My husband Dan served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War years. He was stationed in Japan and sent to Da Nang as a ground crew member in Fleet Air Reconnaissance 1. He’d learned to play guitar, and wanted to buy a good electric guitar with the extra money he’d earned in Vietnam.
It was 1969, and Tommy, a great guitarist, suggested a Mosrite, an innovative guitar made popular by the Ventures in the 1960s. The two went guitar shopping in Japan and found a red metallic Mosrite. Dan paid $300 for it, a pretty penny in those days. But it was a pleasure to play, and had an awesome sound.
In 1970, Dan’s time in the service was ending and Mark, a fellow serviceman, offered to ship the Mosrite, and some other things, back to the U.S. for Dan. Mark had a higher rank and was allowed to ship more poundage at no cost. Dan had known Mark for some time—even shared a house with him— and had no reason not to trust him.
Dan got back to Minnesota, but his treasures did not. Dan was unable to reach Mark. Mark lived in nearby Wisconsin, and about a year after Dan got home, Mark contacted him and told him he’d had the Mosrite in a band room and someone had taken it. Dan didn’t get a good explanation of why his guitar was in a “band room.”
After Dan and I married, the subject of the missing items: a Yamaha acoustic guitar, amps, a Pachinko game, and most notably, his Mosrite guitar, came up from time to time. Dan wasn’t sure where Mark was, and his last name was fairly common, so Dan basically gave up hope of ever getting his things back.
Then in the mid-90s, a package arrived at our house. Inside it was the Yamaha guitar and a photo of Mark and a young girl, presumably his daughter. They were standing by a car with Wisconsin license plates. No note of any kind, and no return address. I did some research and found Mark’s address, but Dan didn’t contact him. He did, however, enjoy playing his Yamaha with its beautiful tone.
Fast forward to December, 2015. I was getting ready to go to an event when the doorbell rang. It was the FedEx man with a package that looked like guitar case. It was wrapped in plastic and duct tape and required a signature. My first thought was one of my kids had a Christmas gift sent to our house, instead of their own. But when I saw it was addressed to Dan Husom with a return address in Wisconsin I said, “I don’t believe it.” Forty-five years later, it appeared Mark had finally returned the Mosrite to its rightful owner.
My daughter and four-year-old grandson were there, and we decided to hide the guitar until I got home later that evening so I could see the look on Dan’s face when he got the package. In the meantime, my grandson couldn’t resist giving Dan a clue, “Grandpa the FedEx man didn’t come today and he didn’t bring you anything.” And then he led Dan by the hand to the bedroom where we’d stashed it. For some reason Dan didn’t really look at it. He thought it belonged to one of the kids.
When I got home I brought the package out, and told Dan to look at who it was addressed to and where it was sent from. He shook his head and said, “I don’t know what to think.” It took him a few minutes to cut through the wrapping and open the guitar case. Inside was his shiny red Mosrite, just in time for Christmas. He carefully picked it up from the case, again shaking his head, “I just don’t know what to think.” He examined it and saw there was a little damage, but it was still in very good, to excellent, condition.
Dan got another surprise when he opened the storage compartment inside the case and discovered ten one hundred dollar bills inside. One thousand dollars! Forty-five years of guitar rental, repair reimbursement, or guilt money? A few days later, Dan received a short note from Mark apologizing for keeping it so long. He said he had kept procrastinating. Okay.
The whole thing has made me very curious. I look at the Mosrite, and wish I could squeeze some information out of it. If it could talk, it’d be fun to ask about the places it has been, and who all has played it the last forty-five years. Had it really disappeared from a “band room” and then later returned? Was it played by rockers in bands at a variety of venues? What led Mark to return it after all that time? I doubt we’ll ever get the full story. As I doubt Dan will ever see the rest of his items. But the good news is he got the two things he valued the most: his Yamaha and Mosrite guitars. You just never know.
Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mystery series.