By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS and GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu Shimpo
“Dear Santa: I have been pretty good this year.”
In a child’s handwriting on sturdy but yellowing paper, a letter to Santa Claus has been a mystery that Richard Jakubczyk (Ya-KOOP-chick) and his wife, Mary, are hoping Rafu readers can help solve.
We’ve all heard about good Samaritans who obtain wishful letters from the post office, then anonymously fulfill the dreams of kids who might otherwise go without during the holidays.
In this case, it is unknown if the special gift ever found its way from the North Pole to the hopeful arms of the young girl who pleaded her case to jolly old St. Nick. It might very possibly be a small Christmas miracle for someone reading this story, at this moment.
Mr. and Mrs. Jakubczyk arrived at The Rafu’s offices on Friday, with the letters and an old, somewhat crumbling suitcase containing a genuine treasure, one that may or may not have reached its intended home.
On Nov. 12, 1951, young L.A. resident Alice Mitsuda drafted a pair of wishful notes – one to “Uncle Mino,” and one to the good Mr. Claus himself.
Those letters, along with a charming doll called Betty Bedtime, have spent decades in silent darkness, tucked away in an abandoned residence, then in the closet of the Jakubczyk family.
Richard stumbled upon the suitcase and its precious cargo in 1985, as he was working at his job as a welder and field mechanic for the Southern California Gas Company. He was assigned to disconnect the gas in an unoccupied house in the area of Virgil and Marathon, near the old L.A. Times building.
He was moving a trash can that he thought felt heavy for its size, and said he was touched by the contents of the suitcase he found inside.
“I was reading it and it made me feel so sorry for the baby,” he recalled. “I wondered how could somebody leave something so sentimental.”
The house, a little white one-story structure with a white fence, was subsequently razed.
Richard enjoys metal detecting and finding lost treasures, telling of discovering old coins and a Civil War-era button near Alpine Street, overlooking Dodger Stadium.
He took the doll home, and thinking “someday” he and his wife would learn more about it, they stored it away at their Pasadena home, where it has been for more than 30 years.
In her secondary letter to Uncle Mino, Alice continued her wish list for Christmas, which at that point, was still nearly a month and a half away. You can never be too early when it comes to the Big Day.
“I would like a Doll and a cow girl suit and a pair of tone bells,” Alice politely asks of her uncle.
The Jakubczyks are hoping to reunite the doll with her owner. Baby Bedtime’s face is flecked with a small amount of dirt, but she still opens and shuts her eyes. She looks ready for a nap, wearing a nightgown and cap, both in fine condition given their age.
Mary said she has done a fair amount of research online in hopes of finding Alice, or more information about the doll, but to no avail.
“When it comes to finding people, she’s better than a detective,” Richard said.
Mary worked for years as a paralegal and the couple have two daughters. They will be moving to Idaho in the spring, and with any luck, they’ll see Betty find her way home.
Anyone with information on the doll, Alice, or Uncle Mino can call The Rafu at (213) 629-2231.