Blast from the Past: Henderson Elementary Opens 1989 Time Capsule

Posted on 10/09/2019
Henderson alumni and current students

In 1989, Henderson Elementary was a much different place. The school was home to a sixth grade class, the library was located in the middle of the building instead of the back, and assignments were completed in neat and tidy cursive. When sixth grade Spectra students thought of their future with high hopes, they pictured high flying cars and high paying careers. With these dreams in mind and with the guidance of their teacher Jan Pohl (now Walkonis), the students put together a time capsule that would be opened by students 30 years later.

As Henderson grew, evolved, expanded, and adapted over the years, the capsule was moved around from storage closet to classroom to copy room. After being misplaced for a little while, the time capsule finally made it on to Spectra teacher Dr. Amy Howell’s desk.

Metal Time CapsuleItems were stored in a medium-sized metal trashcan with bubble letters on the side, and an envelope addressed to the sixth grade class of 2019. FHSD moved sixth grade to the middle schools in 1993-94, so the current fifth grade class was allowed to open the letter and capsule. Inside, they found a letter with names and addresses of the sixth graders and a detailed list of its contents. Students pulled out old newspaper clippings and advertisements, pictures of the class and Henderson during 1989, homework samples, a VHS tape with the 1989 MTV Music Awards, cassette tapes with pop hits, a box each of Cheerios, Kraft Mac and Cheese, and Cecil Whittaker’s Pizza, a Henderson t-shirt, and much more. “Most of [the contents] were a surprise because I forgot that we did so much,” said Walkonis. “They came up with so much more than I even thought of. It was like the ball got rolling, and it just got bigger and bigger and bigger.”

In going through the items, students were able to compare the major events of 1989 to those of  2019. “We learned a lot by watching documentaries on the San Francisco earthquake, the soccer stadium stampede, the tragedy at Red Square, and the Berlin Wall coming down as the Cold War came to an end,” said Dr. Howell. “Many of the students thought it would have been scary to live back then, while others pointed out that there are scary things about the present time as well, and always will be. They learned much more than I expected. I was surprised by their philosophical thinking.”

The current fifth grade class held a reception to display the contents of the time capsule. The students from 1989 (now about 40 years old) were invited, along with teachers and staff. Current students created digital presentations comparing the 1989 items to their 2019 counterparts. The 2019 students greeted the returning class of 1989 and answered questions as guests walked through the interactive museum. “It was interesting to see what it was like and to see all their stuff that was cool to them,” said fifth grader Abby C. “All our new stuff is cool to them, and that’s just like old stuff to us.”

The fifth graders interviewed the returning students and gave tours of the building. Alumni were able to catch up with fellow classmates and staff members. “I was so excited [to see some of my former students],” said Walkonis. “I’ve been in contact with them over the last month, planning this. We got a little more than half that came.”

While 1989 and 2019 may have some glaring differences, the two Spectra classes proved that Henderson Elementary continues to take the right steps in empowering students for the future. Who knows where these fifth graders will be in thirty years!

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