Time Capsules Bring Family Together

Create your own farm collectible with a time capsule.

| September 2013

  • The last eight steps being paced off.
    The last eight steps being paced off.
    Photo Courtesy Clell G. Ballard
  • We hoped we were in the right place and the digging began.
    We hoped we were in the right place and the digging began.
    Photo Courtesy Clell G. Ballard
  • Family photo before digging up the time capsule.
    Few things can match the unique positive experience these family members enjoyed as they worked together to retrieve a family time capsule.
    Photo Courtesy Clell G. Ballard
  • A new, much larger capsule was buried in the same place.
    A new, much larger capsule was buried in the same place, again in a shallow hole to avoid ground water as much as possible so it will survive undamaged until the summer of 2031.
    Photo Courtesy Clell G. Ballard
  • The original time capsule being buried in 1991.
    The original time capsule being buried in 1991. A shallow hole was an attempt to avoid, as much as possible, any ground water problem.
    Photo Courtesy Clell G. Ballard
  • Everyone was excited to discover whether our items had survived 20 years buried in the ground.
    Everyone was excited to discover whether our items had survived 20 years buried in the ground.
    Photo Courtesy Clell G. Ballard
  • The long-buried treasure was found.
    Success! We found our long-buried treasure.
    Photo Courtesy Clell G. Ballard
  • The contents of the capsule remained in good condition.
    Contents were exactly like they were when placed in the capsule. This calendar sheet records the exact day it was buried.
    Photo Courtesy Clell G. Ballard

  • The last eight steps being paced off.
  • We hoped we were in the right place and the digging began.
  • Family photo before digging up the time capsule.
  • A new, much larger capsule was buried in the same place.
  • The original time capsule being buried in 1991.
  • Everyone was excited to discover whether our items had survived 20 years buried in the ground.
  • The long-buried treasure was found.
  • The contents of the capsule remained in good condition.

People now of retirement age grew up around individuals who lived through the tough times of the Great Depression. That almost decade-long event made such an impression on those people that many of their conversations focused on “doing without” and life changes designed to protect themselves from another occurrence. It is easy to understand why.

My grandmother, widowed in 1925 as a young woman with seven small children, managed to eek out an existence on a dryland farm in Idaho. By 1931 she had saved a few hundred dollars but the bank it was in shut down without warning and she lost it all.

It was not unusual to hear Depression survivors expound on how they would never trust a bank again. That meant that any money they didn’t need immediately had to be stored somewhere else. Today we might think it somewhat humorous that many spoke of putting it in their mattress. A loose brick in the fireplace surround could camouflage a place where cash could be stashed. Burying money in the backyard was also a consideration.

This article has to do with burying something, but it isn’t money and it isn’t in the backyard. Most of you are familiar with time capsules that are buried to be retrieved years later. A recent well-known example of that was a city in Oklahoma that created one in 1957 to be dug up in 2007. When the time capsule was exhumed, it was discovered that the container was not properly sealed and the contents had been ruined. Considerable attention was focused on a 1957 Plymouth Fury automobile. New when interred, it was to be given to the individual (or his descendents) who most closely guessed the city’s population the year the capsule was opened. Unfortunately the water that entered the capsule almost totally destroyed the car.



That sad example should not deter you from doing what I am recommending. You should bury your own family time capsule. Many readers of Farm Collector live in or have ties to rural areas. With a little creativity, you could find a place to bury a capsule so it won’t be disturbed until the predetermined time has elapsed. I know that it is possible because my family has done it. Few things a family can do together compare to the satisfaction that results from such a project.

Laying the groundwork

Anything that is to be buried in the ground for a long period of time must have a super good seal. What you choose will be determined by what you have access to. In our case, we had access to an 81 mm mortar shell case made of plastic with an impressive rubber seal. Industrial plastic is impervious to moisture, and we added an additional silicone seal to the one the case already had. The container’s small size dictated what we put in. A small memento from each family member — the parents and five children — was included along with pictures and news items of the day. The little tube was packed tight.        



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