Brendan O’Connell is used to opening invoices, requests for payment, donations and even the occasional angry letter that lands on his desk at Portland City Hall.
Last Wednesday, the city’s finance director found a hand-addressed envelope and knew this was going to be different.
Inside the envelope postmarked in California, he found a letter from a man making amends for taking a piece of broken sidewalk home from Portland half a century ago.
“I could tell right away it was going to be something interesting. Usually handwritten letters like that include something on the personal side,” he said. “It had that feel of something written by a grandparent. It was sweet and cute to read.”
The letter, framed by a border of yellow pencils and printed in a fanciful font, is addressed to O’Connell and begins with a parenthetical note: “I am sure you will find this to be a cwazy letter but read it anyway.” O’Connell isn’t sure if “cwazy” is a typo or if the man is “ridiculously cute,” but he loves it either way.
The letter writer, Roy Pitts, goes on to explain that he visited Portland about 50 years ago with his family, including his 9-year-old daughter. She had read a historical story about the city and was excited when her family found the actual location in that story. Pitts said he could remember neither the historical story or the street where it took place.
“The sidewalk at the time was made of paver bricks that were in disrepair and strewn all around. She wanted to have one of those bricks as a souvenir of the day,” Pitts wrote. “I said ‘Oh, sure honey. It’s just an old brick. You could probably take it home with you.’”
Fast-forward through the decades.
“Now all these years later, my 89 year old wife is all worried (I’m sure you know how women can think of things to worry about …) because I stole a brick from your city,” the letter continued.
Pitts included $5 “just to stop the worrying in this house and make amends for all my wrong doings.”
“Hopefully $5 will cover the cost of an old broken brick of 50 years ago,” he concluded.
O’Connell said there’s no way to tell if that $5 actually covers the value of that brick, …….