The cover is faded. The binding is frayed. The delicate pages are adorned with mysterious scribbles.
It looks like a typical old school book. The kind of old book easily forgotten in a box in the basement. A relic that's actually worth only $3 to an impartial collector.
But to Harry E. Stoneburner, 79, of New Carlisle, it's priceless.
And he doesn't know how to express his gratitude to the stranger who put it back into his hands after nearly 70 years.
In fact, the gift from Elaine Kaminskas of South Bend leaves Stoneburner almost speechless. "I don't know how to thank you. I don't know how to say it," Stoneburner told her upon receiving the book last week.
He smiled as he held the 1925 edition of "The McCall Speller" and turned the pages of the very same book he studied from as a young pupil in the early 1930s at the one room Tyner School in Marshall County.
The book brings back memories. For example, how during those depression era days his mother would wrap all of his school books with heavy paper to preserve them so they could br resold. He figures he must have used the book from fourth through sixth grades.
Above: The market value of this 1925 "The McCall Speller" is minimal, but it has huge sentimental value for Harry Stoneburner. But he "has no idea" who had the book after him or how it could resurface after all these years.
He called her back the next day.
"I thought, 'I'll be darned. How the devil could that thing be around all that time?'" said Stoneburner.
Back when he was supposed to be studying the book, he confessed, it didn't make much of an impression.
"I was a lousy speller," laughed Stoneburner."
Back in fourth grade, his teacher paddled him for misspelling several words on a test and then for failing to write out his missed words 100 times apiece. When he complained about the teacher, his dad took him to the woodshed and paddled him again.
Maybe his poor spelling was due to day-dreaming-----perhaps about Mary E.?
"That must have been Mary Eads. I don't remember I was sweet on her, but I must have been," Stoneburner mused. "I have no idea what happened to Mary. She moved away."
He married Lorene Strow in 1943, and they've lived in New Carlisle for 50 years. Stoneburner conquered spelling long ago. He said he was motivated by a Marine Corps commanding officer who wanted his adjutant to be able to write a correctly spelled letter.
Stoneburner became a teacher, coach and principal at New Carlisle High School, then later served as principal of Warren Elementary School for 22 years.
Retired now, he's a man of many words, given to storytelling, writing his family genealogy and solving a newspaper crossword puzzle first thing every morning.
Because of his interest in family history, Stoneburner plans to keep the worn-looking little speller in a special place. I'll pass it on down to my kids, I suppose, " he said.
Kaminskas purchased the speller for a dime just a few weeks ago at a garage sale on the west side of South Bend. She planned to sell it on the internet through "eBay", where she's had success selling collectible books. In fact, she's known as "EBQ", short for "eBay queen", in the processing department at the South Bend Tribune where she works. Kaminskas said with a laugh.
But when she discovered the book's actual value was minimal, Kaminskas began thinking of its sentimental value. The dry spelling text was dressed up with a child's doodles and scribbles and dreams. Surrounded by the shape of a heart on one page was the name "Mary E." and the promise to marry her in 1940. Clearly inscribed inside the front cover were the names "Harry E. Stoneburner" and "Tyner."
"My sister works on our family genealogy, and I know she would be very excited to get a hold of a book like this if it had been in the family." said Kaminskas.
speller open
Harry E. Stoneburner's 1925 "The McCall Speller," which he used as a student at Tyner School, includes plenty of doodles inside.

She found a Harry Stoneburner in the telephone directory and dashed off a letter to him. She described the book, how she acquired it and said she'd like to give it to him if it had been his, if he wanted it.