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Red Deer unearths time capsule buried in 1963

Before the ceremony that unearthed artifacts from Red Deer’s history in a time capsule, a treasure hunt had to take place.

Buried in 1963, the time capsule marking the city’s golden anniversary was moved in 1997 after the city undertook some renovations that covered the old signage. The installation of the wheelchair ramp covered the original location of the time capsule, so it was moved.

At first they didn’t know where it had been relocated to. But with some sleuthing, and the assistance of local historian Michael Dawe, they tracked it down.

Mayor Morris Flewwelling said the hunt to find the time capsule was as interesting as opening up the 50-year-old container.

“The hunt to find it was quite interesting,” said Flewwelling. “The official records showed it was located in the corner of City Hall ... at some point when they did the renovations and pushed the floors upward, they created a matching plaque. They put one in the west and one in the east.

“When they put the ramp in, it covered the plaque. You wouldn’t have the plaque behind the ramp because nobody could see it. So they moved it and when they moved the plaque, they found the capsule and they brought it out. Then it was not clear where they put it — we were pretty sure it was behind one of the plaques, but we didn’t know which one. So we did a bit of X-ray work and figured out it was the west one.”

More than 100 people gathered in City Hall Park on Monday as the new time capsule, marking the city’s centennial, was lowered by a crane into a two-metre-deep hole on the northern side of the park. It will be cemented over and marked with a plaque so the future unearthing won’t involve a hunt to find it.

After the new time capsule was put into the ground, the ceremony was moved indoors to the library, where the mayor opened the old capsule.

Included in the 1963 time capsule was a letter from the mayor at the time, Ernest Newman; a piece of microfilm of the March 25, 1963, Red Deer Advocate; a golden jubilee certificate (they were handed out to residents who lived in Red Deer from 1913 to 1963) and a copy of the city’s contract for the construction of the new City Hall, which cost $789,148 to build in 1963.

“We had no indication of what was in it at all,” said Flewwelling. “The certificate from the 50th anniversary to me was quite significant. I don’t know, I wasn’t sufficiently aware of Red Deer in those days that I know anybody who has one of those certificates and I don’t know if we have any of them in the archives.”

Added to the capsule when it was relocated in 1997 were a number of Red Deer pins, keychains, the city’s 1996 strategic plan, a copy of the Red Deer Advocate on a disk, a letter and picture from Red Deer’s first female mayor, Gail Surkan, and a loonie, penny and toonie, which were still new at the time.

Like his predecessors Flewwelling wrote a letter for the 2013 time capsule. His six-page letter was written to Red Deerians in 2063.

“I framed what Red Deer is all about for the last 100 years, speaking about our values, goals, environmental concerns, care for the community and diversity,” said Flewwelling. “I hoped it would give them a framework to understand Red Deer in 2063 and that those values are enduring values.”

There is roughly three times as many items going into the 2013 time capsule, about 60 kg of material was added.

Though Flewwelling was not specific on the contents of the new time capsule, saying it was for those who opened it to discover, he did say there were photos, letters, publications, newspapers, some money, student art and numerous other items.

Some items the Advocate submitted for the 2013 time capsule included a copy of the 100th anniversary book the paper produced, a copy of the special publication Report on Central Alberta, recent editions of the paper and a copy of a lecture given by online editor Leo Pare on the current state of the newspaper industry.

“This was one of the reasons I chose to run for this term,” said Flewwelling. “I thought there is no better way to cap off a career of 21 years in public life than to be the mayor of the city for the centennial. I found that very exciting, and I’m finding it very moving.”



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