Last week, Victoria Din walked into Blythe Park School for the first time in many years and what she remembered instantly was the smell.
“You can always tell that smell,” she said. “It’s so comforting.”
That may seem like an odd thing to remember, but Din wasn’t alone. Others, who arrived last Wednesday with Din to witness the opening of a time capsule from 1996, said the same thing. They also remarked consistently about how small the school now seemed to them, as they admired artwork displayed on the auditorium walls that they had done a decade ago.
Like many other time capsules, this one contained information about a certain moment of the past?”the Chicago Bulls’ 70-win championship season, the upcoming Atlanta Olympics. But the time capsule was also very personal, containing videos and writings of the children who attended the Riverside school in 1996.
While the entire Blythe Park student body was on hand for the opening of the time capsule, the people really excited about the event were the 20 or so former students?”now at various area high schools, mostly Riverside-Brookfield High School?”who came back. Sitting in the back of the small auditorium, the guests of honor also served as a tangible vision of the future for the current students, who whirled back in their seats to eye the teenagers, when Principal Robert Chleboun announced their presence.
Dan Causton, now a junior at RB, was a first-grader in 1996 when the time capsule was stashed away. Honestly, he said, he couldn’t remember anything about it.
“I remember digging outside [for Blythe Park’s living classroom], but I didn’t remember the time capsule,” said Causton, who also didn’t remember a video the class made for the time capsule. “It’s kind of surprising. I don’t remember doing it at all.”
For the current students the highlight of the time capsule ceremony, emceed by District 96 music teacher Bill Howes, appeared to be Chleboun’s routine just prior to opening the green metal box that contained a decade’s worth of memories.
Outfitted in a tool belt and a pair of safety goggles, Chleboun appeared with a hand saw, drill, a mock stick of dynamite and an electric saw before settling on the lock’s key to open it.
And one by one, the school’s teachers and a student from each class came up on stage to unveil what had been left in 1996 and explain what they were leaving to rediscover in another 10 years.
In addition to a copy of a local newspaper from that day, a copy of the school newsletter and the 2005-06 school calendar, many classes wrote essays about their favorite things, while others speculated on the future. The PTA chipped in, too, with photos from school plays and newspaper articles from the previous 10 years.
After the time capsule assembly, the former students crowded onto the small Blythe Park auditorium stage to flip through their old school work and reminisce about still-close classmates as well as ones that had vanished from the scene all together.
“You see the class pictures and see how much everybody has changed,” said Din, who was a first-grader in 1996 when the school opened a time capsule from 1986 and packed away one for 2006 students to experience.
The Blythe Park time capsule has its roots in the year of the U.S. Bicentennial celebration?”1976. Amid all of the hoopla surrounding the 200th birthday of the country, longtime fourth-grade teacher Jan Timmer pitched the idea of a time capsule to then-Principal Ray Bronsteader.
“I thought it’d be great,” said Bronsteader, who still lives nearby in the Hollywood section of Brookfield and came back to the school last Wednesday to see the event.
“I’m so glad it’s gone on for 30 years now.”
Sadly, Timmer, who was one of Blythe Park’s original teachers (she taught there from 1953-83), didn’t see the 1976 time capsule opened in 1986. But the box that contained those items is still used?”the 2006 capsule is the school’s fourth?”as the official container for the time capsule materials.
And instead of being hidden from view, the time capsule can be found on a top shelf in the school’s library, awaiting its decade-long date with destiny.
Bronsteader, who retired after 23 years as Blythe Park’s principal in 1988, did preside over the 1986 time capsule ceremony, and said he had nothing but fond memories for the school.
“I spent so many happy years here,” Bronsteader said. “I had such an excellent staff. They made me look good.”