Town History

Local History - Time Capsule

Blast from the past

JAMES FINLAW, Herald News Staff Reporter August 20, 2000

caption reads: "Former Swansea Selectman Horace "Hap" Pelletier, right, removes the first bolts from the time capsule residents buried in 1967 as part of the town’s tercentenary celebration."

SWANSEA -- When the last bolt was removed and the container’s heavy metal lid was tossed aside, many in the large crowd sprang from their seats and surged toward it.Then, with the zeal of children gazing upon newly opened Christmas presents, the group expectantly peered inside.

Instantly, the air was filled with "oohs" and "aahs" as young and old alike laid their eyes upon the hundreds of articles inside the receptacle.

Horace "Hap" Pelletier was the first to reach into the white, oblong container. He pulled out a gray top hat and plopped it on his head.

"Here’s the hat!" he exclaimed, smiling broadly.

With that, Swansea’s present met its past.

On Aug. 19, 1967, Pelletier removed the very same hat from his head and placed it inside the same surplus ammunition container from which he now withdrew it.

The container was sealed and buried beneath the Town Hall’s front lawn, with the stipulation that it not be exhumed and reopened until Aug. 19, 2000.

The burying of the time capsule marked the conclusion of Swansea’s tercentenary celebration, which commemorated the town’s 1667 founding.

Exactly 33 years later, the time capsule was opened in a ceremony held Saturday at the Little League complex on the Covel Estate on Milford Road.

"This couldn’t have been any better. We had 300 people here today. We’re very happy," said Pelletier, who co-chaired the event with former Selectman Judge Antone S. Aguiar.

The hundreds of people gathered on the ball field to witness the time capsule’s opening all had different reasons for being there.

Some were youngsters, curious about relics from the late ‘60s.

Others were adults, who had placed an article in the capsule as children. Still, others were elderly folks, eager to see what it was that they had put in the capsule when their children were still young.

"I just came to see it because it is part of our history," said 11-year-old Douglas Macedo.

"I’d like to see some old magazines or maybe an old pack of baseball cards," he said.

Unfortunately for young Douglas, no one had thought to put baseball cards in the capsule back in 1967, but they had remembered to put in just about everything else.

A host of memorabilia from the tricentennial celebration lay in the capsule. Flags, trophies, commemorative medallions, bumper stickers and programs from the event were abundant.

Besides that, old magazines (In 1967 Glamour cost 50 cents), an old annual report (the town’s operating budget in 1966 was $1,680,261.09), photographs, and correspondence were piled in the capsule.

A letter from President Lyndon B. Johnson recognizing Swansea’s 300th anniversary was one of the more notable discoveries.

In addition, a tiny bottle of brandy, a Beatles album, a couple of cigarettes, matchbooks, coins, a phone book and even a military liberty pass were also inside.

"Steve Purdy, Armed Forces Liberty Pass," said Pelletier, reading the pass.

"I think he’s AWOL," he added with a chuckle.

Once everyone had filed by the container, Pelletier, Aguiar, and resident Katie Murphy began removing the individual articles, asking their owners to claim them.

Pelletier and Aguiar were both selectmen back in 1967. They had come up with the time capsule idea along with late Selectmen Chairman James C. Murphy. Katie Murphy represented her father at the capsule opening.

For some, like Roger Owens, the event took him back to his youth.

He and his childhood friend had interred a scholastic magazine called "Science and Math Weekly" in the capsule when they were sixth-graders at the E.S. Brown School.

"I remember it vividly. We were just all excited and wanted to put something in. It was a great day," he said.

Paula Gardella was 19 years old when she put a letter to her sister Cheryl in the capsule.

"I’ve got a letter in there for her about the man I thought she was potentially going to marry. Eventually they did marry, and they’ve been together for 27 years," she said happily.

Gardella also clasped an old 45 record her sister had placed in the container. It was "Rainy Day Women" by Bob Dylan.

"My daughter won’t believe it when she sees it. She’ll say ‘Mom, how do you play it?’"

For others, the event was a chance to reconnect with parents or relatives who had died.

Sheila Davis was 11 years old when the capsule was buried. She was hoping to find a letter from her late mother. The capsule contained a plastic bag filled with letters, notes and envelopes.

"That’s what I am hoping for. Something from my mother," she said.

Davis found a letter from her sister. She didn’t open it, saying that she wanted to wait to open it with her later.

Derek Thomas remarked, "Now I know where I got my handwriting from," as he looked at a note written to him by his late grandfather.

As those in attendance gazed at old photographs of themselves or their children, and read the faded words on letters written to them by departed relatives, it became apparent how pleasant and moving the event was for everyone.

In fact, it engendered so much interest that it sparked the creation of another time capsule.

The new capsule, which will contain hundreds of momentos sealed in individually labeled PVC tubes, is to be interred in the front lawn at Town Hall on Oct. 14.

It will be dug up in 2017, Swansea’s 350th anniversary.

©The Herald News 2000