Ventura, CA

Ventura Woman Reunited With Wallet Lost 46 Years Ago

Samantha Kemp-Jackson

Social media helped find the rightful owner, who says she lost it at a movie theater in 1975
Tom Stephens and Colleen Distin at the Majestic Ventura Theater with her lost wallet and contentsWes Woods II/The Star

In 1975, Colleen Distin lost her wallet in a movie theater. While on a movie date, she had put her purse on the theater floor while she watched the film. When the movie was over, she was horrified to discover that her purse had a hole large enough to have her wallet fall out, which it had clearly done. It had contained a $200 check and family photos, as well as her drivers license and a Grateful Dead concert ticket from 1973.

Distin was resigned to the fact that she'd probably not see her wallet and its contents again.

This was indeed the case for a full 46 years until May 25th of this year when a call-out on the Majestic Ventura Theater's Facebook page brought the wallet into the spotlight.

The request said the following:

Does anyone know Colleen Distin? While doing some maintenance we have found her wallet. To give you an idea how long ago it was lost, there is a concert ticket from 1973 and a drivers license that expired in 1976. There are a bunch of pictures of people, and they are super cool from that era also. Someone may want them. So if you are, or if you know Colleen, drop us a line and we will have it here for you!
Colleen DistinFacebook

Remodeling job at the Majestic Ventura Theater led to the discovery of the missing wallet

Apparently, a routine remodeling job inside the theater was underway, in advance of reopening for summer concerts. Tom Stevens, who was part of the crew working on renovations at the theater, stumbled across the wallet in the course of the renovations.

It happened when one of Stevens' colleagues changed a lightbulb on a chandelier, causing a fixture to drop a couple of inches, becoming trapped on a wire. Stevens was tasked with going upstairs to the balcony to find the electrical box that controlled the chandelier. When he climbed down into a crawl space, he was greeted with an area littered with ticket stubs, old candy bar wrappers, soda cans and bottles, and, most surprisingly, a wallet.

"I would have never imagined," Stevens said.

The wallet - which appeared to have been from another era - included no cash but items that were prehaps more valuable.

There were old photos, a ticket stub to a Grateful Dead concert and a California driver's license with the name Colleen Distin.

Of course, in the age of Google, Stevens went online to see if he could find Distin, but to no avail.

It was at this point when Stevens' boss, Loanne Wullaert, came up with the idea that theater's Facebook page might be a good place to ask locals if they knew Distin.

There was immediate interest and reaction to the post.

The Majestic Ventura Theater Facebook Post

"We're at almost 1,000 shares, a ridiculous amount of comments and then it went to all these other sites," Wullaert said about the post. "I think it's cool that people care and are interested."

As a lifelong Ventura resident, Colleen Distin did hear about it. She explains that heard from numerous people online and even received a phone call about the post.

"It says a lot about our society, that people are looking for a human story and something to feel good," she said.

"It says a lot about our society, that people are looking for a human story and something to feel good" - Colleen Distin, owner of the wallet that had been lost for 46 years

Originally, Distin was reluctant to respond but the positive outpouring and interest was enough to make her change her mind.

"Reading all these comments I was like, 'OK, I think I have to.' I'm feeling this energy with people. I'm kind of pouring my soul out here," she said.

On the evening of May 25, she responded. It had only been a couple of hours after the original post. 

"It’s me," Distin wrote. 

The story of Distin's lost wallet was revealed as she remembered the night that it happened.

VIDEO: Wallet lost 46 years ago returned to California woman

"I remember calling the next day when I realized it was gone. They said no one found it, but to call back, which I did. I had a little bit of money in it, but I needed it at the time. I have no idea what photos are in there, or which concert ticket since I did go to many back then. Such a blast from the past, and a good one I must say."

Distin says she is grateful for the kindness of others in trying to locate the original owner of the wallet. She especially appreciateds Stevens' and Wullaerts efforts.

"There are good people out there," Distin said. "Money was stolen out of my wallet but there are pictures I haven't seen," she said. "People need to see the gratitude. I think there's so much other negative stuff that I think this is what touched people."

When Distin went to pick up the red wallet, she said it was like opening a “time capsule.”

“I’m shaking,” she told KCAL-TV as she looked through the items in her long-lost wallet. Contained inside were photos of high school friends, a $200 check, poetry, notes, a $5 ticket to a Grateful Dead concert at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and pictures of Distin’s mother, who died several years ago.

“It’s really wonderful,” Distin said in an emotional voice.

Experiment with 'lost' wallets show that people are surprisingly honest

A survey on the subject of lost wallets revealed some interesting information. The first thing most people do when a wallet is found to be missing is panic. The thought of the possibilities that a criminal can do with the information included in most wallets is enough to make anyone nervous.

"Think about replacing a driver's license, Social Security card, insurance cards, all your credit cards, your blood donor card, changing your locks so nobody can use the spare key you kept in your wallet, and everything else you found important enough to carry all the time," says Greg Scott, IT professional and identity theft victim.

Most people have lost their wallets at some time in their lives
Moneytips survey

In November, 2019, MoneyTips polled 509 Americans about their experiences losing their wallets. Some surprising results included:

  • More than half of the victims reported that losing their wallet cost them $50 or less
  • 27% said losing their wallets cost them nothing at all
  • 14% lost between $100 and $500
  • 8.9% lost more than $500
  • Surprisingly, 3.5% didn't know how much they lost in the times their wallets disappeared. (Of those who misplaced their wallet, 36% admitted doing so multiple times.)
Moneytips survey


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I write about Lifestyle content with a focus on Parenting, Society and Trends. I also talk about how things have changed on my podcast, "Parenting Then and Now."


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