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Sep 18, 2012 12:14 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Former Southampton Elementary School Students And Teachers Still Hope To Find 25-Year-Old Time Capsule

Sep 18, 2012 6:54 PM

Time seemed to get away from Southampton Elementary School alumni on Monday morning.

Gathered around a few Southampton Town workers, former students—now in their 30s—and teachers watched expectantly as shovels and dirt rose and fell swiftly to the ground.

A time capsule buried just outside Town Hall on September 17, 1987, was the object of everyone’s attention on Monday, exactly 25 years later. But after nearly an hour of removing a boulder marking its place, and digging through tree roots and thick dirt, the capsule was nowhere to be found.

“Right now, I’m dumbfounded,” said Clarence Pinckney, one of the diggers who had originally helped bury the time capsule all those years ago as a school custodian. “A lot of time has passed. Maybe it was moved or differently situated.”

As part of a celebration for the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution in 1987, students in kindergarten through the fourth grade all participated in putting together the capsule. But what went inside the PVC pipe is something of a mystery. Although the students and former teachers who showed up for the unearthing were enthusiastic about the time capsule, no one could remember exactly what they put into it.

“I can remember my class wanting to put in the prices of groceries and things to compare,” special education teacher Cindy Lou Wakefield said. Her third grade class came up with items to include for different categories, including technology. Ms. Wakefield and a couple of students remembered that a now-archaic floppy disk had been put inside the cache.

Although memories of the contents of the capsule seemed to have vanished, the group of Southampton alumni had plenty to reminisce about since coming together as a class once again 25 years later.

“Some things never change,” said Chris Murphy, who does tile and construction work in Southampton. “Everyone looks the same. No one has changed.”

Ms. Wakefield said she was delighted that her former students would come together once again.

“What keeps me smiling is that the kids remembered,” she said. “I’m thrilled that my former students remembered and have that connection 25 years later.”

As the hole was dug deeper, the group became concerned that their memories had been tampered with. Once the boulder was removed and it became obvious that the time capsule was nowhere to be found, people became curious as to what happened to it.

Jennifer Bennett, who brought her 4-year-old daughter, Madison, with her, said she and three others remembered the boulder being much closer to Southampton Elementary School when it was placed on top of the capsule. But others said no major change to the landscape had been made since before the capsule was buried.

There is still a chance the capsule could be found. A large slab of concrete cemented to the boulder could still contain the capsule. School and town officials resolved to break that open later this week and to continue digging if the time capsule isn’t found under the boulder.

“It’s exciting, but now it’s a mystery,” Ms. Wakefield said.

If the capsule is found, Ms. Wakefield and Cathy Musick, an enrichment teacher in the district, plan to catalog, document and archive the artifacts with current Southampton Elementary School students.

“The past meets the present meets the future,” Ms. Wakefield said. “Those of us who were here 25 years ago are putting our memories together, as if working collaboratively on a puzzle.”

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