(CNN) — raffle ticket for a new 1959 Chevrolet; credit cards without magnetic stripe; Black and white family photos. Treasures hidden behind a bathroom wall at the Plaza Theater untouched for decades.
65 years later, contractors discovered a hidden gap behind a collapsed bathroom wall during renovations. Under a mountain of dust, in a closet, lay a withered burgundy wallet, frozen in time.
From there, Plaza Theater owner Chris Escobar said he was determined to return the wallet to the family.
“It's a portal to the past,” Escobar told CNN. “And then realize it's gone from a family of real people who lived in this neighborhood for 65 years, and imagine if we could find them.”
The Plaza Theatre, Atlanta's oldest theater and cultural landmark, has all kinds of oldies. Escobar said he found old popcorn displays with marquee lettering and bottles of liquor that are no longer fashionable. But he said it felt strange to find this wallet that hadn't been seen in half a century.
Escobar said the wallet was “full of history,” giving him a good starting point to trace its owner's family.
According to the license inside the wallet, the owner is one Floy Culbreath. But Escobar ran into her first problem: Women at the time were often referred to by their husbands' names, so a search for Culbreth's name yielded few results.
Escobar called his wife, Nicole, an “internet detective” to track down the owner of the wallet.
She was able to find an obituary for Roy Galbreth, Flo's husband. From there, it led them down a rabbit hole of children and grandchildren until they found the website for the Culbreath Cup, a cerebral palsy nonprofit charity golf tournament organized by the family. They were able to trace the family lineage back to the Culbreths' daughter, Thea Chamberlain.
“I already feel it's a privilege to work on this historic site,” Escobar said. “But really bring back the family history. “It's a great gift.”
Chamberlain said her mother, Myrna Loy, was beautiful and had “a saucy June Cleaver” personality. He remembers the neighborhood kids saying that watching Mom was more fun than watching “I Love Lucy.”
Culbreath was very involved in the community, teaching Sunday school and participating in the garden club, as well as her non-profit work helping people with cerebral palsy.
Chamberlain found some of her possessions in the wallet: some insurance cards and a doctor's appointment note. He is now 71 years old and was only 6 years old when his mother lost her purse.
The trinkets in the purse were undoubtedly his mother's, Chamberlain said. He could imagine Culbreath waiting to win a Chevrolet drawing or saving his shopping cards.
“It's very moving,” Chamberlain said. “The flood of memories came back and, in a way, brought her back.”
The Culbreths gathered in November to retrieve the wallet and remember their family.
“We had children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren with us,” Escobar said. “So there were generations of Culbreths to recover this lost family history.”
Chamberlain watched as two grandchildren, ages seven and five, pored over receipts and photographs and asked their parents about their history.
“They know it's something to treasure,” he said. “It's a special moment.”
“Music ninja. Analyst. Typical coffee lover. Travel evangelist. Proud explorer.”