Former State Senator Don Steffes considers himself an honest man, that is why he finally returned a book to the Pratt City Library that he borrowed almost 67 years ago.
When Don Steffes walked into the Pratt Public Library Saturday, Feb. 11 to return his book, "Anthony Adverse," it was past due and he owed a fine. The book was almost 67 years overdue and the fine was $486.84.
Steffes, who is 87 years old, returned the book to Library Director Rochelle Westerhaus who forgave the fine of the long overdue book. However, Steffes made a $100 donation to the library to help clear his conscious.
"I wanted to get it off my chest," Steffes said. "Now I'll be able to sleep at night."
The saga of the book that was overdue for 67 years started when Steffes, a former Kansas state senator, had checked out the book when he was in Pratt in 1950 for two weeks staying at the Hotel Roberts, now the Parrish Lofts, while he worked for Panhandle Eastern Pipeline during the construction of a pipeline.
Steffes was 20 years old and was a second year student at Emporia State, attending on the G.I. Bill. Steffes had served in the Army for 18 months after high school from June 1947 to December 1948. He was a Tech Sergeant and worked for the adjutant general at Fort Knox. After his military service, he started college and needed to earn some extra money.
He had taken the job with Panhandle and worked as a payroll clerk and inspector for them that summer, Steffes said.
While he was in Pratt, he went to the Pratt Library, then located in the basement of the Pratt County Courthouse, and checked out a novel, "Anthony Adverse" by Hervey Allen. He checked out the book on June 6 and it was due back June 20, 1950. Lenora Brown was the Librarian in 1950.
When he checked out the book, a card in the front cover was stamped with the checkout and due back dates. Since Steffes was not a resident, he paid a $2 deposit to the library that had his name and temporary address at the Hotel Roberts that allowed him to check out books. He had to present the card each time he checked out a book and had to return it to get his deposit back. Since he didn't return the book or present the card, his $2 deposit stayed at the library.
After two weeks, construction on the Panhandle pipeline moved on and so did Steffes. Instead of returning the book, he packed it with the rest of his things and it stayed with him for the next 67 years. So did some guilt about not returning the book, Steffes said.
Finally, he decided to return the book but wasn't quite sure how to do it. He decided to face the music and contacted Westerhaus who made arrangements to return the book.
Westerhaus said this was extremely unusual. She didn't recall anyone ever returning a book in person. She said she had received packages in the mail with overdue books and she had found overdue books in the return slot.
"This was a first," Westerhaus said.
Westerhaus said quite a few library books and materials have not been returned. Right now, the library records indicate there are 1,134 items overdue but "Anthony Adverse" was not on the list and after 67 years Westerhaus said it wouldn't be there.
When Steffes checked out the book, there was a fine of two cents a day for overdue books. The book was 24,342 days over due and at two cents a day, that makes a fine of $486.84.
The book will not go back into circulation. When the library started their current building renovation, it would have been one of the books weeded out of circulation. The library might keep it around for a while for a curiosity but it won't be checked out again, Westerhaus said.
The book, "Anthony Adverse" was copyrighted in 1933 and is about the adventures of the title character in 18th Century France, Cuba and Africa. It is 1,200 pages long. The actor Frederick March played the title character in a movie. Starring with March was actress Olivia de Havilland who played Melanie Hamilton in Gone With the Wind. She turned 100 July 1, 2016. Steffes said he had read the entire book at least once and may have started it again but had not read it all the way through twice.
The book did make an impression on him and he and his late wife named their son "Anthony" after the title character.
Steffes is a retired banker. He served Kansas as a state senator from the 35th District from 1992 to 2000. He often claimed to his buddies in Tuscon, Ariz. where he lives part of the year, that he was one of the few honest politicians they had met. But one thing bothered him about his claim to honesty, that library book he checked out in 1950. So he decided to return the book to keep his claim in tact.
Steffes also has a home in McPherson where he has about 1,500 books. It was there his over due book sat for many years.