An excited crowd gathered at the intersection of Forest and Third Street after the Rose Fest Parade on Saturday. The K-W band and cheerleaders were there, and a representation of all ages of people stood on the street looking in the direction of a simple tin box sitting on a table.
What was in the box?
Tin box time capsule
On June 21, 1915 the Kenyon School Board dedicated a new school building that would stand on Forest Street for the next 98 years.
It wasn’t an easy sell — gathering support for the bond issue to build it — but pressure from the State Department of Education and a great deal of lobbying by School Board President Dr. Joseph A. Gates helped push the measure through.
The old school building, part of which was moved to become the Kenyon Hotel, could hold 200 students. When the new building was completed in January of 1916, there were 175 high school students, 279 elementary pupils and 12 persons in the Normal Training Department which produced rural school teachers, as recorded in Harold Severson’s book, “We Give You Kenyon.”
A special cornerstone laying ceremony took place that day in 1915 to store the little tin box time capsule full of information and mementos for some future generation. Tucked away behind the capstone, it sat there until April 8, 2013, when the cornerstone was removed and the capsule was whisked off to a safe place by city workers.
Kenyon native John Cole wrote about his great memories of that school and building and was instrumental in saving the time capsule this year. He wrote about the school's history in his “All-School Reunion” book of 1997.
Early on this year, he brought photocopies of those articles in to the Kenyon Leader so others would know about the capsule too.
When Stuart Carlson and his crew from Blue Earth Environmental were demolishing the building in early 2013, Cole was a daily visitor to the site to take pictures and share the building’s history.
Cole wasn’t able to be at the time capsule opening because he passed away on May 17, but his family was there and were recognized during the ceremony.
Following a bit of 1915-era trivia read by Gordy Kosveld of KDHL Radio, Publisher and Editor of The Kenyon Leader, Terri Washburn, read the opening remarks and dedicated the opening to John Cole.
Dan Rechtzigel and Brent Ashland spoke next, acknowledging the school history and staff of the past.
Representing many layers of involvement in the building, Rechtzigel spoke about what it was like to be a newly-united K-W student in the old school and then a new teacher there as well. He taught there for one year before the classes were all moved to the new current site on Sixth Street. Recently, he dealt with the future of the old school building as Chair of the Goodhue County Commissioners.
Ashland is also a graduate of the old Kenyon school building. He returned to the community last year as principal of grades 7-12 in Kenyon-Wanamingo Schools. Ashland recalled the school pride and memories from many activities that shaped the lives of Kenyon’s graduates.
Mary Danielson-Gates, granddaughter of J.A. Gates, then led everyone assembled in an old-fashioned pep rally. She encouraged people to cherish their common threads to the old school.
When the K-W Band under the direction of Director Claire Larson struck up the Kenyon fight song, the cheerleaders performed the old Vikings cheer as the audience sang along.
Then came the moment everyone had been waiting for: the opening of the the time capsule.
As Danielson-Gates carefully removed each piece, Kenyon Mayor Mike Engel described the contents and notes, all of which were in excellent condition. There were pictures of the football team and school board, as well as photo postcards of Kenyon, among other things (refer to the breakout box with this story for a complete list of items). The box and contents will likely be on display in the future, but an exact location and time have not yet been determined.
Following the opening, the Rev. Luther Mathson led a prayer reflecting on the blessings of the past and future. His parish, First Evangelical Lutheran Church, purchased the old school property from the city of Kenyon.
The cheerleaders rose once more to lead the group in the K-W Knights fight song as the band played, and the ceremony was complete.
It was 98 years and two months from the day the capsule was sealed.
“What would you put in a time capsule now for future generations?” Danielson-Gates asked the crowd.
Reach Publisher and Editor Terri Washburn at 333-3148, or follow her on Twitter.com @KenyonTerri.