Middlebury time capsule reveals trove of artifacts

MIDDLEBURY — Bob Myrick was the picture of tranquility among a sea of excited faces assembled in the lobby of the Middlebury municipal building Tuesday evening for the long-anticipated solution to a local mystery.

What was in the 77-year-old time capsule found in a cornerstone of the old municipal gym now being demolished at 94 Main Street?

Myrick’s telltale smile revealed that the 91-year-old knew what was in the non-descript copper box. After all, he was watching from the adjacent Middlebury High School back on April 13, 1939, when they slipped the time capsule into a solid hiding place that would help it survive an average human lifespan of Vermont winters.

“My name is in there, supposedly,” he said with a chuckle from his V.I.P. seat near the table on which the time capsule sat. “Every class that was in school at the time, I think they put a list of the students’ names in there.”

Myrick was a sophomore at the time. He and his classmates were allowed to stand on the lawn and view the ceremony during which the time capsule was filled and secreted for an unknown generation to find.

Asked if it was an exciting event back then, Myrick replied, “Aw, we were only kids.

“It was one more class we didn’t have to go to.”

At Tuesday’s ceremony Myrick and another Middlebury High School student of the day — Hilda Billings — were brought even closer to the table as Middlebury Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay, her hands clad in blue gloves, gently removed the contents from the capsule.

The payoff was only paper — but it told volumes about a then-brand-new gym and the turbulent international era in which it was built. People also learned, through ads in the Middlebury Register and Addison County Journal (the precursor to the Addison Independent) that you could buy a top-flight pair of shoes in those days for under four bucks.

The capsule’s contents included a list of names of the Middlebury High School directors, those instrumental in planning for the new gym, and school faculty.

Myrick’s memory was spot-on, as he was able to see his name on the roster of MHS students of 1939.

Also lifted from the box were the annual report of the MHS school board for 1937-1938; a copy of the school paper “Otter Tracks” that included a history of the school; a copy of the Register detailing the positive vote for the new, $137,000 gym; and a Sunday New York Times bearing such headlines as “Italians take Tirana, King Zog flees.”

The Register article noted, among other things, that the gym would likely have moved to the “fair grounds” (then in Middlebury) had the plan for 94 Main St. been rejected by voters.

Some of the approximately 50 onlookers on Tuesday donned blue archival gloves, like Ramsay, to comb through the preserved paperwork. Some let out gasps upon reading a familiar name or ad that conjured memories of a long-closed store of the day.

Hilda Billings attended MHS through 1937, so she was not around for the time capsule ceremony in ’39. Still, she had a connection to many of the names reposing in the capsule and wanted to be there for the grand unveiling. Her neighbor, Jane Levesque, brought her to Tuesday’s event.

Anne Baldwin was a member of the MHS class of 1950 and was 7 years old in 1939. She, too, wanted to be there on Tuesday for a nice dose of nostalgia.

“I’m sure there will be names in there that I recognize,” Baldwin said.

Marguerite Foster Holden, an MHS student back in 1939, couldn’t attend Tuesday’s ceremony. She’s receiving health care services in Brandon. But her daughter Marilyn Freeman was there, snapping photos to bring to her mom.

“The day (the capsule) was unearthed at the demo site, July 5, was my mom’s 93rd birthday,” she noted. “So that’s a neat twist. I have a  photo of her class (1942) in caps and gowns outside the building …  There were 36 students.”

Freeman was thrilled to find the MHS roster bearing her mom’s name. She also got to meet Myrick, who was her mom’s classmate.

“I’m really excited about taking the pictures back and showing her name on the (roster),” Freeman said.

The capsule and its contents will now have a permanent home in the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History.

Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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