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YOUR SPACE: Crumpled keepsakes offer a new look at Dad

By: ANDREA BROWN
May 11, 2009
0

You just never know where googling can lead you.

For Springs native Kris Roberts, it led to a paper trail of old ratty dollar bills that gave her a unique glimpse of her late father's other life.

She found his "short snorter."

Short snorters are bank notes World War II servicemen signed and exchanged as a record of where they went and who they met. They'd tape bills to form a chain that served as "liquid" insurance - at bars, whoever had the shortest stream had to buy the drinks.

Roberts knew little about the military side of her dad, Henry "Hank" Heyser Jr., a Colorado Springs banker who died in 1987.

"My dad was a highly decorated pilot, but he never said much about it. He was in Normandy, he flew battles in Europe. He never bragged about it. He didn't want to talk about it at all," she says.

Her dad got TB during the war and came to Colorado Springs for treatment. After recovery, Heyser stayed here rather than return to his Midwestern roots.

The rest begins the start of Roberts' history.

"He met my mother at a nightclub in the '40s," she says. The couple had four children: Leslie, Lisa, Henry III and Roberts.

Heyser was vice president of Colorado Springs National Bank, a Pikes Peak Range Rider and community leader. He died at age 69.

He'd given his military mementos to Roberts' half-brother, Fred, his son by a previous marriage. After Fred died, his widow sold the short snorters.

Roberts didn't know what a short snorter was until the recent Google episode when her dad's name popped up linked to a Web site with a picture of the 1935 American dollar bill with his signature.

"It opened a can of worms."

She contacted webmaster Tom Sparks, founder of The Short Snorter Project (shortsnorter.org) to revive and reunite these crumpled, soiled, special keepsakes.

He asked for photos for a display board of her dad's short snorter, a chain of 10 bills from such places as West Africa, Belgium, Morocco and Brazil. The bill with her dad's autograph is also signed by actor James Cagney. See it at: shortsnorter.org/Henry_Heyser_Short_Snorter.html

Sparks exhibited it at a big show in Oregon in March. That's where it was put in the hands of Jay Beeton of the Springs-based American Numismatic Association and museum.

Short snorters are about memories, not money.

"It's different than owning a rare coin," he says. "It's very personal. It fills in gaps."

It led to both closure and curiosity for Roberts. "I went through the box of his letters I had put it in the closet, details of how he earned his medals, letters home to his family."

 

 

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