A time capsule buried in 1976 by the Kenai Chamber of Commerce gave onlookers a blast from the past when it was dug up and opened Tuesday after 24 years.
The capsule, an old empty propane cylinder, was buried under the "Moosemeat John" cabin, which houses the chamber's office. It was dug up by Amy Favretto, the chamber's executive director, and Fred Braun, who took the capsule outside and opened it with a screwdriver.
A small crowd gathered for the opening, with a group of kids in the front row, who speculated about what it might contain:
"Newspapers?" "Candy?" "Soda cans?" "McDonald's coupons?"
Braun had different ideas.
"Probably business cards, ball-point pens, a phone book, nothing that would have cost people money."
Anita Necessary, whose husband, Mark, was on the chamber's board of directors in 1976, said the burial of the capsule was a big event that year.
"There weren't as many people in Kenai back then, and not as many things happening. Everyone came to events like this."
The first item Braun removed from the capsule was a baseball from the Peninsula Oilers, autographed by the players from that year. Next came a copy of the Peninsula Clarion from July 8, 1976, with the main headline reading "Bicentennial is History." The Clarion at that time was a weekly paper, costing 25 cents a copy.
Ads from the now-defunct Big K Grocery showed a difference in food prices -- round steak for $1.49 per pound, watermelon at 15 cents a pound, macaroni and cheese at three boxes for 89 cents. A photo featured the "Bicentennial Baby" Joey Halsted, son of Mr. and Mrs. Lee Halsted, being kissed by a member of the Oilers.
Other items included a photo of Janis Harris, Miss Kenai for 1976, a map of Alaska from a Phillips 66 gas station, a bag of volcanic ash from Mount Augustine, which erupted in 1976, a pen from Marvene's Dress Store, a vial of "Handy Oil" from Chevron, and a package of new coins from that year -- "Still nice and shiny," commented Braun. A package of brochures wrapped in a map was given to Mayor John Williams to open.
"A city map of Kenai, courtesy of the Kenai Mall," he said. "It was a lot smaller back then, wasn't it? And inside it, a brochure telling us what Kenai was like. Says here you can see beluga whales. Here's another one calling Kenai the 'bright spot on Alaska's vacation horizon.'"
Another brochure described walking tours of Kenai, which are still available to tourists today, and a pamphlet titled "Black Gold of Alaska" stated oil production in Cook Inlet was around 200,000 barrels a day.
"And here's a good one," Williams said, reading from an Alyeska Pipeline brochure. "It says, 'All tanker movements in Prince William Sound will be closely monitored.'"
More items emerged, some with a bit of difficulty through the small opening in the capsule's side.
"I bet it was easier getting this stuff in here than it is to get it out," said Braun. "But it's all still in excellent shape."
He pulled out tide tables, business cards, a photo of the chamber's board members at a meeting in the cabin, an agenda of Fourth of July events, lists of members of the Kenai Bar Association and Historical Society, a brochure which stated that 3,000 tourists visited Kenai in 1976, and a voter registration list.
"There were a lot of Democrats in those days," Williams said.
Finally, there was a phone book, which was passed around for those present in 1976 to look for their names. Williams found his -- he still has the same number -- one of eight Kenai residents with the name Williams at that time.
Braun said the contents of the capsule will probably go back underground.
"It would be in order to rebury it in a different container, and in a different location, along with new items from 2000," he said.
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