TULSA, Okla. — Mike Tidwell was having his new home fixed up last fall when he got a call from his contractor.
“Do you know Dewey Bartlett?” the caller wanted to know.
“I said, yeah,” Tidwell recalled recently. “And he said, ’We found his wallet.”’
Tidwell’s first thought was that the contractor had found it somewhere outside his home. Not even close.
“They were tearing the ceiling out of the (second floor) bedroom closet and it fell out of the ceiling,” Tidwell said.
Now he had to see this discovery, so he raced home at lunch and there it was — a genuine cowhide wallet, still soft.
Inside were three identical photographs of a young boy. His dark eyes are looking straight into the camera, and his dark, slick hair is pushed to the side, with a strand or two shooting skyward.
The caption underneath the photos — “School Days 1959-1960” — gives no indication of who the young man in the short-sleeved, button-down shirt could be.
But the wallet held still more: an ID card, a Coca-Cola Hi Fi club membership card, a hunting and fishing license, and a 1959-1960 Tulsa Catholic High Schools student athletic ticket, all with the name Dewey Bartlett attached.
Now Tidwell understood: This was not Mayor Dewey Bartlett’s wallet, this was young Dewey Bartlett’s wallet.
Bartlett was busy running for mayor when the wallet was found, so Tidwell waited until after the election to tell him. The two got together last week at the mayor’s office, where Bartlett saw the wallet for the first time in 50 years.
“God, look at that,” he said. “I’ll be damned.”
Then came the flood of memories.
Bartlett said he did not recall losing the wallet, but he knew exactly where it came from.
“My father, I’m sure,” he said, referring to the late Dewey Bartlett Sr., an Oklahoma governor and U.S. senator. “Whenever he’d leave town on a trip he’d always come back and give me a wallet. I had about 10 wallets.”