SHAMOKIN — After several weeks of waiting, on Wednesday evening at Claude E. Kehler Community Park, Shamokin City Council members and several hundred spectators finally discovered what was placed inside a 117-year-old time capsule. It was housed in the cornerstone of the former YMCA and Masonic building, located at the corner of Eighth and Independence streets, which was also home to the iconic Fun Shop in downtown Shamokin for many decades.
The Shoreliners polka band kicked off and ended the evening as part of Concerts in the Park. Sandwiched in between at 7:30 p.m., the 1901 capsule contents were revealed.
“We’re hoping for a good turnout tonight for this special event in our city’s history. If it hadn’t been for Kevin (Richardson) who found it and Jeanne (Shaffer) who asked us to preserve the cornerstone, we wouldn’t be here tonight. No matter what we find inside, it’s still worth it,” said Shamokin Mayor John Brown.
Councilman Dan McGaw said that while he had no idea what may be found inside, he had already spoken with an anthropologist, Professor Deeanne Wymer at Bloomsburg University.
“She said that she felt we would probably find some old political badges, newspapers, historical photos and possibly a letter.” McGaw also said that Wymer would be providing assistance in restoring and preserving any artifacts which he said would eventually be put on display for the public to view.
Prior to the opening of the capsule, several spectators made guesses as to what might be found inside.
“I’m thinking we may find out who the mayor and chief of police were back then. Other than that, I’m not sure,” said Karen Sarfine, of Shamokin.
John Rosetta, of Shamokin added, “I hope there’s coins in there and I hope to see them.”
“Maybe a newspaper from back then,” said Richardson, sunglasses on and smiling.
The big reveal
The time capsule opening ceremony began on stage at approximately 7:30 p.m. with several hundred present.
City Administrator Bob Slaby stepped up to the microphone and table with a black briefcase in hand, then addressed the crowd. “Our city officials are all here tonight for this event. We appreciate all those who helped make this evening possible.”
Brown spoke next. “We thank Kevin Richardson for finding this time capsule and also for Jeanne; we will now ask him to open the box.”
With that, Richardson pulled out a small handheld grinder and began cutting open the time capsule box with Slaby holding it in place.
Once opened, everyone focused their attention on the contents inside. Slaby, McGaw and councilman Scott Roughton informed the crowd of each artifact revealed.
The first item was a small booklet containing the 1901 Constitution of the YMCA. Next, there was a manifest with the names of every member. Five folded newspapers, all in very good condition, were folded up inside. Each was slowly removed and opened one at a time. The Daily Dispatch, The Daily Herald and The Daily News — all Shamokin newspapers — contained articles about the dedication and opening ceremony of the YMCA building.
“It says here that several thousand people were in attendance,” said Roughton.
There were also two Philadelphia newspapers inside — The Philadelphia Inquirer and Public Ledger.
A small copy of the King James Bible was found inside with a small coin on its back cover.
Two historical coins were removed from the capsule. First was a 1901 nickel with a “V” on its back, which Roughton later checked online and said was valued at $57.75. The second coin was the one found on the back of the Bible — a 1901 Barber half-dollar valued at $54.
“I just think it’s amazing after 117 years, the shape that everything’s in. It’s all been very well preserved. I want to thank Mr. (Clayton) Andrews and the Masons for all their help with this,” said Roughton.
“I don’t think anyone from our family was here back in 1901, but Shamokin was clearly a booming town back then,” said Northumberland County Commissioner Sam Schiccatano who was also present for the ceremony.
“One-hundred-and-seventeen years of Shamokin history comes back to life. These papers are as readable today as they were back then. Our goal is to preserve and put them on display. Hopefully we can make them available for everyone, young and old, to see,” said Brown.
Councilwoman Barbara Moyer shared her thoughts about the time capsule contents. “It was very exciting and I love seeing all the papers in there. It was also nice to see a Bible in there too. I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t any personal letters inside,” she said.
Following the on-stage opening of the capsule. Each artifact was taken over to the picnic pavilion and placed on public display. Shamokin resident Bob Mattis also brought along his own artifact — an architectural blueprint of the YMCA building.
A long line of several hundred people walked by one-by-one to view each artifact and take pictures as the voices of the past spoke to those of the present.