Buried in Time: Hanover High’s Long-Lost Time Capsule
Chalkboards, sewing classes, noisy corridors, and smoking in hallways… Hanover High circa 1978 is both unrecognizable and frighteningly similar to the compost crazy, liberal-to-the-third-degree school we attend today. Immortalized through dusty slides and worn Indes, the open-minded, easy-going ambience of our small town school has remained virtually unchanged for 40 years.
The actual appearance of the school, though, has changed significantly. Gone is the wood paneling, the minuscule band room, and the Home Ec kitchen. Instead, we have white walls, a rather spacious ensemble room, and no school-related kitchen to my knowledge. Still though, stuck up in the school’s archive room (a truly equatorial experience, climate-wise, in case you’re interested) and flipping through old council reports, I was struck by an overwhelming sense of familiarity.
The question to be asked, I suppose, is why I was spending my time squinting at slides in the Hot Room – as it has been dubbed – instead of, say, attempting (in vain, I should add) to be productive during my free, or smuggling cupcakes into the library. The answer is simple. I was searching for traces of HHS’s long-lost time capsule.
Yes, that’s right. A time capsule, made sometime between the years 1976 and 1979 (with the help of resident alum Margaret Caldwell (’80)), and buried somewhere on the grounds. The question is, where? “It was in the quad,” said Doug Jenisch, former HHS social studies teacher and frequent substitute, “somewhere in the corner by guidance, I think.” His guess was all but confirmed when I asked Ms. Caldwell and long standing staff members Ford Daley and William Murphy the same question. All having shared a similar recollection, the probability of the capsule being located in said corner of the quad seemed almost certain.
Almost, but not quite. Conjecture aside, I had no definitive proof of the burial. Deciding that someone – council or likewise – must have written something down, the school archives seemed like my best bet. The school was being renovated at the time, so there were bound to be photographs as well.
And so began my adventures in the Hot Room. They were to be of no avail, however, as the participants apparently forgot to document anything on the capsule whatsoever – contents, location, etc. I did, however, find a plethora of information on Council’s plight to make HHS smoke free and to ban loitering in hallways. Working my way through photos depicting a 70’s era HHS was amusing to say the least, but the closest I came to the time capsule was a picture of a “78” scrawled in the dirt. Whether this had anything to do with the capsule, I’ll never know, although I’d like to think it did.
Broadside articles proved similarly futile, as there weren’t any. “It was the 70’s,” said Martha Cassidy, librarian and HHS alum, “we took things a bit…easy.”So, at the end of a long week in the library, I was no closer to the capsule than I had been at the start. A vague, black and white photograph from the back of an Inde could hardly be considered progress. In a last ditch attempt to gain information, I emailed Jonathan Brush, Director of Faculties, to see if any trace of the capsule had been found during recent renovations. Mr. Brush replied as such:
“I do remember looking for the thing back in 2000 when a modular classroom concrete slab was placed in the courtyard, outside of the guidance area. I think there were a couple of people who brought in metal detectors looking for it but to no avail. Then again during the renovation of the High School, [when] the modular classrooms and slab were removed, people were on the look-out for the capsule. Again, no luck. So all I can say is that someday the thing will be found and [it] will be a True Time capsule.”
It was disappointing to end my search without so much as a photograph, let alone the actual capsule. In the end, though, I’d like to think the mission wasn’t a total flop. People, I found, share a curiosity for the past, and a fascination in digging through old things. It was fun to look through pictures on the slide projector, to recognize familiar faces (people tend to stay in the area, that’s for sure…) and laugh at the comical haircuts and outfits. I also learned a lot things I would never have known about the school from talking to retired staff and former students. The end result might not have been what I was expecting, but it was still something.
So all I can say is this: hopefully Mr. Brush’s “someday” will arrive sooner than later, as there are plans to dig up the quad this coming spring. Until then, happy capsule hunting!