By Nick Woodruff
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Cleaning the city’s sewers sounds like a dirty job, but sometimes there are “golden” moments.
Just ask Charlie Yeats, who works for the water utilities department in Stillwater. Yeats said it was just another day at work when he found something more than 60 years old.
First, some background.
When sewer lines have build-up, the water utilities department uses a special truck to pump out debris. Once the sewers are flushed, the department takes the remaining material from the sewer and spreads it on the ground at the dump site, which keeps the material from piling into unwanted mounds.
Don Bishop, water utilities wastewater collection supervisor, said he has found numerous items in the debris in his 23 years in the business. He said employees usually find unique items when spreading the debris.
He said when employees find something, and the department cannot locate the owner, they get to keep the items found, but they give their best effort to find the owners.
Bishop said they have found numerous wedding rings, keys and even flash drives that still work. Bishop has plugged flash drives into the computer, found the owner while searching through documents on the flash drive and returned it to the owners numerous times.
“Throughout my time here, I have become a pretty good investigator,” Bishop said. “It’s pretty neat the skills I have developed and I can find the owners if there is enough information. I really love this job for that reason.”
Now, back to Charlie Yeats and his find of a lifetime.
After servicing a sewer line, Yeats caught a glimpse of something shiny in the debris.
Closer inspection revealed what it was — a 10-karat gold 1946 Chickasha High School class ring.
Even though finding the owner would be difficult, Bishop started his investigation. He took pictures of the ring with a high-resolution camera and zoomed in on numerous areas, including initials on the ring and the year. He then contacted the Chickasha High School Library.
With the assistance of the school’s librarian, the ring’s owner was identified — Lodema Noland.
The library hopes to return the ring to Noland soon. Bishop said they are planning a reunion ceremony for Noland and her class ring.
“Ms. Noland was located and notified that her ring was found,” Bishop said. “She said she lost it in a toilet while at college (at Oklahoma A&M).”
Bishop said he hopes to see Noland’s reaction when the ring is returned to her.
Yeats is gratified the ring will return to its rightful owner.
He said when people ask him about it, he tells them there is only one explanation.
“There is no other way to put it,” Yeats said. “It was meant to be.”