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Mystery surrounds Tacoma Narrows Bridge souvenir book

A book with a unique wood cover, rivets and a leather cord commemorating the opening of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1950 was recently returned to Gig Harbor after it was discovered at a Goodwill in Nevada.
A book with a unique wood cover, rivets and a leather cord commemorating the opening of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1950 was recently returned to Gig Harbor after it was discovered at a Goodwill in Nevada. Special to the Gateway

With a wood cover, rivets and a leather cord, B.J. Matzen knew the book he found at the Carson City, Nevada, Goodwill wasn’t an ordinary find.

The book commemorates the opening of the second Tacoma Narrows Bridge on October 14, 1950.

Inside, the first page reads “America’s Vacationland From Sea Level to Ski Level – Tacoma Narrows Bridge Souvenir Book.” The book caught his eye immediately.

“I have an appreciation of brands,” said Matzen.

With an “R” quite prominently displayed on the book’s cover, “I thought it looked like a brand,” explained Matzen who is from Klamath Falls, Oregon. “Plus, it had a wood cover; that made me pick it up and look through it. You could tell it was special.”

Written alongside the introduction, a sentence presumably from the book’s original owner on that day: “I have received a portion of the historic Narrows Bridge ribbon which was cut by Admiral Barbey on Oct. 14, 1950, to signal the official opening of this famous structure.”

Matzen first thought the book commemorated the original bridge, “Galloping Gertie,” which famously fell into the Tacoma Narrows in 1940. He had seen video of that bridge’s demise numerous times on the Weather Channel over the years and was familiar with the story. But on closer inspection, he saw that it was for the opening of the second Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1950.

At this point, most treasure hunters would likely shelve their find and move on. But not Matzen.

As a fan of the show “American Pickers,” he knew exactly what to do.

“On the show, (hosts) Mike and Frank often talk about the obligation to put things back where they should be,” said Matzen. “So I guess I’m a mini-picker — I found something that had to go where people could enjoy it, where it originated from.”

So, he contacted the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce and sent the book home.

“I just felt it should go back to Gig Harbor,” said Matzen. “… holding on to it wouldn’t benefit anyone (who might be) interested in it.”

The book has a page signed by 10 people, two of which were associated with The Peninsula Gateway.

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The book has a page signed by 10 people, two of which were associated with The Peninsula Gateway. Mary Morrison Special to the Gateway

“I don’t recognize any of the names,” said Warren Zimmerman, the chamber’s president and CEO. “The whole thing is pretty much a mystery.”

There are some names in the book also associated with a Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce at the time. The present chamber was officially recognized as a chamber in 1980.

The chamber referred to in the book might have been a collection of business owners with no official designation at the time, Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said the chamber isn’t quite sure what to do with the book.

Alas, many questions remain. Who is the book’s original owner? Who created the souvenir book? What happened at the opening ceremony? How did the book end up in a Nevada Goodwill?

Know anything about this book or who it may belong to? Curious minds want to know. Contact writer Mary Morrison at morrimary@hotmail.com.

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