'56 time capsule contents unveiled

Some spectators expected more school-related items

Posted: Wednesday, October 04, 2006

It took two men, a blow torch, a screwdriver and almost two minutes to break into a sealed copper time capsule from Juneau-Douglas High School on Tuesday.

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Sealed when Masons placed the high school's cornerstone in 1956, the box yielded a mix of rosters from several different civic groups, including the Masons, the Elks, the Rotary Club and the American Legion. The box also had brochures from the Juneau Chamber of Commerce, pamphlets from a church, lists of local government officials and a May 11, 1956, edition of the J-Bird, the JDHS student newspaper.

The box and its cornerstone were covered up by a wall during renovations started in 1983, according to Juneau School Board member Mary Becker. The time capsule was discovered four years ago, when the school underwent another renovation.

With all the possible items that could have been in the capsule, many of the 150 spectators in attendance exchanged glances of disbelief, as if they expected the capsule to contain something else.

Juneau schools Superintendent Peggy Cowan said the box contained a "nice record of the time" but admitted, "I think we all thought it would be more kid-oriented."

Members of the class of 1956 said the contents of the box were interesting.

"I was surprised the J-Bird was in there," class member Yvonne Guy said.

The newspaper garnered the most attention. While many shrugged off the rosters, people crowded around to see the stories in the paper.

Guy said she remembers her high school years fondly.

"I participated in a lot of sports and I enjoyed all that," she said. When asked about her classmates, Guy responded, "We were all a family."

Ralph Swap, one member of the Class of '56, talked about what the area and the high school was like in the 1950s. In '56, Elvis had his first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show and released his first two hit singles, "Hound Dog" and "Heart Break Hotel." At the time there was no interstate highway system, and segregation was just being broken in public schools across the country. Swap noted that in 1956, there were only two buses running Juneau students to the high school. Swap sang the school song, and then the box was opened.

The items in the time capsule will go on display in the Juneau-Douglas City Museum.

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