Capsule unveils, creates mysteryThe mystery is solved. Almost. After an anxious week filled with speculation and anticipation, the public learned Friday just what was inside the Four Corners Elementary School time capsule.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
The mystery is solved. Almost.
After an anxious week filled with speculation and anticipation, the public learned Friday just what was inside the Four Corners Elementary School time capsule.
Sealed since 1985, the time capsule was opened as part of the elementary school’s 25th anniversary celebration. About 100 people attended the event and reminisced about days of yore as they toured the school and waited for the capsule unveiling.
“A lot of the rooms have changed from where they were when I was here, but the layout is the same,” said Paul Johnson, a member of Tom Burfield’s sixth-grade class in 1985. “Things seem a lot shorter now.”
Four 1985 alumni were among the nearly two dozen former students and staff who returned for Friday’s event. Burfield, serving as master of ceremonies for the event, said he actually recognized two of those four students.
“They really have changed,” Burfield said.
Roger Bare, Four Corners principal from 1988-1995 also attended Friday’s event. He said the school has changed tremendously since his retirement, but it remains an important part of the community.
“The parents are very supportive,” he said. “The kids own the school; it’s their school. The teachers are dedicated and hard working, and they really care for the kids.”
Burfield, speaking of what the elementary school represents after 25 years, had similar feelings.
“The teaching staff, the administration and the parents bonded, making this a community in itself,” Burfield said. “I firmly believe that happened, and that’s what makes Four Corners special. This became a center of the community.”
For students returning to Four Corners for the first time in years, being in the building again brought forth a flood of memories.
“Being in class with Tom Burfield was just a blast,” Johnson said.
He talked with classmates about their trip to Camp Isabella and drew laughs and cringes when he showed them their 1985 class picture. Johnson cringed himself when recalling the homemade sauerkraut the students had prepared. He said it was the most revolting thing he’d ever eaten.
As to the time capsule, Johnson had no more insight into its contents than any of the other visitors.
“I don’t remember anything,” he said. “I didn’t even realize we did that.”
During the week leading up to Friday’s anniversary celebration, current students tried to guess what items might be in the time capsule. The third and fifth grade classes made a number of thoughtful guesses, including: a yearbook, photographs of the school construction site, a board game and a recording of the school’s first concert.
First-graders in Nina Olson’s class had loftier dreams for the capsule’s contents. Among their suggestions were: gold, jewels, maps, and a flying squirrel.
Much to the students’ dismay, no pirate’s gold or precious gems were found in the time capsule, but it did hold a treasure of a different sort — an assortment of newspapers, brochures and documents that painted a picture of life in 1985.
At that time, the Superior Telegram was still printed daily and was known as the Evening Telegram. It cost 25 cents.
A first-class postage stamp cost just 22 cents; and at Super One bananas went for 19 cents a pound, canned goods were three for $1 and bread cost 79 cents. Woolworth’s, meanwhile, tried to attract customers with a “Dollar Days” sale.
The capsule also contained the district’s budget proposal for 1985-86, various maps of the area, building plans for Four Corners and Lake Superior elementary schools, pictures of the groundbreaking and building progress, and a sealed envelope postmarked 1985.
Upon opening the envelope and looking over the letter inside, Burfield chuckled. The note read: “If you discover any defects in the building please call Bill Shears, buildings and grounds supervisor. His home phone number is …”
The letter drew a laugh from the audience, but the most interesting item revealed Friday was received quietly — a single key attached to a tag labeled with the number 26.
As soon as Burfield removed the intriguing object, he asked the question most were thinking: “What does it open?”
No key was mentioned on the capsule’s list of contents, and no instructions were included in the copper box to explain the key’s significance. Except for the number 26, the key has no markings that give any hint to its use.
After Friday’s ceremony drew to a close, a few staff members took a closer look at the key. They said it looked like a building key and thought it might open the school’s old locker room. Others speculated it could belong to a lockbox or file cabinet somewhere.
The lockbox theory gained further support when teachers who had contributed items to the time capsule in 1985 noticed a few things were missing. Burfield, for example, distinctly remembered including student work, signed by each member of his class, to be stored in the capsule. At least one other teacher recalled something similar, but no student work was found Friday.
The capsule’s contents list also named a computer diskette as among the included items, but it too was missing from the stash.
The contents of Four Corners’ time capsule are now on display at the elementary school and will remain in the display case for about a month.