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The present may forget what the past set out for the future

Post Independent File Photo/Jim Noelker
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. People in Glenwood Springs began salting away time capsules long before they were even called time capsules.There’s far less evidence, however, of local time capsules being opened. That raises the question of just what dictates when, or even if, a capsule’s contents are to be revealed.”Is there a prescribed time or do they get opened if the buildings happen to go away or what do you do?” asked Willa Soncarty, registrar for the Frontier Historical Museum.Even if a time capsule is to be opened at a certain time, “Who’s in charge of setting their Palm Pilot for 50 years from now?” she wonders.A time capsule recently placed under a Glenwood Springs welcome sign is intended to be opened in 50 years, and will include a marker with instructions to that effect. But some other time capsules in town seem to lack any such directions. For that matter, the fact of their very existence seems to be slipping from public memory as the years go by.In 1918, a time capsule was placed in a metal container within the cornerstone at the new federal building on Grand Avenue. The Glenwood Post reported at the time that it included photos of everything from local points of interest to President Wilson, letters from dignitaries such as the city’s mayor and postmaster, along with an address by Congressman E.T. Taylor, the keynote speaker at the Masonic ceremonies to mark the building’s completion.Today the building is home to the headquarters of the White River National Forest. News of the time capsule comes as a surprise to WRNF archeologist Bill Kight, who works there.”Well, I’ll be darned,” he said when told about it.On July 4, 1888, a time capsule consisting of a tin box was buried under the cornerstone of the bath house at the Hot Springs Lodge & Pool. Angie Parkison of Glenwood Springs wrote about it in her local history book, “Hope and Hot Water.” She said she read about it in the Ute Chief newspaper. The box included issues of local newspapers and a list of all the directors of the Colorado Land and Improvement Co., which owned the pool.

Kjell Mitchell, general manager of the pool today, confessed to being “not acutely aware” of the time capsule. He doesn’t remember contractors being warned about looking out for a time capsule during a remodeling of the building in 1995.”We didn’t come across anything,” he said.He is intrigued about the time capsule’s existence.”All that kind of thing is fun, to get in touch with the past, to find out what they were thinking,” he said.Mitchell wonders how hard it would be to retrieve the time capsule and what kind of condition it and its contents would be in. He said it also would be nice to have instructions about when the capsule was supposed to have been opened.It may not be easy to remove, and Mitchell can’t imagine disturbing a building with such historical significance.”It might just sit there for another 300 years,” he said of the time capsule.Soncarty said another local time capsule consists of a copper casket that was placed at the Masonic Temple in 1927, and contains a history of the Masonic Lodge, past and present officers, copies of local newspapers, and coins.In 2003, Masons placed a time capsule in the new Garfield County Courthouse Plaza. It holds everything from a U.S. flag to a list of county employees to a hair from the head of Jim Noelker, then a photographer for the Post Independent. The Colorado Masons grand master presiding over the ceremony said it probably would be opened in about 100 years.

Fred Davidson, secretary of the Glenwood Springs Masonic Lodge, said that when time capsules are opened is up to the building owners. He added, “You just don’t ever hear of them going through the process of opening them.”They may not even know about the time capsules. Davidson said that wherever Masons do cornerstone ceremonies, they normally do time capsules. That entails a lot of public buildings, such as the new Garfield County Jail and some local schools, he said.As it happens, there is an International Time Capsule Society. According to information posted by the society on the Internet, “there are approximately 10,000 capsules worldwide, most of them lost.”The society is setting up a time capsule registry “to remind future generations of existing capsules so they are not forgotten or lost,” it reports.Incidentally, it also says the term “time capsule” wasn’t coined until the 1938-39 World’s Fair in New York, where it was used to describe a container that was buried by Westinghouse Electric Co., and is not to be opened until the year 6938.The society recommends setting a retrieval date for a time capsule, registering it with the society, marking it, and holding reunions or anniversaries to remind people of its existence.Those behind the welcome-sign time capsule have encased it in concrete that will have to be drilled through to reach it. A bronze cap will indicate when and how to free the capsule. However, Mark Mace, a contractor on the project, said Latin wording is being used so it will take a little effort to decipher the time capsule’s existence and instructions, to help prevent vandals from trying to retrieve it before its time.Local author Parkison thinks recovering time capsules may be less important than placing them. Inspired by what she read about the pool, she and her husband installed a time capsule in a wall of their home. It’s filled with mementos such as family photos. The Parkisons gave their children information about it, but Parkison isn’t worried about whether they find it someday.”If nobody ever finds it there’s nothing in it so valuable. It can afford to be lost forever,” she said.



For the Parkisons, the time capsule was a way to honor a property that has been in the family since 1945.”For me it was a way to recognize that this was a big deal for us, to make this house ours,” she said.She said she wouldn’t mind if the pool time capsule were lost forever. Its importance is that it gives those who place it the opportunity to express by its contents what is important to them at that time.”I really think that it is for the present, it’s not necessarily for the future, although there’s always the hope that people would come across it some day,” she said.Patsy Guadnola may exemplify Parkison’s point. When she was 5, she placed a jar with the names of her first-grade class in a hole where they planted an elm tree at Glenwood Springs Elementary School in 1928. First-grade classes traditionally planted a tree at the school on Arbor Day, she said. She still remembers the school superintendent lowering her into the hole to place the jar.Guadnola doesn’t even consider the jar to be a time capsule. Still, the occasion “was kind of a special thing for me,” she said. Guadnola went on to teach music in Glenwood Springs for 40 years, and she would see that tree right outside her classroom window. Today, the 83-year-old Guadnola reports, “it’s still standing.” She thinks the jar beneath the tree never was unearthed. But for the one who buried it, the memories that jar evokes remain as strong as the branches that shelter it to this day.Contact Dennis Webb: 384-9119dwebb@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO


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