58 years after its fall into a toilet, watch finds owner

Monday, October 28, 2002

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The Australian owner of a World War II-era watch that ended up with a Springfield watchmaker has been found.

"I knew it was mine straight away," said D.G. Allison, of Woy Woy, New South Wales, who lost the Dustite brand watch 58 years ago. He said it fell into a toilet bowl while he was washing his hands in a train washroom during a 1944 weekend break from the Royal Australian Air Force.

"It was very surprising," said Allison, age 77. "I never thought I'd see it again."

Leon Sanger, the owner of Sanger Watch and Repair, spent about $100 and a month overhauling the watch before he gave it to his daughter's father-in-law, Mick Brodie, to take back to Australia.

Brodie was visiting Springfield recently for the birth of their second grandchild, Austin Michael.

When Sanger learned the owner had been located, he was overjoyed.

"I was shaking in my shoes. I couldn't believe they found the guy."

After returning to his home in Hornsby, Brodie called one of the two D.G. Allisons that Sanger had found during an Internet search.

"I've got a very long story to tell you," began Brodie when Allison answered the phone.

Recited serial number

Based on an inscription on the back of the watch, Sanger and Brodie knew they were looking for a man whose serial number in the Royal Australian Air Force was 136990.

Allison recited the number like a robot.

Then Brodie told him: "You're not going to believe it, but I've got your watch here."

Allison said he didn't remember how he'd lost the watch until he had a couple of days to think about it.

"It was a gift from my Mum and Dad on joining the R.A.A.F.," said Allison. He was removing the watch to wash his hands in the sink.

"It slipped out of my hand with the jerk of the train. ... I never found it."

When Brodie presents the watch to Allison, the recipient will be asked to tell his story to a room packed with veterans.

Probably found near tracks

Allison has been wondering how the watch got to Springfield.

He's sure someone found it along the railroad tracks where he'd spent many hours searching during that long-ago leave.

The impending return of the timepiece reminds him of the kindness of a neighbor who got permission for him to look for it, he said.

It was illegal for anyone other than engineers to walk along the tracks.

It also brought back to mind his father, "who'd gotten it from a watchmaker friend in Sydney."

The brand -- Dustite -- was so unusual, he said, that he'd never seen another watch like that.

Sanger had never seen a Dustite watch in his 33 years as a watchmaker, either, but he knew "by the movement inside the watch, it was made in the late '30s or early '40s."

He said a friend who used to own a pawnshop in Australia gave him the watch about two months ago.

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