Time capsules — a cache of information and physical items put in a sealed container before being buried or encased in a wall — are always placed with much fanfare with the expectation they will be opened 50 or 100 years later.
But does anyone ever open them considering no one is usually still around that has knowledge that they even exist or where they were placed especially time capsules intended to be opened a century later?
A prime example of that dilemma exists with what is likely the oldest time capsule in Manteca. It is the time capsule the International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) organization put together to mark the start of their two-story lodge building in 1913 that today looms as the anchor building in downtown housing Manteca Bedquarters on the northwest corner of Main Street and Yosemite Avenue.
The fact the Oddfellows had a time capsule is know because Janice Zacharias was looking for information about the East Union Cemetery and came across a Manteca Enterprise newspaper — one of two newspapers combined under the Manteca Bulletin nameplate — from 1913 that contained a story about the time capsule ceremony.
What no one knows — including Steve Lewis who is one of today’s owners of the building — is whether it has ever been opened. The 100th anniversary of the building was acknowledged in a 2013 edition of the Manteca Bulletin thanks to the efforts of the late Ken Hafer whose passion was Manteca and its histotry. There was no reference in material provided by Hafer that there was a time capsule.
And the story in the Manteca Enterprise mentioned the contents but not when it should be opened.
“We don’t know if it was opened 50 years ago or at some other time or if it is still in there,” noted Ron Cruz.
Cruz got involved when Zacharias — who was curious if one of the photos placed in the time capsule might be of the East Union Cemetery — mentioned it to him. Cruz happened to know Lewis and arranged for the two to meet Friday along with Janet Fiore who also helps oversee the cemetery.
Lewis decided that they should remove the cornerstone, take out the time capsule if it is there, and then put the cornerstone back in place. The 1913 story of the cornerstone’s description of having the IOOF logo of three rings plus the year “1913” engraved in it matches exactly with a concrete “block” that is part of the modern-day facade of the building.
Given time capsule containers are traditionally made of zinc, copper or other metal, Fiore retrieved her metal detector and checked the concrete block. Based on the readings there is something metal in the cornerstone.
If the time capsule is indeed inside and hasn’t been previously opened the original newspaper story says it should include an edition of the Manteca enterprise, irrigation notes — a reference to either the South San Joaquin Irrigation District operations or the newsletter they published that morphed into the Irrigation Bulletin newspaper — lodge notes, and various photos taken around Manteca.
The cornerstone is expected to be removed within the next few days to see what — if anything — is inside.
IOOF is not the only
time capsule mystery
The questions around the IOOF time capsule are not unusual.
When items going into the City of Manteca’s centennial time capsule marking the 100th anniversary of the city’s corporation were displayed last year at ceremonies at the cemetery where it will be hired under the historic entrance arch along with a concrete monument so people in the future will know what is buried there, questions were raised about the city hall time capsule and if one even exists.
Mayor Ben Cantu knows there are two.
“I can’t tell you where the original time capsule was buried when they built the first phase (in 1978) but the one they placed when they built the annex is being the plaque on the finance building,” said Cantu who worked in the community development department at city hall for nearly 30 years.
The time capsule at the original city hall built in 1923 was apparently removed when the building was sold as the location where it was supposed to have been placed no longer matches the rest of the facade.
The time capsule may have been re-placed at the “new” city hall and items possibly added.
If that is the case it would contain — based on a story in the Nov. 6, 1923 Manteca Bulletin — a copy of the 1923 Manteca Union High yearbook “The Tower”, the October 1923 edition of Pacific Telephone Magazine, a copy of the Manteca Telephone Directory, various employee rosters of businesses, the history of various churches and businesses, a photo of Joshua Cowell, various postage stamps — Harding Memorial 2 cent stamp as well as regular 1 cent and 2 cent stamps — plus currency and coins minted in 1923 including a dollar, half dollar, nickel, and dime.
As for where the oldest time capsule might be at the current Civic Center at 1001 W. Center St., Cantu jokingly suggested “they may want to get a dog trained to sniff out time capsules.”
The city is not the only entity that doesn’t know where time capsules were placed or if they were opened and removed. A few years ago when Manteca Unified was marking its 50th anniversary, a bid was made to determine the status of a time capsule that was supposedly buried at the old Yosemite Grammar School that is now the Manteca Day School.
The only other “known” time capsule of community-wide consequence was placed in the cornerstone of the Maple Avenue Post Office when the original part of the structure was built in 1939.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com