Dunsmuir city worker Tony Congi returned a Dunsmuir High School class ring Monday to fellow alumni Jesse Mattos, who said he lost it when to took it off to wash his hands on day at work 72 years ago. “It was in late 1938 or early ’39,” recalled 91-year-old Mattos over the phone Monday. “My hands were greasy. I took it off and put it on the toilet and it most have got knocked in.”

Dunsmuir city worker Tony Congi returned a Dunsmuir High School class ring Monday to fellow alumni Jesse Mattos, who said he lost it when to took it off to wash his hands on day at work 72 years ago. “It was in late 1938 or early ’39,” recalled 91-year-old Mattos over the phone Monday. “My hands were greasy. I took it off and put it on the toilet and it most have got knocked in.”

Mattos worked at the old Public Market, where townsfolk bought their meat back in pre-WWII days, back when Dunsmuir Avenue was known as Florence, and the entrance to the Weed Hotel was on Sacramento Avenue. The meat market was located two doors north of the hotel on Florence.

Shortly thereafter, he left town to enlist in the military. Mattos never returned to Dunsmuir.

Congi remembers finding the gold ring some time last month while performing routine sewer maintenance on a main near Butterfly. “It’s a major trunk line,” he said. “We were pulling out a lot of debris.”

He recalls they were scooping out rocks and broken bits of pipe in buckets, when he spotted atop one the band of the gold ring stuck face down in muck. He thought it was more of the cheap costume jewelry they often find cleaning while the sewer.

But he soon saw differently. “I had a stone, and you could see the initial D, for Dunsmuir. I saw the date on the side, 1938.” Inside the band he could make an engraved letters, J.T.M.

“So that lead me to the high school up there to get the annual,” he said. “Luckily, the very first person I found was Jesse Taylor Mattos. Nobody else had those initials.”

“What made it really easier was there was a classmate still in town, Jack Stevens. So I went to him.”

Congi, class of ’76, said that when he contacted the local member from the class of 1938, Stevens stated, “I know the name, I know the man, I have the number.”

Congi also said that when he called Mattos at his home in Vallejo and told him he had found the ring during routine sewer maintenance, the old man laughed, “It doesn’t sound like you were doing much maintenance since 1939!”

Congi explained that the equipment they use to clean the sewer these days reaches much further into the pipes than that of days gone by. He described their modern rig as a high-pressure water injection system that flushes out a lot of debris.
“That ring was probably hung up in a joint all this time,” he guessed.

Mattos said after Congi delivered the ring Monday, “What’s really surprising about all this is someone finding an old ring would probably keep it or give it to his kids. He took the trouble to look me up. He cleaned it up real good too. It looks brand new!”

He said that when he received the call from Congi, he found it hard to believe. “It’s a fantastic story,” he said. “I must have told it a hundred times.”

Congi said he found it interesting that Mattos lost his ring while washing up after working in the meat department, and was found so many years later by himself, a butcher. He also discovered while talking with Mattos Monday that in his younger days Congi lived next door to Mattos' sister, whose name is commemorated by the Marie Glover memorial dogwood tree on Pine Street.

Congi said that delivering the ring to its owner was no problem at all, since he was visiting his brother in Napa for Easter weekend anyway, and Mattos lived only 10 miles from there.

“I really wanted to meet him,” he said. “I like the idea of passing on history.”