Over the Hill

Lost bags of money, and the people who return them

Phil Dirkx
Phil Dirkx

I’m fascinated by people who find large sums of money and then return them to the rightful owners. The latest one I read about was Joe Cornell, 52, of Fresno. On May 27 he found a big bag on a Fresno street. It contained $125,000.

There was a brief story about him in the May 30 Tribune. The money bag had fallen off a Brinks armored truck in downtown Fresno. Brinks gave Cornell a $5,000 reward and also donated $5,000 in his name to the Salvation Army, which was Cornell’s employer.

I wonder how such a big bag of money could have fallen off an armored truck. But who am I to wonder? I know nothing about protecting large sums of money. My only experience protecting any sums of money was in the Army. I was the pay officer for a training company at Camp Roberts during the Korean War.

We paid the troops once a month, in cash. I picked it up at the post Finance Office in a brown paper bag. I was required to carry a loaded .45-caliber pistol.

Being issued the required ammunition and returning it each month was a nuisance. So the next time our company was on a .45-caliber range I pocketed three rounds. I kept them in the toe of a spare sock.

On paydays I would get a pistol from our supply room. I put the three rounds in its magazine but none in its firing chamber. I never drew that pistol except when I was paying the troops in the field on windy days. I used it as one of my paperweights. I now realize that was stupid.

But I believe the Army itself was especially careful each month when it withdrew the camp’s total payroll in cash from the Paso Robles Bank of America. I seem to remember seeing several armed MPs on nearby streets one payday and perhaps on roofs. Or maybe I just heard about that. Does anyone else remember it?

Anyhow, to get back to the big money bag that fell in May from a Brinks truck in Fresno. A story in the Fresno Bee said a Brinks spokesman declined to discuss how that could happen. Joe Cornell, who found it, said it may have fallen when the truck crossed some railroad tracks.

He was working at the time in the Salvation Army’s nearby lot where donated trailers are kept. He was in a Salvation Army substance-abuse rehabilitation program.

Cornell said he reported finding the money because he was worried what his imminent new granddaughter would think of him if he tried to keep it. He also said, “They’re going to back-track. There are cameras everywhere now.”

I guess it’s nice to believe that someone up there really watches us, if only on surveillance cameras.