, but have not been able to locate any other family members.
An address label on the suitcase lists a Mr. & Mrs. Wainwright at 233 6th Avenue in New Westminster.
The charity is now hoping to connect with someone in the family to find out if the items were donated in error, or whether there is a living family member who would want them.
Failing that, Hunka said the organization is also in talks with the Canadian War Museum’s acquisition department.
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“We get donations into our thrift store all the time. Sometimes we get unique things, but nothing like this,” he said.
“We’re just trying to put out the message that if somebody knows this couple or these people or would like to know more about this because they think it might be theirs, let us know — it might mean a great deal to somebody.”
Anyone who believes they know the family can contact Jeremy Hunka at the UGM.