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Be a part of history: Penngrove to assemble time capsule

  • The Penngrove Time Capsule seen at JavAmore Cafe where residents may drop off items to be included before it is buried. Robert Grant

By: Stephanie Derammelaere
February 16, 2018

Penngrove hopes to capture a moment in time for future generations by assembling a time capsule filled with local memorabilia from 2017 and 2018. The time capsule will be buried in front of Penngrove Market and will remain buried for 50 years.

The idea was the brainchild of Susan Haumann, girlfriend of Burr Wilson who is a member of the Penngrove Historical Society, a group of individuals in and around Penngrove who have an interest in the history of the area and meet once a quarter. She remembered creating a time capsule as a senior class project in 1975 while at Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley and thought it might be a good time for Penngrove to do a similar project given the many significant events that happened in 2017.

“We got to talking about that [her senior class project], and she said we’ve had some significant events in Penngrove – we should do a time capsule,” says Burr Wilson.  “We’re about to open a new market and we’ll probably have a celebration. The idea just took off from there.”

The time capsule is a four-foot-long piece of 4-inch sewer pipe that will be buried in front of Penngrove Market under concrete, with some type of capstone to note its location and remind future generations to open it in 50 years. Martin Sessi, the owner of the land, has already given his permission to use a section in front of the store for the time capsule. The capstone, which will be made by a local Penngrove engraver, will be especially important because there was a time capsule buried in 1976 around Penngrove Elementary School that no one can locate. Elder citizens recall it being buried around the time of the 200-year bicentennial of the United States, but its exact location remains a mystery.

Community members are invited to participate in the project and bring items that can be included into the capsule. Ideas include coins and currency minted in 2017, news articles, pictures and other small mementos that capture the essence of our current time.

“We’d love community involvement,” says Wilson. “Things like newspaper articles detailing the flood, the fires and other significant events in Penngrove and Sonoma county history and we want something from the community that gives a snapshot of the lifestyle of contemporary people today. What we think is new and special today is probably going to be faded and antique in 50 years when we project this time capsule to be opened up. Certainly a rotary dial telephone has gone by the wayside now that we use cell phones and cell phones will probably be extinct and technologically obsolete in 50 years. So we can put our heads together and think, ‘what is kind of special about this year that might be of interest or curiosity to residents and scholars in 50 years?’” 

Wilson suggests including photographs of even everyday things like current hairstyles, clothing, cars, buildings and people. One could write about a topic or current event that happened in the area in regards to schools, buildings, properties, libraries, churches, agriculture and transportation, such as the start of the SMART train. 

“What we really need to do is capture what is happening right now – nothing older than a year,” says Wilson. “We really want to show life as it is right now, in the years 2017 and 2018. You could write a one-page letter to your descendants or people of the future and just say what you think about life in Sonoma County today and Penngrove in particular. I know we have a number of residents who are very concerned about the cannabis licensing and growing, other people are very concerned about Trump, others are concerned about clean water. Whatever you want to say, express your concerns and write them to your grandchildren and our descendants and say, ‘how’d you handle it? how’s it going?’”

Wilson also thought 50 years was a good amount of time to have the capsule buried – long enough to have historical significance in the future, yet short enough to still have people alive that can witness it being buried this year. 

“I think 50 years is a good timeframe because it spans inside the lifetime of our grandchildren,” says Wilson. “Perhaps we can put photographs of our grandchildren as they are today in the time capsule and then they get a treat in 50 years and say ‘Look at us back then!’”

Originally the thought was to coincide the burying of the capsule with the opening of the Penngrove market, but on further thought it was decided that this may interfere with the market’s celebration. The probable plan now is to have the entombment coincide with the annual Penngrove celebration and barbeque on the first weekend in July. 

Individuals who are interested in contributing to the time capsule are invited to bring objects before July to the JavAmore Café in Penngrove, where the capsule currently resides.