Group looks to jump the gun on time capsule in Bay City
Bay City — In 1965, Bob Dylan and the Beatles topped music charts, Lyndon Johnson held the White House and the Cold War was at its height.
And during that same year, the Bay County Labor Council dedicated and buried a time capsule in honor of Bay City’s centennial celebration.
The original plan was to have it opened in 2065 in honor of the city’s bicentennial celebration.
Filled with “documents, pictures and letters for our descendants,” according to surviving records, the John F. Kennedy Peace Capsule was buried on the lawn of the Bay County Building on Center Avenue with instructions to leave it untouched for 100 years. Labor Council officials left it in the care of the Bay County Historical Society, and it’s remained out of sight for five decades.
In the next few weeks, though, its contents might once again see the light of day.
Ron Bloomfield, director of operations at the Bay County Historical Society, said recent research has revealed Labor Council officials’ requests to amend the original plans and open the capsule 50 years after its burial instead of 100. That means it’s time to unearth the artifacts this year, Bay City’s sesquicentennial.
Bloomfield is planning to petition the Bay County Board of Commissioners to partner on digging up this piece of history.
“These don’t come along very often,” Bloomfield said, describing the excitement that comes along with the mystery of the time capsule’s contents. “It’s not knowing what’s in there — I don’t have a complete inventory. I just have these bits and pieces. It’s that unknown factor.”
Bloomfield said he’s pleased the opening might come during the city’s 150th anniversary year.
“I think the timing is right,” he said. “I think it’s very proper that it be opened during the celebration. I think there’ll be enough people that at least remember it.”
The capsule itself, Bloomfield said, is a large plywood box sheathed in tin and sealed in lead, built by local marine and shipbuilding workers. According to Bay City Commission meeting minutes, builders had originally hoped to place it on the grounds of City Hall and then in Veterans Memorial Park.
Now that it’s come to rest at the Bay County Building, Bloomfield said there are times when you can still make out the burial plot outline in the grass.
“You’re not talking small,” he said. “It’s in a vault and it looks like it’s five concrete blocks tall. They had to use some kind of a wrecker system with a pulley on it to place this thing.”
Bloomfield said he discovered the capsule when he was going through documents in the Bay County Historical Society’s safe deposit box. This past winter, when the organization was switching banks, he discovered a letter outlining its existence. It was a total surprise.
“When I found this letter I was like, ‘Oh! Great,’ ” he said. “ ’We own a time capsule.’ ”
Bloomfield’s research led him in June to a record of the Historical Society’s meeting minutes from December 1969, when the Labor Council told the group it would like to see the capsule unearthed in 50 years instead of 100.
He’s still not sure what might be inside, though.
“We might find a bunch of mush in there when we go to open it,” he said, noting that the materials used in the capsule, like plywood, aluminum foil and 1960s-era plastic bags, aren’t conducive to preservation. On top of that, heat and temperature fluctuations could also have damaged the contents.
“I really don’t know what we’re going to find,” Bloomfield said. “I hope we’re going to find some really well-preserved stuff.”
Bloomfield’s plan is to head before the Bay County Ways and Means Committee at its Sept. 1 meeting to propose a partnership to unearth the capsule. And by Sept. 26, he hopes to have it out of the ground and ready to crack open during the annual River of Time Living History Encampment.
Bay County Commissioner Don Tilley, D-6th District, said he’d support Bloomfield’s petition for help.
“I’d absolutely be intrigued to see what’s in the capsule, and I’m assuming we’d replant the capsule with something in it for a later date for future people in the community,” he said. “I’d be intrigued, and I know we have the capacity with our work crew to do such a thing.”
Bloomfield said he hopes to see a new time capsule reburied in the future, possibly with new artifacts and electronically stored data — and possibly with another round of “letters for our descendants.” He said he hopes to receive permission from the Historical Society’s Board of Directors on a reburial plan soon.
“The chances of being around in 50 years are greater than being in 100 years, but this is a chance to impart something to future generations,” he said.