A crowd gathers around the uncovered time capsule at Santa Lucia Elementary School before the items from 1970 are brought out for the first time in more than half a century during the April 29 ceremony. (Sean Roney)

KING CITY — Officials at Santa Lucia Elementary School in King City opened a time capsule from 1970 on April 29, after the Covid-19 pandemic delayed the originally planned 2020 opening. 

The school’s 570 current students and their teachers were in attendance for the ceremony, along with dozens of former students who put items into the capsule and their family members.

The contents of the capsule were plastic bags full of everyday school items. Many bags had textbooks, letters from students and photos. Other small pouches held toys, from small cars to pieces of erasers.

“They could put anything they wanted to in there,” said Norma Harless, who was a second-grade teacher in 1970 and went by Mrs. Ashley. “I told my students, pick out something that’s super special to you.”

Santa Lucia Principal Brinet Greenlee takes the first shovel of dirt off the top of the 1970 time capsule during the unearthing ceremony on April 29. (Sean Roney)

Harless was the one teacher present, along with some of her former students. She said the gathering itself was like a small reunion.

“We’ve been waiting for this day for two years,” said Brinet Greenlee, principal at Santa Lucia. “This was supposed to be opened on May 1, 2020.”

Greenlee gave special thanks to the district maintenance staff for spending four days digging and excavating over the course of two weeks in order to prepare for the final reveal. She assured the guests the capsule hadn’t been tampered with and nothing had been taken out of the metal drum buried for more than half a century.

“We are going to be seeing it all together for the first time,” Greenlee said, moments before she invited officials and community members over to remove the last few shovel-fulls of dirt. “Whoever put it in place seemed like they really didn’t want it to ever be opened again.”

Santa Lucia Principal Brinet Greenlee opens the first bag of student items after the opening of the 1970 time capsule. (Sean Roney)

John Sims, director of maintenance, operations, transportation and facilities, said three staffers needed to jackhammer through a four-inch layer of concrete in addition to digging.

“There was very little rust on the lid, which was encouraging because if the lid’s not rusted, then that means the stuff inside is probably pretty good,” Sims said.

Once the capsule was opened, bags were pulled from the drum and former students were invited over to open bags from their classrooms. 

Lupe Ramirez examines portraits from Mrs. Pena’s third-grade class back in 1970, as one of the first former students to get a chance to examine the items from the unearthed time capsule on April 29. (Sean Roney)

One of the first was Lupe Ramirez, who opened a bag from Mrs. Pena’s third-grade class. She, like many others seeing pieces of their past from 50 years ago, was elated to find photos of her classmates and open containers with student keepsakes.

Bags were taken to a series of tables as former students and community members crowded around to see what was inside. 

Some of the standout items for Greenlee were the textbooks. She said the difference between books from 1970 and today was striking. She also noted the condition of the toys and how that provided insight into student minds.

Community members gather around a table as items are recovered from a 1970 time capsule at Santa Lucia School in King City on April 29. (Sean Roney)

“Kids still love Hot Wheels, but they’re missing a wheel or are scratched up a little bit,” Greenlee said. “So I imagine a little second grader saying, ‘I’m not giving you my best Hot Wheel, so I’ll put this one in there because it doesn’t have a wheel anymore.’”

Although the ceremony was more for former students, Greenlee said the school’s current students would soon get a chance to see all the historical items on display in the cafeteria. She added that there will be a display case elsewhere on campus later on, as well.

The school also has plans to create another capsule before the end of this school year, which will be scheduled to open in 25 years.

William Wood holds up a self-portrait he made as a second-grade student in 1970. He came from Arizona for the opening ceremony. (Sean Roney)
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Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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