One winter day in the mid-1970s, when I was maybe 10 or 11 years old, I was walking home from elementary school in Blue Point, Long Island, when something glinting in the snow caught my eye. I bent down and discovered that it was a class ring from our local high school. I don't recall the class year, but it was the same as the year in which I found it, so it belonged to someone who was due to graduate in a few months' time.
I brought the ring home and showed it to my parents, who saw that the owner's initials had been stamped into the ring's inner shank. They brought it to the high school, and we were later told that it had been returned to its rightful owner.
I hadn't thought about this episode until a few days ago, when I learned about a Toronto-area man named John Slade (shown above), who had a childhood experience remarkably similar to mine. In 1979, when he was nine years old, he found a then-current high school class ring in the snow while walking to his elementary school. Thirty-five years later, he hasn't been able to track down its owner, although I suspect that will change now that this article has been published.
When I found that ring back in the mid-’70s, I assumed that its owner had simply lost it. When I got a bit older, I learned that high school girls often wore their boyfriends' class rings as necklace pendants, or even on their fingers (after wrapping a bit of yarn around the shank to help the rings fit on their smaller hands). Once I became aware of that ritual, it occurred to me that the ring I'd found might have been tossed into the snow by the owner's girlfriend in a pique of disgust after a nasty breakup. If that's the case, then the discovery and return of the ring would have added an interesting epilogue to a little high school soap opera.
Oddly enough, I have no idea what happened to my own class ring, which disappeared at some point during my 20s. I'm not sentimental about it — no need to return it if you find it in the snow. On the other hand, I care a lot about the class rings that belonged to my father and brother, both of whom are deceased:
I have those rings as keepsakes, and every now and then I'll wear one of them when I want to feel closer to a departed family member.
I do a fair amount of thrift-shopping, but I don't recall having seen many (or perhaps any) vintage class rings for sale. There are lots of them, however, on eBay and Etsy. Since they tend to be stamped with the original owner's initials, these artifacts would seem to offer lots of possibilities for PermaRec-style reconnections. Hmmm — a subject for further study, perhaps.
(My thanks to Taha Jamil for alerting me to the story about John Slade.)