Message in a bottle: Cindy finds a 1976 time capsule in her bathroom wall

time capsuleIf you’re a Retro Renovator, at some point you’ve probably unearthed a hidden story from within your own home. Perhaps it was stripping the kitchen wallpaper to discover three more layers of interior design history underneath. Reader Cindy was extra lucky: When she recently remodeled her bathroom, she found a real time capsule tucked away by the home’s previous owners, who had remodeled the bathroom 39 years ago. Pam had me play Brenda Starr — and I actually connected with those previous owners to learn what they remembered about creating their message in a bottle or, as it were — in a peanut butter jar?!

bathroom-remodelCindy told us that in the process of demolition, her contractor found a time capsule, which the previous owners had put into the wall when they re-tiled the tub surround:

You can see the time capsule in the wall above the sink. We opened it, and I took pictures of what was in it, then we put it back in the wall, along with one that I made.

Contents included a note from the desk of Gerry and Georgia Strickfaden dated November 20th, 1976, along with ephemera found around the house.

The note reads:

From the desk of Georgia Strickfaden

Time Capsule

Planted here November 20, 1976 during bicentennial of USA by Gerry and Georgia Strickfaden, married 3 years, and in this house 3 months. Carter elected president of United States. We voted for Ford.

It’s a small world — we all love history

Pam had me track down the Strickfadens to see what they thought about their time capsule being found after all these years and to get permission to show their names here. A few Google searches later, I found the Strickfadens — and discovered both Georgia and Gerry’s interest and involvement in local Los Alamos, New Mexico, historical societies. Georgia owns a historical tour company there, Buffalo Tours, which specializes in tours of the ‘Atomic City’ — where the government conducted the Manhattan Project nuclear research and testing in the 1940s.

Georgia and Gerry were both delighted at the discovery of their 1976 time capsule, and said they had been acquaintances with Cindy since she bought their house. Shortly after Cindy found the time capsule, they saw her around town, and she mentioned the discovery. Alas, the trio’s busy schedules kept them from connecting to view it before it needed to go back in the bathroom wall.

time capsuleGeorgia didn’t remember what she had put into the time capsule, so I described the items to her over the phone. She recalled pulling it together in a hurry — they had removed a bathroom heater that they were no longer using and — being the history buffs they are — decided to throw together a quick time capsule to stick in the wall cavity before closing up the hole. Georgia said she just ran around the house, scooping up coupons, match books and other odds and ends she had laying around… penned a quick note… sealed it up in the jar… and stuck it in the wall.

The house had not changed hands many times since it was built in the early 1950s, she said. Prior to the 1960s, the government owned all of Los Alamos. Georgia and Gerry bought the house from its first non-government owner.

golden retrieverCindy also added her own, second time capsule to the bathroom wall cavity. Just like the Strickfadens years before her, she hurried to get her time capsule into the wall before the contractors began closing it up again — so we have no photo. Cindy told us what her time capsule includes:

I put some newspaper ads and the banner of the same newspaper into my time capsule. I also put in a USB memory stick with a lot of pictures of the house and the neighborhood, a printed photo of the bathroom before we started, and a “selfie” of me and my dog — because what could be more 2014 than a “selfie”? The adorably cute dog is Nellie.

You’re right Cindy, nothing quite says 2014 like a selfie of you and your adorable dog!

Mega thanks to Cindy, Nellie, and Georgia and Gerry Strickfaden for letting us share this bit of history with the Retro Renovation community.

Reader, what kind of time capsule secrets have you found in your house?
And, have you hidden any of your own?

  1. AnnieFromMSP says:

    I love reading all the stories. Here is mine: My partner and I own a little house in Minneapolis that was built in 1929. We added on a few years ago to expand the teeny-tiny kitchen. The insulation in the walls ranged from the pink stuff, to brown paper bags of sawdust type material to WOOL! That was surprising to see. We also found a whiskey bottle in the old walls, which our general contractor said might explain some of the odd angles. (smile) Before the new walls were closed up, we put in a time capsule: we each wrote letters to the next owners – about our lives, and our memories of the house, and the remodeling experience. We put in a bus schedule, a copy of the neighborhood newspaper, several grocery ads, and an issue of a local magazine. While we didn’t have a presidential election to comment on, there was a big political issue in our city at that time and we included our thoughts on that plus some literature. We bought acid free comic book covers to enclose many of the items, and put everything in a big Kraft envelope. We tucked it into the wall and plan put a notation in the house’s paperwork letting future owners know it is there. It makes me smile when I glance up at the spot where it is located.

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