It was the spring of 1980 — 38 years ago — when Chris Butler was on a road trip with his old college friend, Dave Bartlett, according to a letter he wrote to the Colorado State Patrol.
The friends were taking a cross-country road trip in a “vintage” Chevy Nova back to the University of California Los Angeles after competing in the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships at Harvard University, the letter states. The letter was posted to the state patrol’s Facebook page.
Before heading back to California, though, the men took the “shortest path” to Prescott, Arizona, so that Bartlett could trade a handwritten check for some “desperately needed cash.” Butler said in the letter that they needed the cash for the last leg of the trip.
“This was long before cash machines, cell phones and apps like Waze!” Butler wrote to the Colorado troopers.
But before they could get some cash, a Colorado trooper pulled Bartlett over for speeding, the post states.
“It was probably a Friday afternoon as, I recall, there was a conversation between Dave and the officer of having to pay the ticket on the spot or spending the weekend as a guest of the local jurisdiction and meeting a judge on the following Monday morning,” Bulter said.
Not wanting to stay the weekend in Colorado, the friends decided to pay in cash (and maybe some coins, too).
“We emptied (our) wallets and still short, rummaged through the glove box for any money, pulled out seat cushions and searched the trunk, which happened to be full of cases of Genesee Cream Ale, a gift from the UCLA team that we were delivering to our head coach,” Butler wrote. “We uncovered a few coins and had a couple of good laughs with the officer.”
After emptying their wallets, though, the swimmers were still $5 short.
“Faced with the prospect of spending the weekend in Colorado, your officer offered to chip in the remainder of the fine, out of his own pocket, allowing us to continue through Colorado, Arizona and back to UCLA to start the final Spring quarter of our college career,” Butler said.
To thank the trooper, Bartlett took a photo of him as Bartlett showed off his toothy smile. The picture shows the then college student “happily receiving a speeding ticket,” Butler wrote. They also promised the trooper that they would send him the $5 difference once they returned to UCLA.
But then the men lost the photo film and never fulfilled their promise.
“I am absolutely the worst with names but all these years for some reason the name Richard Frank has stuck in my mind,” Bulter wrote. “When the internet came around I searched this name many times over the years but with no luck, always wanting to apologize for never sending the picture or returning the money.”
His memory was right.
Just a few weeks ago, Butler said he found the photo, and he asked the Colorado State Patrol to help him find the trooper so that he could pay him back.
After receiving Butler’s letter and photo, the department posted it to Facebook. That was on July 25.
“Who is this mystery Trooper from 1980?” the department asked. “Can you help us solve it, find him, or share with someone that might know?”
Just two days later, the department posted to Twitter that they identified the mystery trooper as former Patrolman Richard Frank Jr. But they couldn’t find him.
That was until Frank’s wife, Barbara, told him he was on the news, CBS4 reported.
Neither he or his wife have a TV, KARE11 reported, but their friends saw the photo of Frank on a 9News TV segment.
“They’re trying to find out who you are,” Frank told CBS4. “It didn’t make sense. It was boggling; I was like really, over 5 bucks?”
At first, the former trooper told the station that he didn’t even remember when he chipped in the cash.
On Saturday, though, the three men talked about the phone and the former college students promised to mail the $5, the station reported.
“I told them, ‘Now, don’t forget my five bucks,’ ” Frank laughed as he told CBS4.