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Holiday letter from 1990 found in trench coat
George Shaffer, right, looks at the letter from 1990 from his grandmother in Pennsylvania, as Hamilton Cleverdon just delivered it to him. Staff photo by Alaina Bartel

Daily News Staff Writer

Dr. George Shaffer’s grandmother would always send him a letter with a little gift inside around this time of year. One of those letters from December of 1990 just resurfaced this past weekend during the First City Player’s production of “Cabaret.”

Hamilton Cleverdon, who played Clifford Bradshaw in the production, had a scene toward the beginning of the musical where he’s supposed to fumble around in his trench coat pockets and find his passport.

“I look in a pocket that I’d never actually felt before,” Cleverdon said, “and I found that in there.”

Cleverdon took it upon himself to find the man the letter was addressed to and deliver it to him. It turned out to belong to Shaffer, a longtime Ketchikan dentist who had donated the trench coat to First City Players years ago.  

“I just Googled his name and it was the very first thing that popped up — a dentist in Ketchikan with the exact same address that’s on here,” Cleverdon explained. “I’ve found old stuff before, but not stuff that I could find the person it belonged to.”

He gave Shaffer a ring to set up a time to meet, and by 4 p.m. on Monday, Cleverdon was walking up two flights of stairs on his way to Shaffer’s office. When he got there, naturally, Cleverdon had to wait a few minutes for the dentist to become available.

Shaffer made his way out of his office to greet Cleverdon, and both were wearing a smile.

“I guess this letter is for you,” Cleverdon said. “There’s six bucks in there for you, too.”

“No, no, no,” Shaffer said. “First City Players — make a donation, you work with them right?”

Cleverdon acquiesced, and the $6 donation from the letter in a coat that hadn’t been washed in 27 years was on its way back to First City Players — all thanks to Mabel Shaffer, who lived in Pennsylvania at the time.

Having the letter back in his hands, which he had already opened in 1990, gave George Shaffer the chance to think of some memories with his late grandmother.

“She was an interesting lady. When I was 16, we took both of my grandmothers to Gettysburg, which was the farthest they’d been away from home. It was 200 miles. We went to an amusement park and my grandmother was so upset because they wouldn’t allow her on the big ride. She was too short,” Shaffer laughed, “she was under 4’10”.”