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Opening Time Capsule Was True Norton Experience

There was history, emotions and more than a few good laughs

This past weekend my wife and I had the pleasure of attending the opening of the time capsule prepared by those celebrating the 250th birthday of our town in 1961.  It was opened as part of the ongoing Tri-Centennial celebration, and some of the town’s most distinguished individuals and families were present.

It was fun, as well as often emotional and meaningful. But the unsealing of the capsule was also something else. It was – well, very Norton. Rather uniquely Norton in fact, in a way that has to bring a smile to the face of any longtime native.

It began when someone from the crowd asked where the time capsule had been buried. Tri-Centennial Committee Chairman Daniel Rich joked that was top secret, but then Town Historian George Yelle admitted something interesting: The time capsule had actually never been buried.

Apparently town officials back then had plans to bury it, but it was placed in the vault at the old town hall (now the Old Town Hall Bookstore). It was left there after Wheaton College took over the building, discovered and taken to the current town hall where it was placed – you guessed it – in the vault. It remained there, covered and hidden by boxes and files until discovered by those searching for it for the 300th celebration.

Those folks back in 1961 may have forgotten to bury the capsule, but they were no slouches when it came to sealing it.  When their counterparts tried to open the capsule, they discovered it was going to be more difficult than they had thought.  The top of the vessel had been soldered, and removing it was no easy task. A hack saw had to be used, but eventually it came off and the crowd waited expectantly for the contents to be revealed.

The first object removed from the 1961 time capsule was a scrunched-up newspaper placed at the opening. It was spread out and examined, and the date on it turned out to be: February, 1962.  No one was quite sure how that happened, but it certainly was Norton-like.

Things went much more smoothly from there. Many items of both historical and sentimental value were discovered. There was a note from a father to his then eleven-year-old son, now 61 and there to read the communication from his deceased dad. There was a collection of essays on the topic of the 250th celebration, written by students in 1961 under the tutelage of teacher Lucille Zwicker – who more than a decade later was my English teacher at the same school. 

And there was a proclamation from former town official and Town Crier Charles Bruce, who among other things managed the last railroad station in Norton. I remember him as the kindly elderly man who hired me to mow his lawn when I was just a neighborhood kid.

It was truly a wonderful event, very small town and memorable to those fortunate enough to witness it. And it was very Norton, something that certainly meant a lot to this particular Townie.

It also taught those running the Tri-Centennial celebration a very important lesson:  Always remember to bury the time capsule. 

Ah, you just gotta love Norton.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and a lifelong resident of Norton.  He can be reached at aninsidelook@aol.com.

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