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ELEMENTARY REUNION: Beach school class meets after 32 years

October 23, 2013
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The Beach Elementary fifth grade class of 1980-81 celebrated a primary school reunion last Saturday by trying to uncover a time capsule that was buried within one of the school walls some 32 years ago.

Nine members of the 30-member class met at the island school to hold a meeting and determine the hidden capsule's whereabouts and view its contents on school grounds if found.

Unfortunately, since the school structure has been altered during the interim timeframe including Hurricane Charley damage, the time capsule was not found. The former classmates were dismayed but continued their reuniting vacation with a barbecue at The Lighthouse Resort Inn & Suites where many were staying.

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Beach school fifth graders from 1980-81 returned to their elementary roots on Saturday to try to find a hidden time capsule and hold a reunion.

"We had all put something personal in the time capsule," said Joy Miller, one of the former Beach school fifth graders. "It's about the history, how we grew up and what that time was like. It's good to revisit and get to know old classmates again."

"It was great to reminisce about riding our bikes and rollerskating, the crazy people on the beach, the trouble we got into and the spankings," added Dawn Myers, who traveled the furthest (Minneapolis) to come to the event.

"(A former principal) used to have a paddle with holes in it," said classmate Kerry McCarthy in clarifying the spankings.

Principal Larry Wood, who embraced the idea of having nearly half of that classes' students return for such an event, had given a strong effort to help locate the missing artifact before the event.

Ironically, when Miller, a Fort Myers resident, first contacted Principal Wood about the time capsule, school officials were actually in the process of looking to find the buried artifact for a planned mid-November event to celebrate the school's 65 years of existence.

"I knew there was a time capsule somewhere," he said. "In July, we decided we were going to celebrate our 65th anniversary in November and find the time capsule and open it. A week later, Joy called me and told me her class had set up a reunion in October and wanted to know if they could pay to take the time capsule out."

"That was pure serendipity," added Williams. "We had no idea that they were looking for it, and they had no idea that we knew about it or had an interest. In talking with former classmates, we confirmed where we knew where it was. So, we got the ball rolling from there."

Principal Wood called the coincidence "eery" because of timing (one week apart) and the odd time (32 years, not a milestone like 25 or 50 years).

"Maybe the stars are aligning," he quipped.

Prior efforts included having members of the Beach Fire Department come out and use infrared tactics. That method was unsuccessful in finding the tube-shape cylinder.

Wood then met with Miller at the school to physically see if the two could pinpoint the location. Miller had conferred with other former classmates and showed the current principal where they thought the time capsule was buried.

"Where she pointed out used to be a doorway," Wood said.

Beach Chamber President Bud Nocera loaned the school an inspection camera so that officials could drill holes in the former doorway and view within the walls where the capsule was thought to be. That technique was also unsuccessful due to two layers of drywall and pink insulation in the way.

"Because of that, all we could see was pink," said Wood.

Miller was asked to again confer with her classmates to make sure of the exact location of the burial. Eventually, Saturday's meeting was set.

The group and school officials collectively decided tearing up school walls would not be best for anyone. So, one specific wall was drilled into, but the results were dismal.

"We are very grateful to Principal Wood for letting us come in and at least trying to find the capsule," said McCarthy. "We spent a lot of time doing research. It was a special time in our fifth grade before we left the school in leaving the capsule."

According to a Beach Observer article in 1981, the time capsule was placed within a "crawl space" in the wall.

"If it's under the flooring, (Hurricane) Charley took it out," said Wood. "Everything that was under there was taken out. We do have a wall that has some plumbing in it. The capsule could have been placed in between."

While the reunion class was unsuccessful in its quest, Beach school officials will keep trying to locate the missing capsule. Wood said Beach Fire would again be asked to try infrared measures on the same wall that was drilled into. Beach fire fighter Tom Glover is a member of the same fifth grade class.

The school's 65th anniversary is less than one month away on Nov. 16.

If found, Principal Wood has asked the classmates to return to check out the contents of the time capsule, which should include a school disciplinary code, the annual report to parents, a roster of school board employees, recipes from the cafeteria staff at the time and a personal note from the school custodian. Miller said she would be there.

Another time capsule is being planned to be buried in November. A flash drive will be one item to bury.

"We're thinking about putting a new one in there with things that are indicative of the current times," said Wood. "Then, we're talking about putting up a plaque of some time to commemorate the site."

With a plaque, locating this time capsule 25 years or so in the future should be an easier quest.



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