OKLAHOMA CITY – It’s a predicament most of us have been in – you’re reading a book and need something to keep your place.
One Oklahoma teacher has made a hobby of finding these old bookmarks, even reuniting a more than 100-year-old place-keeping poem with the author’s family.
“I found a nail, like a hammer and nail, a nail file,” said Emma Smreker. “I found a corn husk once, which I thought ‘OK sure, why not?'”
Smreker is a French teacher at Harding Charter Prep and in her free time she loves to collect used books. But, she says sometimes it’s not just the tale they are intended to tell that make them interesting.
“People just use everyday objects as bookmarks, it’s kind of fascinating,” she said. “It sort of made me think of the story of a book, other than the one that’s in the pages.”
Smreker decided to share with others and started an Instagram page called “inusedbooks.”
She’s tried reuniting people with old pictures, cards and love letters, but didn’t have much luck until she found a poem one day that really stood out.
“It’s this beautiful cursive, people just don’t write like that anymore,” she said.
Smreker noticed it was addressed to the Lancaster Gazette in Ohio from a man named Ed Ruffner all the way back in 1893.
She quickly got to work – starting on Google.
“I tried not to get my hopes up, but I was a bored teacher on Christmas break so I figured why not, and I’ve got a day to kill,” said Smreker.
She found a census match, went through ancestries and eventually tracked down a great-granddaughter on Instagram.
“Of course I had this kind of makeshift family tree that I had written down,” she said.
As it turns out, it was a match and the letter was eventually published as it was intended to more than a century ago.
Reuniting a family with a precious poem – and one another.
“Their whole family is kind of spread out throughout the United States and they’ve been able to kind of reconnect over this letter,” Smreker said. “Honestly, it made me tear up a little bit when I heard about that.”
Proving that sometimes there’s always a little more to every story.
Smreker’s next task is reuniting a family with a poem about a grandfather who watched his grandson grow up. The kid’s name is Kevin and it was found at a local estate sale.
To follow her adventures and possibly find a lost item, her Instagram account is “inusedbooks.”