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A Fine Sense of Humor

Anyone looking in McCabe Library for B. Roland Lewis’ Contemporary One-Act Plays will be disappointed. It’s not there—maybe because whoever checked it out never returned it.

At least the fine on it has been paid. 

In February, the library received an envelope containing a letter of apology for the borrower’s “oversight” and a “promise to be more careful in the future,” along with payment for the overdue book. 

End of story? Not quite. The debtor, Marie Elizabeth Futer ’25, whose name is on the back of the library’s request for compensation, passed away in 1976. A social science major, College Orchestra and swim team member, and participant in the College’s Political Action group, she was evidently also interested in Roman historical novels. When historian Keith Bellhorn, from Walnutport, Pa., leafed through his second-hand copy of The Last Days of Pompeii—a flea-market acquisition from 30 years ago—the notice issued to Futer, demanding 16 cents and dated Feb. 24, 1925, fluttered from between the pages. 

“Just for a joke,” Bellhorn says, “I decided to pay the fine.” Imitating the beautiful copperplate handwriting of the time, he composed the note and signed it with his name. The coins accompanying it were also consistent with those from the 1920s—a mercury dime, buffalo nickel, and plain wheat cent. 

“After 89 years, imagine what that fine would be today,” Bellhorn says, adding that he would have liked to know more about the person who owed it. 

“He did a really good job with the handwriting and the coins,” says Curator of Friends Historical Library Christopher Densmore. “This is part of the sesquicentennial exhibition.

“All the librarians think it’s very funny,” he added.