A 1957 time capsule was discovered at Gander Academy. Here's what they found

·5 min read
A small copper box was used a time capsule at Gander Academy 65 years ago. Recently, the box was unveiled and the mysteries of its contents were revealed. (Martin Jones/CBC - image credit)
A small copper box was used a time capsule at Gander Academy 65 years ago. Recently, the box was unveiled and the mysteries of its contents were revealed. (Martin Jones/CBC - image credit)
Martin Jones/CBC
Martin Jones/CBC

The year was 1957. The Frisbee had just been invented. The Soviets had launched Sputnik into space, and Elvis Presley was all shook up to hit No. 1 on the music charts.

In the town of Gander, N.L., students and staff at Gander Academy filled a small copper box with tokens and treasures, newspaper clippings, and letters all meant to capture what life was like back then. That copper box was built into the cornerstone of the school.

Gander Academy
Gander Academy

More than six decades later, that building is now gone and replaced by a new modern facility. The time capsule was found and saved but the contents remained a mystery for the entire school year. Principal Collett Kelly acknowledged the anticipation for the big event was great.

"Opening up the time capsule was super exciting," said Kelly. "The children's eyes were beaming. That was pretty awesome."

Collett Kelly
Collett Kelly

The plan was to mark the end of the first year in the new school with a grand unveiling of the time capsule. Vice-principal Tracy Templeman admits that waiting to see what was hidden inside allowed for imaginations to run wild.

"I think that given the fact that these students were with us last year when we found the box, " said Templeman, "they anticipated for a whole year what could be inside."

Collett Kelly
Collett Kelly

One of those students was Emma LaCour, a Grade 3 student who was selected to lead the unveiling. Emma admits she was nervous about the job.

"Yeah, I was really scared," said Lacour. "I never really talked in front of a big crowd before. I thought I was going to mess up the words or something."

She didn't. She expertly introduced the officials in attendance which included Health Minister John Haggie and Gander Mayor Percy Farwell.

After some speeches and an enthusiastic rendition of the official Gander Academy song by the school choir, the time capsule was finally cracked open.

All eyes fixated on a small flat rectangular box covered in a deep green and black patina. As they slowly lifted the cover, its insides shone with a brilliant copper that reflected the fluorescent lights of the gymnasium.

There was an audible gasp from the students who were impatiently waiting to see what was inside. Some were sitting just a few meters away, while others watched from their classrooms on television screens. Some teachers and staff filmed the unveiling with their smart phones.

It was all in stark contrast to what onlookers would have been doing 65 years ago, when the box was originally sealed.

Martin Jones/CBC
Martin Jones/CBC

The contents served as a time machine back to a era when a new Pontiac would cost you just $2,794 and a new pair of shoes sold for $2.98. There was a yellowed copy of The Daily News featuring world events in pictures. Buried under the paper, students unearthed a photograph of a school hockey team with young men wearing Hunt Memorial Academy jerseys. A quick Google Search allowed onlookers to remember that was the name of the school before it was renamed Gander Academy. There was also a collection of coins, some dated before Newfoundland became a province of Canada.

Martin Jones/CBC
Martin Jones/CBC

The excitement for the time capsule wasn't limited to just those at Gander Academy. According to Principal Kelly, the unveiling, which was live streamed on the school's social media pages, became a community event.

"It was amazing how people had added themselves because they wanted to see it and watch it live," Kelly said. "It was a huge deal for the Town of Gander."

Martin Jones/CBC
Martin Jones/CBC

The time capsule tradition will continue at Gander Academy. A brand new one has now been created, this one from plastic tubing rather than copper. As for what's inside it, Principal Kelly gave some hints.

"So we've asked every class to put two items in the time capsule, " explains Kelly. "We're hoping that with the teacher's help it pertains to the kids themselves. I know that one of the teachers put in a fidget spinner."

What would a 2022 time capsule be without something related to COVID-19? After all, for most of the current Gander Academy students, learning under COVID restrictions is all they know. Vice-principal Templeman says a few COVID items, including a face mask, have been included.

"We're the first group of students in a very, very long time that have actually lived through a pandemic," said Templeman. "So that was pretty exciting, too, to put that in there. And I think they're hoping that it's put away for good."

Gander Academy
Gander Academy

There is no cornerstone in the new school but staff have already secured a safe place for the time capsule. It will be tucked safely inside a glass display cabinet, out of sight, in the front foyer of the school. Its contents will remain a secret until the official unveiling 75 years from now. Principal Kelly wonders if she should leave a note to ensure it's found.

"I'm not going to be here, but I'm hopeful they will find it," jokes Kelly. "I have to engrave it somewhere in the school before I go that the time capsule is here."

When the new time capsule is opened in 2097, current Gander Academy students will be in their 80s, possibly with grandchildren or great grandchildren of their own, who could themselves be watching as that time capsule is opened.

They, too, will find tokens and treasures, newspaper clippings, and letters all meant to capture what life was like back in 2022.

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