Gresham students unearth 30-year-old time capsule

Josh FloryOur Town Youth

It’s been 30 years since Mark Carringer was a student at Gresham Middle School, but last week he returned to Fountain City to dig up some history.

Carringer, who now lives in Huntsville, Ala., on Friday helped unearth a time capsule that was buried outside the school in 1989.

This summer, principal Donna Parker found an envelope at the bottom of a filing cabinet with a label that said to open it in 2019. Inside the envelope were a map and a poem written by Carringer to guide future students to the capsule.

Students and alumni from Gresham Middle School dig up a time capsule as principal Donna Parker, center, looks on.

To mark the occasion, Gresham alumni returned for a ceremony and helped school staff and students dig up the capsule as a crowd of current eighth-graders looked on with excitement. It took a lot of work to access the container, and it quickly became apparent that time and the elements had taken a toll on the buried items.

Although the artifacts were wrapped in garbage bags and Ziploc baggies, the paper records had been soaked by rainwater and some of them were illegible.

But the findings still shed light on the 1980s. A copy of the Wall Street Journal newspaper featured a front-page headline about Boris Yeltsin, while a catalog highlighted the unforgettable fashions of the decade.

The capsule also included a cassette tape and at least one picture that brought back memories. Rebecca Marston, a Gresham grad who came to the event with her mother, was featured in the photo, which had student names written on the back. Asked what memories it inspired, Marston joked, “That we had a lot of hair – big hair.”

As part of the festivities, teachers dressed in ’80s-style clothes, and assistant principal Glen Price parked his 1983 Datsun 280ZX in front of the school, while songs like Cutting Crew’s “(I Just) Died in Your Arms” played on the stereo.

Current Gresham students are planning to create their own time capsule, featuring items such as an iPhone, a hydro flask and a copy of “Old Town Road,” and Parker said the event was a great success. Not only did students learn how to protect artifacts for their own capsule, the principal said, but the gathering also highlighted the community spirit of Fountain City.

Parker was excited that teachers were able to recreate a photo of this week’s event that mirrored a 1989 picture, and said the capsule helped provide a glimpse into a different era: “Things were not that different, but things were totally changed also.”

Josh Flory is a multi-media specialist with Knox County Schools and writes this blog, Hall Pass, for the KCS website.

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