Another "oops" time capsule story, this time it’s personal

by Sally J.

Tulsa’s buried car isn’t the only time capsule ruined by leaking water and mud. When I was a eight years old, my hometown decided to bury a time capsule. It was 1976 — the U.S.’s bicentennial — and everyone had History Fever!

The opening of the time capsule was scheduled for July 4, 2000, which might as well have been a million years away as far as I was concerned. I found it impossible to imagine being 32 years old when I was only eight.

It just so happens that my dad was president of the Glencoe Historical Society in 1976, so I got to write a Letter to the Future. My best friend Kate Hackbarth got to write one, too. My letter wasn’t terribly profound (I was eight, remember?) basically a list of places in my hometown that meant a lot to me. I remember going through the ads in the village circular to make sure I didn’t miss anything. My Letter to the Future was a list of all the places I wanted to still be around in the Exciting Jet Pack Age! that was sure to be The Year 2000.

The list included:

1. Wally King’s record shop
2. U-Name It iron-on t-shirt emporium
3. Wienicke’s hardware/toy store
4. Harry’s Jewish Deli
5. Big Al’s (where the fries were made from scratch)

There are two punchlines to this story.

Punchline #1. By the year 2000 every single one of those beloved places was gone. Some of them long gone. Nearly all of them had been replaced by chain stores like Starbucks and Einstein Bros. The hardware store had been converted to fancy schmancy condos.

I lived in my hometown from 1972 to 1986. During those years, there wasn’t much you couldn’t buy in town including a car, a bicycle, or an airplane ticket. In addition to the shops on my list we had a grocery store, a butcher, a baker, a shoe store, a movie theater, a dentist, an optician, a pizza joint, Chinese takeaway, and two of the following; pharmacy, deli, hair salon, bank. It was a kid’s paradise.

On the drive down, I said to my husband: “You know, archivists don’t do time capsules. It’s a terrible idea to bury something if you want it to last 30 years. There might not be anything to see when we get there.”

Which leads us to punchline #2…

Punchline #2. The time capsule was destroyed by water and mud. They put the soggy little bits on display, but it was a little painful to see. Especially since I was really looking forward to reading that letter again.

On the up side, I visited my hometown for the first time since my parents sold the house ten years prior. I got to see Kate Hackbarth and we got to meet each other’s husbands. And since it was the Fourth of July, I got to visit the craft fair where I sold painted rocks with googly eyes, and see the parade with floats and scouts and tons of kids on decorated bikes. Plus a slice of pizza at Little Red Hen. At least some things stayed the same.

P.S. My classmate Rich Cohen grew up to become a great writer. His memoir of growing up in our hometown is called Lake Effect. I know who all the characters are, but my lips are sealed.

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