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Media Life: Mystery message in a bottle finds way back to Auburn

By: Gus Thomson/Media Life
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You’ve heard the song by The Police. Or maybe seen the movie starring Kevin Costner. In a world of instant e-mails and text messages, the old message in a bottle still has its place. And now that Lompoc’s Frank Presson has found one, he’s on a quest to connect with the sender. Presson e-mailed Media Life this past week with an unusual request. He and his wife Joci often take walks along the beaches of the Vandenberg Air Force Base – you may know it as the Southern California launching pad for various and sundry missiles. On one walk they found a white bottle, corked and still unbroken, with a heartfelt message inside. The bottle contains a remembrance notice and a note, with another piece of wadded paper near the opening. Presson decided to take the note stuffed into the top out and discovered that it was a specially written message for a William Franklin Harrell or Farrell. The note states his date of birth – Feb. 26, 1936 – and the date of his death, on Feb. 25, 2004. It’s a heartfelt note that begins “Instead of celebrating your wedding anniversary, we are sending your remains into the beautiful ocean.” It continues on with words of love and caring from a daughter to a dad. Bottle leads to Auburn Presson did a little researching online and found through obituary records that Farrell’s last known address was in Auburn. The letter, on colored note paper framed by a rainbow, is from Farrell’s daughter Laurie. Now Presson believes that fate put the bottle in his hands and he’s been tasked with returning the sea-worn vessel holding so much emotion and love. “I believe that the family may want this bottle back as it washed up on the beaches of Vandenberg for a reason and didn’t sink,” Presson said. So Presson has recruited a local newspaper to perhaps reunite a treasured bottle and contents with a family member. Fate has come into Presson’s life in the form of a mysterious bottle. Now he’s going forward wherever it will take him. “I just feel this needs to be back with the family,” Presson said. “Even if they don’t want it, at least I tried to return it.” And while there are no official awards out there, Presson gets the Media Life Good Guy of the Week Medal. Historical gold in wax Turning to bad guys, Adolph Weber’s 1904 quadruple murder case is still raising questions in Auburn. Sacramento historian Michael Meloy enthralled a crowd of about 50 at a Placer County Museums-sponsored talk in Auburn last month on the Weber trial and also brought to light a little-known tidbit from the proceedings. It seems Judge James E. Prewett made an order for the trial to be recorded for posterity on wax cylinders. No one today seems to know if that order was acted on but if it was – and if there are cylinders somewhere – the Placer County Museums Division would like to know about them. The cylinders would likely have some kind of labeling on them with the words “Weber, Prewett or Placer County Superior Court.” And they’d be a gold mine for historians. .