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Stash of beer and gum from the 1980s discovered behind shelves at Washington library

Librarians dated the forgotten snacks by looking at some revealing clues on the packages.
/ Source: TODAY

Mysteries are usually on the shelves at one library in Washington, but a recent discovery of some long-forgotten items caused the staff to get involved in "a real-life whodunit."

The public library in Walla Walla, Washington, was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic and undergoing renovations when a curious discovery was made in the mystery section, hidden behind the shelves.

Five cans of Hamm's beer and an opened pack of Godzilla Head bubble gum were discovered during the demolition. After doing some sleuthing, staff figured out that the snacks had probably been there for the past 30 years, dating the chewing gum and booze to the 1980s.

"With the Walla Walla Public Library closed to the public, staff have been changing its layout to better serve patrons when it reopens," said a note posted Wednesday on the City of Walla Walla Facebook page. "While moving the mystery collection to a more accessible place, a Facilities crew member uncovered a real-life whodunit when he removed a corner panel on some 1970s-era shelving with an open top.

"Someone had apparently taken a cue from 'Treasure Island' and stashed their booty behind the shelving, but then wasn't able to retrieve it."

The Walla Walla Public Library
The Walla Walla Public Library Courtesy Erin Wells

While classic capers often include items stowed behind bookshelves, it's definitely not an everyday occurrence in Walla Walla.

Library director Erin Wells told TODAY the staff found the discovery "extremely funny," bringing some needed levity during a what has been a trying time.

"We often find things people have left at the library, but never like this," Wells said. "We also didn’t realize how old it was at first. It wasn’t until I looked up the brand of gum that I realized it had been there over 30 years."

Library director Erin Wells
Library director Erin Wells Courtesy Erin Wells

The City of Walla Walla explained how they dated the items.

"Godzilla Heads gum dates to the late 1980s, and the rule that requires warnings to be printed on alcohol containers was enacted in November 1988," the Facebook note said. "So we think the goods were there for upward of 30 years. Talk about a long shelf life!"

Wells said the library celebrated its 50th anniversary in their current building in July, and that the institution has served the public for over 100 years.

"COVID has been very challenging for us," said Wells. "We had to shut down the building to the public in March and are doing curbside pickup right now, but all of our staff are working in the building. One of our biggest challenges we’ve faced is our budget. We’ve been asking for donations so that we can continue to buy library books."

As for the discovered "artifacts," the City of Walla Walla said on Facebook that they were transferred to another city facility.

"The abandoned relics now reside in the Sudbury Landfill. It's probably not the outcome the trove owner expected; unfortunately, not every story has a happy ending."