Dale Blanchard, center, a Leslie Middle School seventh grade student in 1971, unloads a time capsule from 1971 that he and his classmates created at Leslie Middle School on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
It was easy to ignore the fading metal plaque hanging on the wall just inside the front door of Leslie Middle School.
But Rachael Prindel, 13, remembered reading it two years ago as a sixth grader. In raised letters, it said there was a time capsule in the wall meant to be opened by the seventh grade class on Nov. 5, 2021.
Prindel was disappointed - she’d be in eighth grade by then.
“I completely forgot about it until Mrs. Willer, our librarian, started researching it,” she said. The two found news articles explaining what was in the capsule and the timeline for its reopening.
“I sort of just started talking to people about it. I wasn’t really expecting anything to happen,” she said.
Jennifer Madland, Leslie’s current principal, said she wasn’t aware the school had time capsules buried in its walls until the pair alerted her.
Their efforts led to a gathering Friday of dozens of Leslie Junior High School alumni and their teacher, Vickie Fitch, who led the time capsule project in 1971.
Leslie Middle School Principal Jennifer Madland speaks at a time capsule unveiling at Leslie Middle School on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
Alumni opened a cardboard box full of memories from the 70s, documenting an era when butter was on sale at the supermarket for 59 cents, Boys Life magazine ran ads for Schwinn bicycles on its back cover and yellow smiley face pins were ubiquitous.
“It’s amazing,” said Fitch, who traveled from her home in Yakima, Washington, to watch the 50-year opening. She taught at Leslie from 1970-1973 while her husband attended law school at Willamette University.
The capsule was buried at the original Leslie Junior High school, which was on the north side of South Salem High School’s campus.
In 1997, when the middle school moved to its current site on Pringle Road Southeast, the capsule was opened early. With the move, more items were added to the capsule memorializing the world of 1997: a matchbox car, a sky blue Converse high-top shoe, Chapstick and issues of CosmoGirl and Entertainment Weekly with Coldplay gracing the cover.
Items from a 1997 time capsule at Leslie Middle School on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
Many alumni who participated in the original project said they couldn’t remember which items they contributed. But Sally Hendrie, who still lives in Salem, recalled defying her father, who worked at a savings and loan in town and gave her newly minted silver dollars as a gift.
“He was just very mad at me because he didn’t want me to put my silver dollars in the capsule,” she recalled, drawing a laugh.
Nancy Robinson, also a seventh grader in 1971, said her family has had a long connection to the school. Her son graduated from North Salem High School in 2000, exactly fifty years after her mother. He now teaches at Leslie.
“It was so fun to watch,” she said of the reopening.
Last year, the original Leslie building, which had served as the home for Howard Street Charter School, was demolished. Where its bricks once stood, there’s a shiny new addition to South Salem High School, with a modern amphitheater and space for culinary and broadcast journalism classes.
But the time capsules will live on for decades more. The 1971 and 1997 capsules will be reburied, to be opened again Nov. 5, 2071.
Leslie Middle School students Claire Harder and Sydney Tufteskog look at a copy of the school's alma mater from the 1971 time capsule at Leslie Middle School on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
Joining them will be a third relic from the past: a new capsule curated by the current seventh grade class at Leslie, to show people what middle school life was like in 2021.
Students laid out several items Friday they intended to include: a modern Barbie doll, an iPhone with its charger, a blue surgical mask and a copy of the Statesman Journal. The school will wait until the end of the year to complete the capsule, Madland said, so students can include collages and yearbooks.
Though Prindel isn’t a seventh grader, she’s been able to help decide what will go in the latest edition of the Leslie time capsule.
As fifty years of alumni from her middle school mingled and ate cupcakes outside the front of the school Friday afternoon, Prindel surveyed the scene.
“It was amazing it even went this far,” she said.
The time capsule container at Leslie Middle School on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
Dale Blanchard, left, a Leslie Middle School seventh grade student in 1971, unloads a time capsule from 1971 that he and his classmates created at Leslie Middle School on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
A copy of the school's alma mater from a 1971 time capsule at Leslie Middle School on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
The 1971 time capsule, left, and 1997 time capsule in the wall at Leslie Middle School shortly before their opening on Nov. 5, 2021. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)
Workers at Leslie Middle School unscrew a plaque from the wall to reveal the hole where two time capsules have been stored for decades on Nov. 5, 2021. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)
A view from a drone shows construction crews making progress to take down the old Leslie Junior High School, adjacent to South Salem High School. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)
Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.
JUST THE FACTS, FOR SALEM - We report on your community with care and depth, fairness and accuracy. Get local news that matters to you. Subscribe to Salem Reporter starting at $5 a month. Click I want to subscribe!