A large crowd enjoyed the bittersweet ambiance of the “Final Fiesta” at historic Pine Grove Elementary School on May 20 There was a hearty meal of Mexican food, traditional music from Michoacan, a performance by Mid Valley Dancers, the brisk sale of Pine Grove shirts and mugs, hugs and warm recollections by Pine Grove neighbors and alumni. Then, the fiesta got down – and dirty – to the main event of the night: The excavation, and opening, of a time capsule buried in 1989. It was opened now, instead of the intended date, 2039, because the neighborhood school, the beloved educational “home away from home” as one parent called it, will be repurposed in 2011 as an early learning center and a place for other school district services and offices.
The PTO and Pine Grove families felt the time was right to celebrate the rich history of the 122-year-old school, as principal Kelly Beard explained.
Those in attendance ranged from the school’s oldest known alumni, Cliff Lester, 96, who shed a partial photo of his class posed in front of the then-new 1927 building, to Zuma Martinez, who also attended Pine Grove, and her daughter, Alyssa, now a first-grader at the school.
Ron Guth, whose children, Jamie and Maggie, attended Pine Grove, was there in 1989 to seal the time capsule, and he helped pry up the 4-by-4 concrete covering.
About 45 minutes of digging, scraping, and wiggling ensued. Kelly Beard first called for custodian Sam Losa to bring more shovels, and later get down in the hole and dug by hand. The crew could not grip the smooth-sided capsule in order to pull it out.
The only “handle” was a knob where the vacuum-seal valve had been broken by a shovel. Someone had the idea of borrowing a lariat from rope artist Uriel Martinez. Guth, Beard, Jose Sapien, Nasario Rosas and Carlos Miramontes rigged the rope around the capsule and an iron cross bar and, 30 seconds later, plucked the capsule out of the ground. Throughout, Uriel Marquez kept up his roping display.
The capsule is now ready to be opened. Beard and 1989 principal Doug Mahurin, along with capsule designer John Krussow, took turns with a saws-all while more than 100 people cheered them on.
Despite a low battery on the saw, the crew was able to peel off the top, to another round of cheers – and everyone got their first glimpse inside.
Beard immediately called to second grade teacher Sandy Abramson, who helped organize the contents inside the foyer, with fellow teacher Christie Ewald and others. From there, staff, students, family members and alumni got the chance to peruse the contents and laugh and cry over what they saw and read.
Inside were e
ssays and drawings, letters from parents to their children, textbooks, a Hood River News, roller skates, hats from Diamond Fruit and the Pine Grove Fire Department, a ceramic cafeteria plate, 5-inch floppy disk, and even an empty pack of Marlboros, from the future “smoke free class of 2010”, just to name a few. Teacher Anne Gehrig happily took temporary possession of a box she had enclosed for her children, and Beard joked that the textbook “Assertive Discipline” “goes straight to my desk.”
The evening concluded with librarian Margaret Guth reading her poem, “When the Old Pine Grove
he contents will remain on display at the school, and the capsule resealed and buried again, on the last day of school, along with a new capsule, filled with items from the students and staff of 2010-11, adorned with the Pine Grove forever mascot, the Panda…