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Mystery stash found in library's shelves

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Hamm's

A beer and bubblegum stash was recently uncovered in the mystery section at the Walla Walla Public Library.

This story has been updated since its initial publication to reflect a correction.

The mystery shelves at the Walla Walla Public Library have long been known for the secrets that lie in the pages of books.

No one expected to unearth one from the shelves.

But that’s just what happened three weeks ago during a relocation of the mystery section when a city employee discovered a stash of unopened beer and a packet of bubblegum.

“I’ve seen a lot of stuff get stashed,” library Director Erin Wells said Wednesday. “But nothing quite like that.”

Five full cans of Hamm’s beer and an opened package of Godzilla Heads gum are thought to have been hidden in the spot for at least 30 years.

That’s based on a series of clues staff followed to try to learn more.

The aluminum beer cans have warning labels, a regulation that was adopted in November 1988, the same year Godzilla Heads gum was manufactured. So staff figure the items are likely from that period.

The discovery provided fun for the city’s communications arm, which suggested someone had “taken a cue from ’Treasure Island’ and stashed their booty” in what was characterized as a “real-life whodunit.”

Wells said whoever left it behind had no chance of being able to retrieve it once the items were deposited.

“It’s fairly easy to put in but not to get out,” she said.

A crew member from the city’s Facilities team uncovered it with the removal of a corner panel on the 1970s-era shelving that included an opening on the top.

It has, by far, been the oddest discovery at a time when library staff has updated its interior layout to meet pandemic distancing restrictions and improve the overall flow of the operation.

Along with plexiglass at all of the desks, the computers have all been moved to another side of the building and spread 6 feet apart. Changes are not only part of the coronavirus safety measures, they also meet recommendations of a professional space audit that took place in February.

Until the closure from the pandemic, Wells said staff thought making the changes would take years. Most, however, have taken place in the last two months.

The relocation of the mystery books was part of it.

“They were really hard to access,” Wells explained. “While we’re closed we have the time to move everything around.”

Uncovered treasure at the library is typically relegated to photographs left behind in the pages. This one, however, is toasted among the most unusual.

“We assume the person at this point is over 21, and so we’ll forgive them,” Wells quipped. “We do not encourage people leaving their things, especially their alcohol at the library.”

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 509-526-8321.

Vicki covers business and economic development, including tourism, the Port of Walla Walla and the Strictly Business column, as well as features. She has been reporting for the Union-Bulletin since late 2001.