Linda Rost thought it was a scam when she got a Facebook message from a woman who claimed to have found her wallet. That’s a natural suspicion because her wallet was stolen nearly 50 years while she was working at the former Dayton’s store in downtown Minneapolis.

But a photo of her long-lost wallet and her University of Minnesota ID convinced her that the woman was serious.

“Oh my gosh, this is real,” Rost said of the electronic exchange.

Not long after, Rost had the olive-colored wallet in her hand, a tad frayed from spending five decades behind old walls of the venerable department store that’s undergoing renovation, but otherwise in good condition.

“It brought back happy memories of old days,” Rost said. “I never thought I’d see it again. It was a fun surprise.”

Rost had her purse under the counter at the cosmetics counter on the fateful day in February in 1969 when a thief reached in and stole the leather wallet. She was a poor college student working full time so there were only a few dollars in it at the time. But it held lots of important stuff. She was planning on going to Europe that summer, and with no driver’s license or ID she didn’t know how she was going to get a passport.

“I freaked out,” she recalled. “Everything was missing.”

She got her passport, went on the trip and never really thought about the wallet again, she said. That’s until Char Nelson of the construction crew working at the store saw the wayward wallet in a pile of rubble earlier this month and rescued it as it was headed for the dumpster.

Nelson found Rost’s University of Minnesota student ID card and driver’s license inside and, with a little sleuthing, found her in Minneapolis and returned it.

How it turned up is still somewhat of a mystery. Rost presumes the crook ditched the wallet somewhere by the loading dock of the store at 7th Street and Nicollet Mall. It must have fallen into some ductwork where it sat for five decades behind dusty old walls

The wallet contained her Dayton’s charge card, buttons she planned to sew on a coat, an old utility bill and some Gold Bond stamps. And there was something even more priceless still in there: the only known school pictures of her cousin Lynn and her cousin’s four siblings. The photos were well-preserved.

“We have no copies of them, but to see them again is amazing,” said Lynn Olson Barton. “It’s very sweet that Linda, a college student at the time, carried them in her wallet. We are going to take them and have copies made for all of us.”

Roth said getting her wallet back was like reconnecting with an old friend. Through this, she also met a new one in Nelson, whom she met up with recently to reclaim the wallet.

“I wanted to buy her a drink for the effort she went to search for me,” she said.