- Associated Press - Saturday, May 13, 2017

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - For the past 26 years, a polished stone block with the year “1989” carved into it has been hiding a secret at Childs Elementary School: a time capsule, placed there in 1991.

The children who walked past it on their way to recess every day didn’t know about it. The groundskeepers who maintained the school lawn didn’t know about it. Until recently, not even principal Chris Finley knew about it.

But Suzanne Georg, who was a student at Childs in the late 1980s, knew about it. In 1991, she helped to put it there - and on May 5, she returned to open it up.

The time capsule

When Georg was in the sixth grade in 1991, girls wore scrunchies in their hair. Her classmates wore brightly hued Umbros soccer shorts, lots of denim and Hypercolor T-shirts, which changed color with heat if you pressed your hand to them. The boys were obsessed with baseball cards, and the girls swooned over the New Kids on the Block.

On May 5, when Georg arrived at Childs, she and two classmates_Heather Conner and Craig Smith_looked as though they had never heard of Umbros. But as they followed Finley down to Childs’ lower floor, they recounted other aspects of their school years.

The time the class stumbled upon a swarm of yellow jackets outside, and everyone got stung. Watching the news coverage of the 1986 Challenger explosion in one of the classrooms. Going behind the school when it snowed, and sledding down a hill that no longer exists.

Childs added an extension in 1989, building over the hill so it could keep up with a swelling student population. The addition was completed by 1991. Just before they graduated, the sixth-grade class put the finishing touch on the construction by sealing a time capsule behind the “1989” block that marked when construction began.

Georg and her classmates moved from Childs to Batchelor Middle School, then from Batchelor to Bloomington High School South. The group scattered after graduation, but when Georg met up with her old classmates or touched base over social media, the time capsule came up often.

“I think it’s been in the back of a lot of people’s heads,” Georg said May 5. Luckily, Conner had kept a clipping from The Herald-Times from the day they sealed the capsule into the wall. They were a year late_they had planned to open the capsule in 2016_but Georg contacted Finley anyway.

“She called out of the blue,” said Finley, who had never heard of the time capsule. “And thankfully, she had that picture, so we knew exactly where it was.”

May 5, Georg, Conner and Smith stood by as maintenance workers lifted the block from its place on a corner at the back of the school. Together, they reached forward and extracted a metal box_somewhat rusted but still dry, with the word “Childs” written on top in faded permanent marker.

They opened the time capsule in Karen Johnson’s classroom, where Childs’ current sixth-grade classes craned for a look at the treasures they pulled out, one by one.

A worn, silky pair of ballet slippers. Several baseball cards, edges tattered despite their previous owners’ best efforts. A replica of a baseball signed by the New York Mets. A completed Drug Abuse Resistance Education workbook. A comic book about the adventures of Ralph Snart.

The class marveled aloud at some of the items the Childs alumni pulled from the box. “It’s all in cursive!” one shouted, looking at the handwritten notes students had written to their future selves. Another remarked, “The dollar didn’t change at all? Really?”

Gabriel Felix raised his hand and asked, “Do you know what was trending back then?”

“That was not a word in any of our vocabularies,” Georg answered.

Letters and more

Later, in a conference room, the three emissaries of the 1991 class took a more thorough survey of the time capsule, particularly the letters students had written to their future selves. The contents were more personal, such as a buried love letter one student hadn’t had the courage to give to his crush.

Others were more telling of the times. In 1990-91, the U.S. had been fighting in the Persian Gulf War. Georg said she barely remembers the war now, but it must have been important, because the letters were filled with peace signs. A few expressed worries about the environment. One wrote that he expected the world would be “very, very polluted” by 2016. A letter signed by Kelli Wilson was more optimistic: “I hope this problem is taken care of by now!”

Time had inflated their expectations for what they’d left for their future selves. Georg said she was a little disappointed the box didn’t contain more knickknacks. Conner agreed, saying she’d expected to find a New Kids on the Block cassette. Looking up the values on his phone, Smith revealed a little regretfully that the old baseball cards weren’t worth much.

But that didn’t change the delight they felt at finally opening the box. They spread out the letters and read portions aloud, lovingly pausing over the names of favorite teachers and classmates, comparing their past dreams to their present realities.

The students in the 1991 class had gone from kindergarten to sixth grade together, Georg said, and they stayed mostly in the same group in middle and high school. Of the 35 students in her class, Georg said, she still considers 10 to 12 of them good friends, including Smith and Conner.

Though they don’t necessarily talk often, Georg said, “I feel so close and connected to all these people. We went through the growing pains together.”

Finley said that was the special thing about Childs: Because the student population is not very transient, many pupils form friendships in kindergarten that last them through their elementary years and beyond.

He’s hoping that’s what the current sixth-graders think about over the next few weeks. Before the school year is out, he plans to have the sixth-grade class refill the box with their own letters and artifacts. They’ll seal it up and hide in the same place as the first one.

And 25 years from now, they’ll return to open it up, revisit their past selves and marvel at how the times have changed.

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Source: The (Bloomington) Herald Times, https://bit.ly/2qTpfG0

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Information from: The Herald Times, https://www.heraldtimesonline.com

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

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