Digging into the past

PIQUA — Dirt, roots and electrical wiring were among the many things dug up on the grounds of Piqua Manor on Thursday afternoon while administrators worked to unearth a time capsule.

The time capsule, constructed from PVC piping, was originally buried on Earth Day in 1984 after the idea for one was conceived by the late Barb Dankworth, who was the activities director of Piqua Manor at the time. While the time capsule wasn’t intended to be dug up and opened until 2034, Carol Lear, the current activities director, wanted to see what was inside the time capsule before her retirement goes into effect later this year.

“I found the time capsule file, and there’s lists of what’s in there and where it was buried. I found it a year ago, and we were going to (dig) last year on National Nursing Home Week, but then COVID hit, so we didn’t do it,” Lear said. “I know a lot of people who are probably in the pictures, and it said they had letters from certain residents and family members, and I knew those people. I feel like it’s kind of special.”

It took over an hour of digging into and around the ground to try and unearth the time capsule, which resulted in two broken shovels, a dirtied set of dress pants, and a lot of jokes and laughter. While it was never pulled out of the ground, employees at Piqua Manor were able to open it with a pipe wrench.

“It just took forever. I thought it was down maybe a foot at the most, and I’m thinking it’s — I had something that looked like a tacklebox, in my mind. It surely wasn’t, it was a tube,” Lear said. “It was fun, I thought it was very fun.”

Because the time capsule was never properly sealed, the items inside — several photographs, a few tapes, letters from former employees and residents, and a hair curler, among other things — were water-logged despite being wrapped in plastic. Still, Lear and the staff at Piqua Manor are determined to see what they can salvage, and were quick to bring the items inside to dry.

“Hopefully some of it can dry out and we can get better pictures,” Carol Elifritz, business development coordinator at Piqua Manor, said.

Part of digging up the old time capsule involves implementing a new one. Piqua Manor has put together a time capsule that, instead of laying vertically in the ground, will lay flat in a lockbox buried 3 feet north of the flag pole. The time capsule will be unearthed on Earth Day 2031, or before Piqua Manor moves — whichever comes first.

“There is talk that sometime within the next 10 years Piqua Manor may move, we may build a new facility. If we do that, we want to make sure we build it up before then,” Elifritz said.

While they look into methods of sealing the new time capsule, their list of items to show what life was like at the nursing home in 2021 include an activity calendar, business cards of management and administrators, COVID test kits, masks, an N95 face mask, a face shield, COVID protection lists, hand sanitizer, a 2021 guide to medicare benefits, Piqua Manor 2021 room rate information, dietary menus and placemats signed by dietary employees, and other miscellaneous items from Piqua Manor.

“I think one of the biggest reasons we wanted to do it — probably, it’s going to reflect the COVID plagues and some of the things we had to deal with. They can understand that 10 years ago we really struggled as a nursing home trying to fight through all of this,” Elifritz said. “Also to see if any of the same people are still in play 10 years from now, and price changing. This world is always ever-changing, so it’s kind of interesting, it’ll be kind of cool in 10 years to see that.”