Letter arrives in La Jolla nearly 38 years late

Current resident hopes to solve mystery and return letter

Several weeks ago, La Jolla resident Bruce Craig received a letter in the mail addressed to a woman whose name he did not recognize. Craig said he didn’t make much of the letter, setting it aside to later return to La Jolla’s Wall Street post office.

“It was sitting on the counter for a day or two. Then I picked it up again, looked at the stamp and it said 13-cents,” Craig recounted. “I thought, why did they even deliver it (with insufficient postage). Then I noticed, this is from 1977 — 38 years ago — holy cow!”

Craig pored over the letter, which he said was already open when it arrived, looking for clues that might help him track down its intended recipient, Tracy E. Goodman. He is hoping someone in La Jolla might know her or her current whereabouts, so he can get the letter to her after all these years. It is from her brother, Kawika Goodman, who was living in Pomona, California when he wrote it.

In the beginning of the letter, Kawika writes about his job working the graveyard shift at a 7-11, of teaching electric bass part-time for $3 an hour — “dirt cheap,” he says — and playing in “two mediocre bands and one good one, which is cutting two demo songs next month.”

Kawika states he just started 21 units at a college, the name of which he doesn’t mention, perhaps Pomona College or California State Polytechnic University. “I was 150 pounds in Honolulu and am 140 now,” the letter reads, in part. “The cost of living is so high, I think I’ll become a fruitarian. … I asked dad for a loan, and he said forget it!”

U.S. Postal Service spokesperson Eva Jackson said the letter, postmarked at a sorting facility in the City of Industry (about 17 miles from Pomona), may have been lost at the facility, and later uncovered when processing machinery was moved.

“It’s quite possible it got lost in a piece of machinery,” Jackson said. “We’ve been doing a lot of changes to machinery — especially up in that area … when they create new, better, faster machinery. Things get shifted around and there’s always the possibility that maybe it got dropped somewhere and nobody saw it for years.”

However, because the letter had already been opened, and had a secondary cancellation (dated July 13, 2015 in Los Angeles) Jackson said it’s also possible it was already delivered, opened, then aside to be dropped back in the mail decades later, by someone else.

Jackson said people sometimes save a letter or postcard inside a book or box that is later donated to a Goodwill or a secondhand store, where someone may notice it and drop it back in the mail.

“When we receive it in our mail stream we’ll deliver it, if it can be delivered, regardless of how old it is,” Jackson said. “There have been instances where a letter carrier says, ‘Oh my God, it’s so old, these people don’t live there anymore’ and we will try and track down the owner of that letter. I don’t think it’s very common, but it’s been known to happen. Imagine how many pieces of mail we process every day, much less every year, or every decade.”

Hand of destiny?

In 2013, a 70-year-old love letter sent by a World War II lieutenant to his wife in a Greenwich Village apartment made its way back to the sender’s descendents — thanks to the help of a young actress then living in the same apartment where the recipient lived in 1944.

The actress, Abbi Jacobson, used Twitter and Facebook, and created a website, lostletterproject.com, to help return the letter. The addressee’s son learned about the letter via Twitter and tweeted for Jacobson to contact him. She still maintains the website and a Facebook page to try and help others return long-lost mail.

Craig said he found a likely match for his letter’s recipient on Facebook — a woman with the same maiden name and middle initial — who states she studied at the University of San Diego, is now married and works for Hawaiian Airlines. Craig sent the woman a Facebook message, though she hadn’t responded by press time and doesn’t appear to have visited her Facebook page since June 2014, when she posted a link to a Forbes article titled “No. 1 Worst State to Make a Living: Hawaii.”

Know the letter writer or recipient?

Anyone with information about the letter’s intended recipient can contact editor@lajollalight.com to help unravel the mystery.

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