Students dig up 20-year-old time capsule

jmink@macon.comMay 11, 2014 

When Reginald Eldridge was in elementary school, he buried a newspaper photograph of himself dressed as a pirate and a casette tape of messages from his family members, including his grandfather.

Twenty years later, Eldridge was holding those items again. So much has changed -- he is now grown, living in Chicago, and his grandfather has died. But, when school leaders cracked open Sunday a 1994 time capsule at Heard Elementary School, Eldridge was transported back to his childhood.

“It’s not something everybody gets an opportunity to do, to engage with the past, with the memories,” he said. “This gives me an opportunity to reconnect with a part of myself.”

In 1994, first-through sixth-grade gifted students from Heard and Porter elementary schools buried a time capsule to preserve a part of themselves and a part of the past. On Sunday, more than 100 people packed the Heard Elementary School auditorium as the metal, rusty box was unhinged.

Students made collages of their baby photos. They wrapped up baseball cards, dolls and books. They wrote letters to themselves as adults, and, on Mother’s Day, many former students opened letters their mothers had written for them and buried in the time capsule.

It was a tearful time for several former students whose mothers have died since then. Jennifer Dugan’s mother died last year, and the Macon resident wiped away tears as she collected a pair of her baby shoes that had been buried.

“I’m sure she put that in there,” she said about her late mother.

Twenty years ago, teacher Michelle Gowan had led her students in the time capsule project. On Sunday, she tearfully embraced her grown former students, as she passed out forgotten treasures from their past. When they buried the capsule, Gowan had passed out save-the-date cards for May 11, 2014, when the treasure would be dug up. For the past couple of years, Gowan’s former students have been reminding her of the upcoming event. About 58 of Gowan’s former students had placed personal items in the box, and she expected about 45 of them to show up Sunday. Many, such as Eldridge, traveled from other states. And a few students joined the event through an online calling system, one of them watching the capsule opening from England.

“It does surprise me because they are not children anymore,” Gowan said about the turnout. “But they all remembered. They just remembered. They remember what a big deal it was.”

It was such a big deal for Leslie Corzine Hennes that she traveled from North Carolina to snag her childhood treasure. The students buried their time capsule on Hennes’ 10th birthday -- and they unhinged it on her 30th birthday.

“It’s just really cool,” she said. “These are people I’ve known for 20 years.”

Hennes beamed as she received a poster she had created for herself at the age of 10. The poster read: “A girl without freckles is like a night without stars.”

Others laughed as they received baby teeth and comic books and expired baseball tickets for the Macon Braves.

Eldridge sat with his family, grasping a tape with a message from his late grandfather and other family members.

“It feels great to have this,” he said.

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 744-4331.

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