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Pipe buried in 1971 contains letters, mementoes of county’s centennial
A time capsule buried in the Frio County Courthouse lawn in 1971 has been recovered and will be opened during a special ceremony next month.
Extensive research by county officials responsible for organizing the excavation during the past three months included a call for assistance from the public, as the 50-year-old tube full of mementoes was hard to locate, according to County Judge Arnulfo Luna.
Efforts to find the pipe were confounded by the lack of a marker above its burial spot and persistent rumors that the container had already been removed as a prank by members of the Pearsall Class of 1971.
The time capsule was buried as part of the county’s centennial celebrations and is being opened this year for Frio’s sesquicentennial, although a ceremony to mark the anniversary was held earlier this year.
Workers digging near a monument in the northwest corner of the courthouse lawn discovered the time capsule on Wednesday, July 14, and lifted it out of the ground.
The capsule consists of a 10’ length of 10” PVC pipe containing scores of letters, coins and souvenirs of 1971 contributed by local residents who purchased envelopes that would be inserted into the container. The pipe was sealed inside a 12” section of PVC and is believed to have remained air- and watertight for the duration.
Pearsall resident Ken Graf, who was a high school science teacher in 1971, said last week that he and his wife Jackie Woodward Graf were joined by Pearsall city employee Richard Cantu in prepping the capsule for burial on the night before the ceremony. The volunteers dropped approximately 75 envelopes into the capsule and added some reading material that included magazines and newspapers before capping the pipe.
Graf then used a pump to extract the air from the container and filled it with dried nitrogen which he said this week may have helped keep the contents in pristine condition. The nitrogen was donated by the McClellan welding shop.
“The PVC pipe was kind of a new thing in 1971,” Graf said this week. “It was a bit expensive at the time.”
The pipe sections for the time capsule were donated by the San Antonio-based Stewart and Stevenson irrigation company, a contribution secured by project leader Kerry Yeager.
Centennial celebrations in 1971 lasted a week and included a parade, a washer-pitching tournament, a street dance, costume parties and a queen’s coronation.
Judge Luna said last week that he expects to host a ceremony on August 21, when the time capsule will be opened and its contents revealed.
The judge said he had been unaware of the capsule’s existence before this year but was told in February that the container had been buried in the lawn. He said a number of inquiries had been made but that most callers were unsure of the capsule’s exact location.
Initial failures to find the capsule furthered Graf’s fears that the container had, in fact, been removed by pranksters.
“They made lots of threats about digging it up,” the retired teacher said last week. “When we could not find that thing, I called one of them and asked.”
Ike McKinley directed the excavation that uncovered the capsule from its burial six feet below ground and close to the memorial on the corner of the lawn.
“We just were not digging deep enough,” Pastor David Bachelor said as county employees dug up the capsule Wednesday morning.
“It may not be one-hundred percent pristine as we think it is,” Graf said. “But hopefully we can read the contents.”
“The capsule was buried deep and still intact,” the county judge said.
Luna added that he is entertaining suggestions regarding burial of a new 50-year time capsule.
“I would like us to do something,” the judge said. “Maybe if we can get someone to donate the PVC of the same size, we could sell envelopes again and fill the capsule with things. I will not be around in fifty years, but this would be for my kids and grandkids.”