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Courier News, June 26, 2004

Capsule from 1938 rescued in school demolition

Staff Writer
GREEN BROOK -- A time capsule buried in 1938 and forgotten might have been destroyed if not for a man who saw it buried 66 years ago.

Rens P. Eelman, 74, was 8 years old when he watched as a small metal box was placed in the cornerstone of Irene E. Feldkirchner Elementary School.

Before part of the building was demolished last week, Committeewoman Melonie Marano asked Eelman to come with her to look around the school for any artifacts the township might want to preserve for the cultural heritage historical preservation committee. She didn't know what to expect, and in addition to finding a clock and old chair they deemed worthy of keeping, Eelman remembered there was something more there.

"I seem to remember from my memory, they talked about something with the time capsule, but I wasn't sure, of course, because it was a few years ago," Eelman said.

"I was there at the dedication when they laid the cornerstone . . . because I was in the old school with the outhouses where the town hall is now," he said.

Marano said she told the building contractor about the capsule on June 18, so he spray-painted it orange to let workers know to save it. When workers demolished the building segment on Tuesday and removed the cornerstone, they found the capsule right where Eelman said it would be.

For now, the capsule remains on display at the Green Brook municipal building. Marano said she plans to speak to the Board of Education at their meeting Monday night about what to do with the capsule.

"What we may want to do is either open the thing and scan or photocopy the contents, just to make sure they're preserved, and then put the original contents back in the time capsule and seal it up," said Board of Education President Gary LoPinto. "We're going to see if we can, in fact, put that next to the new cornerstone."

LoPinto said the front section of the school, which contained the cornerstone, was demolished because of a mold problem, but the back section of the building will remain. A new cornerstone will be installed next year.

LoPinto said he also saved the school's cupola, the bell tower removed from the roof. He said it may be installed on a pillar or column on the grounds of the township municipal complex.

But the contents of the capsule remain a mystery. When shaken, something can be heard rattling inside. Eelman said he thinks it might contain some coins and newspapers, but could only give a guess.

"I'd like to see it on display," Eelman said, "because I like history. It makes people interested when they see old stuff like that."

"It's very, very exciting because this box is a mystery box. What's in this box, nobody knows," Marano said.

"From a township level, I would love to see some kind of ceremony to open that box," she added, "open to the public, to see what's inside there, because I'm sure everybody's very curious."