It was a cool, cloudy Saturday morning when Big Brother James and I arrived at our old elementary school. The only evidence of the previous evening’s thunderstorms were puddles of water still in the low-lying areas where the school was undergoing massive renovations.
I barely finished parking before he leapt out of the car heading towards the construction foreman’s office. To say James was beyond excited would be an understatement — and rightly so. This was his class’s time capsule they buried so many years ago we were looking for.
It had been over 55 years since he was in third grade. That was the last time anyone had seen the metal cylinder with the round handle. James had told the story many times during the last six months while we awaited permission to dig.
“The teacher picked a spot right next to a big rock under a small oak tree just outside our classroom. After digging a hole, I buried the capsule under the rock’s edge, then we stacked smaller flat rocks on top so it wouldn’t accidentally be disturbed.”
As we met the construction foreman who would oversee the dig and the representative from Atlanta Public Schools, I was pretty sure we were all wondering the same thing: Would it still be there after so many years or would we all be disappointed?
By the looks on their faces, even the film crew on scene from the local television station seemed to be wondering the same.
Just outside his old third-grade classroom the large rock, about the size of a small car, was still there. I watched as James directed three construction workers with shovels where to dig. It was a laborious task since the once small oak tree was now not so small. With a girth of six feet, it overshadowed the rock. Resembling a giant spider web, massive roots from the tree reached out from its trunk in all directions.
The workers cut away one of the thick roots and, just beneath the surface of the gray, sandy dirt, they unearthed small, flat rocks. Ever so slowly, they dug through the years. Soon the sound of metal striking metal brought the excavation to a standstill.
One of the workers called out, “I found something!” He placed his full weight down on the shovel handle trying to unearth the object. It broke under the strain. Now, on his knees, digging with gloved hands, he unearthed the round handle of the time capsule.
Everyone in James’s class had placed an item into the time capsule. Even Tammy. She always wore two-inch-long pink hair barrettes to clip back her long black hair. An average student, she was about to do something that she’d be remembered for over half a century later.
Unclipping one of the pink barrettes, she walked over and dropped it into the capsule. A small GI Joe action figure, James’s Kennedy half-dollar, a pencil, and an empty Coca Cola bottle were just a few of the other items that students placed inside before it was sealed. Followed by his classmates, holding onto the round metal handle, James had carried the capsule outside for burial.
With the television camera watching over his shoulder, the construction worker pulled on the rusty handle. Begrudgingly the sandy gray ground gave up its prize and the worker fell backwards — the handle gripped in his hand … but no time capsule.
The digging resumed. A broken Coca Cola bottle, circa 1964, was unearthed next. Another large root had to be chopped away before digging could continue. An hour later, the hole was three feet wide and equally as deep. And just when it seemed the historic dig wouldn’t reveal anything … it did.
Again the worker called out, “You won’t believe what I just found!”
There are few moments I can say I will remember the rest of my life. The excitement of running over and seeing what the worker had just unearthed was one of them.
Buried under three feet of dirt and half a century of time was proof of a long-forgotten memory. In his gloved hand, the worker held up a dirty two-inch long pink hair barrette.
He handed it to James and then looked back at the other workers and then to the huge hole, “Wonder how it got down in there?”
Sadly, nothing else was found that day. James left with the Coca Cola bottle and Tammy’s pink hair barrette. I left with the handle of the time capsule. But we both were left wondering:
What happened to the time capsule? Who dug it up and when? And what happened to the rest of its contents?
So it seems, Dear Reader, that my adventure of digging up the past isn’t at an end, but only just beginning. Want to join along?
Just keep reading here every week for stories about the adventures and misadventures we had growing up a long, long time ago on that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo. And who knows, perhaps soon, one of the stories will be the conclusion of the time capsule.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]