The anticipation hung in the air Friday morning around Holy Family Elementary School as students, faculty and staff — past and present — gathered around the school’s flagpole and sign on the building’s south side.
In 1998, when St. Joseph Catholic Church’s Tri-Parish Elementary School relocated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church complex, it was renamed Holy Family and a time capsule was buried at the flagpole.
And now, the time had come to retrieve it.
“They’ve been waiting for this,” Principal Rachel Wentling said after the morning’s activities. “We’ve been talking about it since the beginning of the school year. There’s been a lot of anticipation building.
“We always knew there was a time capsule. When I learned about it, I was thinking it would be a 25-year thing,” she said.
But an old newspaper clipping said the opening had been planned for the school’s 20th year.
“Originally we were going to do it on the first day of school, but then we realized there would be alumni back for TMP’s homecoming, so we switched it to this Friday so the alumni could be here to see the items they put in there,” she said.
Wentling told the crowd that it was a day to honor the Sisters of St. Agnes, Franciscan Capuchins, parishioners and teachers who helped bring Holy Family to where it is today — “a vibrant school in the Hays community and the Heartland Catholic parishes,” she said.
“Are we ready to dig it up?” she then asked, and received a raucous “yeah” from the students.
The Rev. Barry Brinkmann, pastor of Immaculate Heart, turned the first shovel full of dirt — largely a ceremonial practice, as maintenance director Larry Dinkel had earlier located it and dug it up — followed by former teachers and the handful of students from 1998 who attended.
Nick Leis, Philip Kuhn, Ken Schlegel and Kelsey Schoen, all of Hays, were sixth-graders in Holy Family’s first year. Before it was opened, none of said they could remember what they had placed in the capsule.
“I may have done a yo-yo. They were in at the time,” Schlegel said.
The capsule — a wide PVC tube about 2 feet long — was taken into the school’s activity center to be opened. Caps had been glued to both ends of the tube and the contents were enclosed in plastic, protecting them from the elements.
As the contents were removed, the former Holy Family students quickly gathered around the table to see what was inside.
One of the items was a questionnaire about what the 1998 elementary students thought life in 2018 would be like. Wentling read from it to her students.
Among the predictions the 1998 students got right: Will cars hover above the ground or fly? Will commercial spacecraft allow civilians to fly in space on a regular basis? Will the metric system be implemented worldwide? Will schools operate year round? Will pocket sized cell phones become a staple item for all? Will paper and coin currency be replaced by electronic transactions? Will more than 75 percent of homes own personal computers?
The 1998 students missed the mark on a few predictions, however. They thought a man or woman would have walked on Mars and most annual publications would be replaced by CD-ROMs.
And there were a few predictions on the borderline. The 1998 students said more than half of U.S. workers would work in their homes via computers, most homes would be equipped with video phones and cars would be equipped with sensors to guide drivers to their destinations and avoid hazards.
Students returned to their classes shortly after the opening, but teachers brought individual classes through the day so they could view the items.
There were dozens of yellow cards with notes from the students, items like a Garfield Pez dispenser and Snoopy Christmas ornament representing the classrooms, and even a 3.5-inch floppy disc, which only a few of the current students recognized.
Shirley Dinkel, who retired from Holy Family in May after a 39-year teaching career, opened a tiny box with a rosary inside.
“I remember making these,” she said of the box, one of many she and her students made from wallpaper as Christmas gift boxes.
She said this Friday her first time back at the school since retiring, and it brought home what Holy Family meant.
“This was the best way for me to see that tradition lives on, that legacies live on. Many of the fruits of our work of those past years live on. What is good and rich will always live on,” she said.
“I love seeing all the religious things, because that was the heart of our school,” she said. “We were a family and we still are a family. Everyone mattered, whether it was a student or janitor, or the office staff or the teachers. No one less, no one more.”
A new time capsule is in the planning stages, Wentling said, and students will get to decide over the next couple of weeks what to put in it. The burial is planned for October with the opening in 2038. The contents of the 1998 capsule will be displayed in the trophy case by the Holy Family office until the next capsule is buried.