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Historical museum opens 50-year-old time capsule

December 9, 2018 GMT

LA CONNER — In 1969, four people instrumental in founding the Skagit County Historical Museum each chose a family member to open a time capsule 50 years later.

On Thursday, one of the family members and a cousin of another fulfilled their grandfathers’ wish during the museum’s annual Holiday Gala and Appeal Kick-Off.

The two, joined by museum curator Karen Summers, worked for minutes to pry off the time capsule’s lid in front of a group of about 100. When the lid came free with a crack, the crowd let out a collective cheer, some craning their necks for a peak inside.

With care, the family members and museum staff began sifting through photographs, newspaper clippings, coins and other items depicting life in Skagit County in the late 1960s.

“This is pristine condition,” Summers said. “Nothing got in there.”

The Skagit County Historical Museum was born out of the Skagit County Historical Society in the early 1960s by then-Pioneer Association President William Schumaker and others who felt the need to preserve the county’s history.

Items were initially displayed in Lewis Hall at Skagit Valley College, but the space soon proved too cramped for the museum’s growing collection.

After scoping out various properties, the society settled on La Conner, and in 1968 the museum’s doors were officially opened.

Nine months later, in March 1969, a time capsule was placed in a wall of the museum. A handwritten note designated Tony Maskell, great grandnephew of William Schumaker; Darrell McCormick, grandson of George Peth; Collette Tewalt, granddaughter of John Peth; and Lisa Valentine, granddaughter of Lou Valentine, to be the ones to open the time capsule.

Museum Director Jo Wolfe said the museum only discovered the time capsule as staff were preparing for their 50 Years of Memories exhibit.

A photograph of someone placing the capsule in the side of the building guided the staff’s search and later the careful extraction of the box.

Once the capsule was uncovered, Holiday Gala organizers Jenifer Bright and Don Elliott began searching for the four people listed on the note. All but Lisa Valentine was reached.

Maskell and Tewalt were unable to attend Thursday, but Liza Peth Bott, Tewalt’s cousin, was sent in Tewalt’s place.

On Thursday, the remarkably well-preserved box sat atop a white platform encased in glass.

“It looked a lot better when we put it in,” McCormick remarked.

“Well, so did you, buddy,” said master of ceremonies David Johnson, spurring McCormick to feign kicking Johnson in the rear.

When the lid was pried off, McCormick, Peth Bott and museum staff began holding up photographs of people standing on the museum’s site in 1967, newspaper clippings from the Puget Sound Mail, a letter detailing the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community’s plan to build a nuclear power plant and pages of signatures from students at Lucille Umbarger Elementary School in Burlington from the 1966-67 school year.

“There’s my sister!” Peth Bott said, reading down the list.

Other items included a tape measure — which Johnson speculated was in there in anticipation of our nation’s proposed adoption of the metric system — a 1969 Montgomery Ward catalog and a deed for one acre of land on the moon.

These items and more will be available for public viewing come Monday, and will be shown for about two years, Summers said.

In anticipation of the time capsule returning to a wall of the building in March 2019, museum staff has been asking school kids what they want people to know about their life in Skagit County.

And once again, a select few will be designated to open the box 50 years from now.