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A time capsule that lay hidden beneath the Frio County Courthouse lawn in downtown Pearsall for fifty years will finally be opened for public inspection Saturday, October 16.
The ceremony in which the contents of the plumbing pipe will be shown to the public is set to take place between 10 a.m. and noon at the Fireman’s Park pavilion, according to County Judge Arnulfo Luna this week.
The judge addressed county commissioners briefly on Monday, September 27, and said he had chosen the date in lieu of the original planned ceremony, which had been scheduled for August.
The Pearsall time capsule was buried during the city’s centennial in 1971 without a street-level marker and lay untouched for half a century, during which time many of those who had taken part in the original burial ceremony either died or forgot exactly where the pipe had been hidden.
The capsule may bring joy to descendants of those who took part in its burial.
A list of capsule contents had been retained by the county and by local historians over the years and included names of all those who had paid a nominal fee to drop envelopes into the PVC pipe before it was sealed. Items placed in the time capsule ranged from personal letters to the children and future grandchildren of 1971 Pearsall residents, to publications and everyday printed matter, magazines, newspapers and mementoes.
Recovering the time capsule earlier this year proved problematic, as the pipe contained very little detectable metal and could not be located from above ground. After repeated digs and a number of calls for help from the community, the county contracted an excavator who succeeded in extracting the 12-foot-long pipe from its burial site near the corner of the courthouse lawn on July 14.
The 12”-wide capsule had been inserted into a larger section of PVC pipe before being sunk into the soil.
Pearsall resident Ken Graf, who was a high school science teacher in 1971, said this summer that he had concerns local students had retrieved the pipe as a prank in 1971 and that the time capsule had, in fact, never been under the lawn for the past half century.
“They made lots of jokes about digging it up,” Graf said of the high school students of 1971. “When we could not find that thing, I called one of them and asked.”
Graf said he was relieved that the rumor was proven a hoax when the pipe was discovered. He had also been responsible for vacuum sealing the capsule and pumping nitrogen into the PVC pipe, as the gas was expected to help preserve the contents for fifty years.
“At that time, PVC pipe was considered a relatively new material,” the retired teacher said.
Graf said this summer that the pipe appeared to have survived its burial intact and that the contents may have been preserved in much the condition in which they were last seen.
Judge Luna said in July that the pipe appeared to have been buried deeper than this year’s excavators had thought, and confirmed that the capsule appeared to be intact when it was retrieved.
The 1971 centennial celebrations lasted a week and included a street dance, a parade, a washer pitching tournament, costume parties and a queen’s coronation.
Although no such celebrations were held for the sesquicentennial this year, Judge Luna has indicated he will entertain ideas for burial of another time capsule, which would be opened in 2071.
“I would like us to do something,” the judge said in July. “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.”
County staff are presently compiling an agenda for the Oct. 16 event at which the capsule will be opened.