1962 Nevada Union time capsule unearthed, across town from original spot
Special to The Union
It survived 57 years encased in concrete, and then the powerful jaws of a rock crusher.
A time capsule that lay hidden away at the Nevada Union High School campus was miraculously found Friday by a Hansen Bros. Enterprises worker at the Hansen Bros. yard.
“I saw it because it was shiny,” says Hansen Bros. lowbed driver Del McCown. “I tried to open it with a soldering gun, but figured out quickly that was not going to happen. I didn’t know what was inside. Maybe money or hazardous waste?
“Then I drilled three holes in the top and pried it open with a screwdriver. When I saw books inside, I figured it was a time capsule.”
How did the time capsule end up at the Hansen Bros. yard?
“We demo’d the NU parking lots and front entrance last year as part of the renovation project,” says company President Jeff Hansen. “We hauled all the concrete here. Every six months or so, we use a rock crusher to turn concrete into recycled base rock. The machine removes 99 percent of the metal in the concrete for scrap, and the conveyor belt tossed out that copper box that Del found.”
The plan to bury a time capsule is mentioned in several newspaper articles printed by The Union that were enclosed in the container. The news articles cover the planned dedication ceremony of the new Nevada Union Senior High School on May 28, 1961, although construction was not yet complete. The news stories indicate the time capsule, containing photos, directories and “other kindred artifacts of the day,” was to be sealed behind school monument plaques some time after the dedication ceremony.
Exactly when the time capsule was encased behind the plaque is unknown, but a small engraving inside states the container was made by the high school shop teacher on November 30, 1962. The capsule was scheduled to be opened May 28, 2000, according to news reports.
But everyone who knew about it, apparently forgot about it.
When Hansen and McCown delivered the mangled time capsule and its contents to Nevada Union High School Monday, staff were amazed by what was inside.
A type-written fact sheet describes Nevada City: “It is a charming little community of attractive homes, lovely gardens, clean well paved streets, abundant supply of pure water, most excellent schools and many churches.” The fact sheet also includes: “Water Rates: Based on number of people and area of property. $2.50 for three persons and small yard, minimum.”
An April 27, 1959 edition of The Union publicizing Public Schools Week is another gem discovered. The double-page spread includes photos and captions such as “The importance of using instruction materials other than the text book is receiving more attention. Audio material includes tape recordings and other instructional aids,” and “Electronics has become an important part of man’s life today …”
The time capsule included a 1960 phone book, plus four maps of Nevada County, Nevada City and Grass Valley which tout the area’s amenities: “Grass Valley has a population of 5,500 and is the principal market center for a foothill agricultural region embracing a large area. Loma Rica Ranch, closeby, is known to the world for fine horses.”
Nevada Union staff also marveled at photos and information included in 1955, 1958 and 1961 Nevada Union Senior High School Prospector yearbooks found inside the capsule.
“I’m so interested to read and discover more about it,” said Principal Kelly Rhoden. “I want to get in touch with some of these people and let them and their families come look at it all. I think we’ll put it in a display case for a while.”
Hansen is thrilled at what he discovered in the 1958 yearbook. That was the year his father, Orsen, graduated from high school. Orsen, who passed away in 2014, was featured among student photographs and in a Hansen Bros. advertisement showing Orsen running a bulldozer and driving a dump truck.
“Looking through it and finding my dad’s photos,” said Hansen, “made me feel that it was meant to be.”
Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. She can be reached at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.
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