Nfld. & Labrador

A 1957 time capsule was discovered at Gander Academy. Here's what they found

Gander Academy marked the end of the school year by cracking open a time capsule sealed in 1957. Sixty-five years later, staff and students eagerly waited to see what was inside.

The contents give students a glimpse into a life 65 years ago

A small copper box lays opened on a table. Inside is a silver ring and a collection of coins if various size and color.
A small copper box was used as a time capsule at Gander Academy 65 years ago. Recently, the box was unveiled and the mysteries of its contents were revealed. (Martin Jones/CBC)

The year was 1957. The Frisbee had just been invented. The Soviets had launched Sputnik into space, and Elvis Presley was all shook up to hit No. 1 on the music charts.

In the town of Gander, N.L., students and staff at Gander Academy filled a small copper box with tokens and treasures, newspaper clippings and letters, all meant to capture what life was like back then. That copper box was built into the cornerstone of the school.

A man uses a drill to cut into a brick wall surrounding a cornerstone to a school. Bits of brick are laying on the ground underneath it.
Hidden in the cornerstone of the school, staff at Gander Academy discover a time capsule sealed in 1957. The capsule was found before the building was demolished. (Gander Academy)

More than six decades later, that building is now gone, replaced by a modern new facility. The time capsule was found and saved but the contents remained a mystery for the entire school year.

Principal Collett Kelly told CBC News the anticipation for the big event was great.

"Opening up the time capsule was super-exciting," said Kelly. "The children's eyes were beaming. That was pretty awesome."

Two women stand side-by-side and smile as they take a selfie.
Gander Academy vice-principal Tracy Templeman, left, and principal Collett Kelly decided to unveil the time capsule at the year-end assembly. Like their students, they were eager to see what was inside the 65-year-old box. (Collett Kelly)

The plan was to mark the end of the first year in the new school with a grand unveiling of the time capsule. Vice-principal Tracy Templeman said waiting to see what was hidden inside allowed imaginations to run wild.

"I think that given the fact that these students were with us last year when we found the box," said Templeman, "they anticipated for a whole year what could be inside."

A young girl stands behind a podium with a microphone in hand. She smiles for the camera.
Grade 3 student Emma Lacour emceed the time capsule unveiling ceremony. She admits she was nervous speaking in front of a crowd for the first time. (Collett Kelly)

One of those students was Emma LaCour, a Grade 3 student who was selected to lead the unveiling. Emma admits she was nervous about the job.

"Yeah, I was really scared," said Lacour. "I never really talked in front of a big crowd before. I thought I was going to mess up the words or something."

She didn't. She expertly introduced the officials in attendance, who included Education Minister John Haggie and Gander Mayor Percy Farwell.

After some speeches and an enthusiastic rendition of the official Gander Academy song by the school choir, the time capsule was finally cracked open.

All eyes fixated on a small flat rectangular box covered in a deep green and black patina. As they slowly lifted the cover, its insides shone with a brilliant copper that reflected the fluorescent lights of the gymnasium.

There was an audible gasp from the students who were impatiently waiting to see what was inside. Some were sitting just a few metres away, while others watched from their classrooms on television screens. Some teachers and staff filmed the unveiling with their smart phones.

It was all in stark contrast to what onlookers would have been doing 65 years ago, when the box was sealed.

An old newspaper rests on a table. It's pages have yellowed with age and show pictures are major news events.
A section of the Daily News was found inside the Gander Academy time capsule. It's dated Wednesday, June 19, 1957. (Martin Jones/CBC)

The contents served as a time machine back to a era when a new Pontiac would cost you just $2,794 and a new pair of shoes sold for $2.98. There was a yellowed copy of the Daily News featuring world events in pictures. Buried under the paper, students unearthed a photograph of a school hockey team with young men wearing Hunt Memorial Academy jerseys. A quick Google search allowed onlookers to remember that was the name of the school before it was renamed Gander Academy. There was also a collection of coins, some dated before Newfoundland became a Canadian province. 

A collection of papers and clippings lay on a table. One shows a hockey team posing for a group photo.
A school paper shows a school hockey team with Hunt Memorial Academy jerseys. This was the name of the school before it was renamed Gander Academy in the 1950s. (Martin Jones/CBC)

The excitement for the time capsule wasn't limited to just those at Gander Academy. According to Kelly, the unveiling, which was live streamed on the school's social media pages, became a community event.

"It was amazing how people had added themselves because they wanted to see it and watch it live," Kelly said. "It was a huge deal for the Town of Gander."

A large black tube sits on a red table. There is a yellow decal of a bumblebee and the words Gander Academy Time Capsule 2021-2022 on it.
Gander Academy has created a new time capsule to be opened in 2097. It will contain items from each class and some face masks as a reminder of COVID-19. (Martin Jones/CBC)

The time capsule tradition will continue at Gander Academy. A new one has now been created, this one from plastic tubing rather than copper. As for what's inside it, Kelly gave some hints.

"So we've asked every class to put two items in the time capsule," said Kelly. "We're hoping that with the teacher's help it pertains to the kids themselves. I know that one of the teachers put in a fidget spinner."

What would a 2022 time capsule be without something related to COVID-19? After all, for most of the current Gander Academy students, learning under pandemic restrictions is all they know. Templeman says a few COVID items, including a face mask, have been included.

"We're the first group of students in a very, very long time that have actually lived through a pandemic," said Templeman. "So that was pretty exciting, too, to put that in there. And I think they're hoping that it's put away for good."

Two flags are located outside a blue and yellow building. The words Gander Academy are on the front of the building.
The new Gander Academy opened in 2021. It's a modern facility built in the same lot as the original school. (Gander Academy)

There is no cornerstone in the new school but staff have already secured a safe place for the time capsule. It will be tucked safely inside a glass display cabinet, out of sight, in the front foyer of the school. Its contents will remain a secret until the official unveiling 75 years from now. Kelly wonders if she should leave a note to ensure it's found.

"I'm not going to be here, but I'm hopeful they will find it," joked Kelly. "I have to engrave it somewhere in the school before I go that the time capsule is here."

When the new time capsule is opened in 2097, current Gander Academy students will be in their 80s, possibly with grandchildren or great-grandchildren of their own who could themselves be watching as that time capsule is opened.

They, too, will find tokens and treasures, newspaper clippings, and letters all meant to capture what life was like back in 2022. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


Martin Jones co-hosts CBC Newfoundland Morning each weekday from Gander.


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