03/08/2012 05:38 pm ET Updated Mar 09, 2012

Woman Finds Secondhand Suitcase Full Of Friend's Childhood Memories

Three years ago, Tonya Ritchie went to a Salvation Army store in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada and bought a purple suitcase for $5.

Ritchie, who was in St. John's to attend a friend's wedding, bought the bag to cart some frozen fish back home to Shelburne, Ontario, reports the Star.

Tucked in the bag’s front pocket — zipped shut and stored in her attic for much of the time since then — were three 8 mm film reels containing the childhood memories of a friend, Janet Piper, 51, who lives just three doors down. Incidentally, St. John's is over a thousand miles away from Shelburne.

It wasn't until this January that she realized what an incredible find she had on her hands. Retrieving the bag from the attic for an upcoming trip, Ritchie -- who had not thought to open the front pockets before -- discovered the reels by chance.

According to, the reels were labeled to a Mr. James Brander of Glen Williams, Ontario.

"I said, 'This is somebody's memories'," Ritchie told the Telegram. "If they were mine, I'd want them."

Ritchie knew her good friend and neighbor, Janet Piper, 51, grew up in Glen Williams. Intrigued, Ritchie's husband showed Piper's husband the reels.

What happened next seems to come right out of a novel.

James Brander was Piper's father. He died nine years ago. And the reels? They documented Piper's childhood with footage from her parents' trip to Disney World, a birthday party and a New Year's celebration.

"We laughed, we cried, we hugged. We were a little freaked out," Piper told the Telegram. "I was blown away, we're still blown away," she told the Star.

No one knows how the reels got to Newfoundland, nor does anyone in Piper's family recognize the purple suitcase.

"It is just bizarre, the chances of me picking it up is crazy," Ritchie said of the purple suitcase. "To give (Janet) back a piece of her dad is more than I can ever put into words. It is the best five bucks I've ever spent."