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Unsealing the past in Daniel's Harbour

The Friday finale for Daniel’s Harbour Come Home Year was the opening of the time capsule sealed 50 years ago. Pictured (from left) are Jim Bennett, his father Trevor Bennett, MP Gudie Hutchings, Deputy Mayor Leslie Brophy and Mayor Ross Humber.
The Friday finale for Daniel’s Harbour Come Home Year was the opening of the time capsule sealed 50 years ago. Pictured (from left) are Jim Bennett, his father Trevor Bennett, MP Gudie Hutchings, Deputy Mayor Leslie Brophy and Mayor Ross Humber.

DANIEL’S HARBOUR, NL – Travelling from across the country, hundreds gathered to see the opening of the time capsule – an event 50 years in the making. 

A rarely seen clear sky and bright sun cast down as returning residents and strangers with roots in the community came together. It was the Friday finale for Daniel’s Harbour Come Home Year.

Ninety-year-old Trevor Bennett had set the event in motion some five decades ago when he had pitched the time capsule to town council back in 1967. But not in his wildest dreams did he ever expect to see the capsule re-opened.

“I never figured I’d live to see it open,” Trevor said. “But I guess time’s been good to me.”

Barbara Laing Bennett and Mildred Bennett returned to town to bear witness to the time capsule unsealing in Daniel’s Harbour on Friday.

As he passed around a poem he wrote for the time capsule’s opening, old friends and colleagues greeted Trevor, such as a man Trevor had once employed as a teenager at his gas station. It brought some heartwarming nostalgia to both of them.

“I’d say there was not a young feller in town who asked for a job and I didn’t give it to him,” Trevor reminisced.

Barbara Laing Bennett came to the event in her Sunday best — dressed in a bright blue pantsuit. She hoped to see a picture of her mother, known in the community as Nurse Bennett, that had been placed in the capsule.

Genevieve Moss, wife of Harvey Moss who was mayor at the time of the capsule’s sealing, was looking forward to seeing letters and the Western Star newspaper that was the final item placed inside.

MP Gudie Hutchings and Trevor’s son Jim delivered some remarks before a tractor lifted the concrete block and 45 gallon barrel that the capsule was contained within.

A jackhammer was brought out as community members took turns hammering away at the concrete and sea rock that surrounded the barrel. It took nearly an hour before the capsule was finally opened.

All stood eagerly as the jackhammer pierced the concrete and tore it apart block by block. Many who were young children and teenagers at the time of the capsule’s sealing could not recall what was placed inside it. They awaited as uncertain as the others.

In ceremonious fashion, Trevor Bennett placed one strap on the forks of the tractor used to haul up the concrete block containing the capsule. Bennett, who is now 90, had pitched the idea of the time capsule to town council some five decades ago.

“It’s going to be a surprise to everyone,” said Jim. “It’s hard to believe its 50 years on and the time has finally come.”

But soon words were spoken that brought an anticlimactic turn to the event – “We’ve got water folks.”

Water that had seeped through the concrete over the years had leaked through holes in the top casing of the capsule. It left much of the contents inside considerably damaged.

While minted silver coins and some pictures were not too badly damaged, newspapers, letters, and an encased Bible were left disfigured.

Two pictures were still in good enough condition that locals could decipher the faces. One was of Nurse Bennett and former mayor Harvey Moss, the other of Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip.

Lauren Hull was a teenager when the capsule was sealed. He had returned to Daniel’s Harbour from his home in B.C. He says while it was disappointing that not all the items could be viewed, it was not a total shock.

“I half expected it to happen,” Hull said. “Things were just put in a box. I was hoping it wouldn’t happen, but kind of expecting it would.”

Daniel’s Harbour Deputy Mayor Leslie Brophy holds up a photo from the capsule damaged by water leakage. While difficult to decipher, it is believed to show Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip.

Hull says it is good the coins remained intact, as 1967 was the last year they were minted in silver. The other items are expected to be sent away for restoration, and the coins will likely be soon on display in the community hall.

“If we can restore at least 50 per cent of what’s here, we’d be happy,” said Daniel’s Harbour Mayor Ross Humber.

Yet, the turn of events did not make the celebrations go sour. After everyone took a look at what was inside, both that which was ruined and that which was intact, residents and visitors gathered for food and cake and prepared for the evening dance.

While more work now has to be done to see what can be restored and cleaned from the time capsule, with bringing hundreds of people together to reconnect and meet with faces they hadn’t seen in years – Daniel’s Harbour Come Home Year was a shining success. 

By Kyle Greenham

The Northern Pen

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