For those who can remember, there was plenty happening on Martha’s Vineyard in 1967. Gus Ben David created a floating island in Sunset Lake for nesting swans; the Tisbury police station was shot up by “vandals”; a new dock was built in Oak Bluffs; plans were announced to build a brand-new grocery store — A&P; Dairy Queen announced it would be coming to the Island; Vineyarders traveled to Montreal’s Expo ’67; and friends of the library moved the Vineyard Haven library to a new location.
For the Tisbury School’s sixth grade class of 1967, that year was also special because they got a chance to make history — or at least preserve it — by placing a time capsule filled with items they selected in the walls of the Vineyard Haven library.
Together with their teacher, Mrs. E. Everett Howell, the 22 students marched down to the library and stowed prized possessions, mementos, and soon-to-be-historical documents in a copper box constructed by Edmund Donald. The students cobbled together $12.50 to have the box made by doing tasks for their family and neighbors.
On Saturday afternoon, that time capsule was opened after having spent 50 years within the library’s walls. Of the original group of students,13 were in attendance, along with family, friends, and curious community members. Most of the students forgot what they put into the time capsule, but were eager to pore over its contents.
Library director Amy Ryan pulled the copper box out of the wall; it was ceremoniously marked with a plaque, which read, “Time Capsule, prepared by grade 6 Tisbury School. Placed here January 1967. To be opened in the year 2017.”
Linda Alley was selected by a raffle to open the copper box, which proved to be an unfortunate task. The box seemed to be made to withstand a nuclear disaster, and after 50 years of acting as building insulation, it was a tough nut to crack. It took Ms. Alley and Tim Corner several attempts with a hammer and chisel and 15 minutes to finally get the box open.
“This box did not come with instructions,” Ms. Ryan said as they struggled to open it.
The reveal was worth the wait, however. As the contents of the box were gingerly laid on the table, they told a story of their own about the times in which these students lived.
There were multiple maps of Martha’s Vineyard, the 1965 Tisbury annual report, a full edition of the Vineyard Gazette from Jan. 12, 1967, an SSA schedule, and old photos of the library and the school. Cards from the Expo ’67 trip covered the table, next to an edition of Current Science about the moon, and a school exam.
A $2 bill and coins of all denominations were taped to paper, presumably in case our currency system changed. Possibly the most shocking bit of information to come from the capsule was a list of the rates for a round-trip ferry ride — $3.15 round-trip for an adult, $10.25 round-trip with a car.
There were a variety of popular culture items as well, such as foods and haircuts of the day, Matchbox cars, milkshake powder mix, instant coffee, and a 12-inch single of “She’s a Woman” by the Beatles.
As Tisbury Fire Chief John Schilling perused the various publications from the day, he pointed out stories that could have been written in 2017. There was uproar about traffic on Main Street and complaints about subpar phone service in Chilmark.
“Not much has changed,” Mr. Schilling said.
Lester Baptiste was surprised there were no baseball cards or more information about the space program, which he remembers as being a huge deal. Mr. Baptiste oversaw the relocation of the box when the library was renovated in 1995.
The eyes of former classmates and spectators were glued to the table for the remainder of the afternoon as they refamiliarized themselves with their past.
The items from the time capsule will be on display in the front case at the Vineyard Haven library through May and June.