Classmates of the Lincoln Elementary sixth grade class of 1965 unbox items they stowed away in a time capsule 54 years ago. Elizabeth Gifford, of Clarkston, holds a newspaper; Marge Tittyung, of Oak Park, holds a pair of shoes; and Cheryl Magnate Fillmore, of Sterling Heights, enjoys seeing the items.

Classmates of the Lincoln Elementary sixth grade class of 1965 unbox items they stowed away in a time capsule 54 years ago. Elizabeth Gifford, of Clarkston, holds a newspaper; Marge Tittyung, of Oak Park, holds a pair of shoes; and Cheryl Magnate Fillmore, of Sterling Heights, enjoys seeing the items.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


Blast from the past: Lincoln Elementary time capsule opened

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published June 18, 2019

 Among the contents of a 1965 Lincoln Elementary School time capsule are a yearbook, handwritten letters, magazines, comic books, a TV catalog and a pair of girls shoes.

Among the contents of a 1965 Lincoln Elementary School time capsule are a yearbook, handwritten letters, magazines, comic books, a TV catalog and a pair of girls shoes.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

 A yearbook page shows James Honchell’s sixth grade class at Lincoln Elementary School, which created the time capsule in 1965.

A yearbook page shows James Honchell’s sixth grade class at Lincoln Elementary School, which created the time capsule in 1965.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

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ROYAL OAK — In May 1965, 34 sixth graders at Lincoln Elementary School embarked on a project to preserve objects and memories from the era in a time capsule.

The students wrote about their homes and families and speculated about the future, carefully wrapped objects in plastic, and marked the top of the large wooden box with a stencil: “Please open in 2015.”

“I can’t imagine what it was like to stencil the year 2015 on the top of that box at the time and thinking ahead to what it would be like,” Royal Oak Schools Superintendent Mary Beth Fitzpatrick said.

Located on 11 Mile Road, Lincoln Elementary School closed in the late 1990s, then served as an early childhood education center before being demolished. The district no longer owns the property.

Patrick Murphy, Royal Oak Schools operations manager, said, as he understood it, the time capsule was taken from Lincoln Elementary and stored at Addams Elementary after it was converted to an elementary school.

“It was placed in the old locker rooms, and that’s where it sat,” he said. “Then, as we were converting the locker rooms to classrooms in the last year over at Addams, we brought it over to (the Board of Education Office) building.”

While the exact 50-year mark came and went, the Board of Education felt it was important to make a public display of the opening of the time capsule. Using social media, the district sent out an invitation to all former students of Mr. James Honchell’s sixth grade class.

Of the 34 students, four were able to make it to the June 13 Board of Education meeting, and others sent their regards.

Murphy used a hammer and chisel to pry open the lid of the box. Between resounding blows, he spouted off trivia about the year 1965.

The No 1. song? “Ticket to Ride,” by the Beatles.

Tap, tap, tap.

Best picture? “My Fair Lady.”

The lid came off, and Fitzpatrick invited the former students and audience members to gather around tables. A musty aroma greeted those assembled, and someone jokingly remarked, “That’s good for my allergies.”

But the contents sparked noticeable nostalgia in the four former students, which included Marge Tittyung, of Oak Park; Cheryl Magnatta Fillmore, of Sterling Heights; Elizabeth Gifford, of Clarkston; and Dave Falkenburg, of Clarkston. They quickly found their photos in a class yearbook.

“I remember the time capsule being a class project, so as a class, we decided what should go into it,” Gifford said in a statement read by Fitzpatrick prior to the opening of the capsule. “We were very excited to be able to put things away for 50 years, which now seems like a long time, and as an 11-year-old, was a long time ago.”

Gifford’s statement went on to praise Mr. Honchell — who went on to earn a doctorate from Michigan State University and serve as an administrator for the Jackson County Intermediate School District — as an “amazing” teacher.

“The class had him for two years, for both the fifth and sixth grades,” she said. “That created a very strong connection between him and his students. I remember how much fun it was learning in his class, and I especially remember the contest he had to design his new patio.”

Falkenburg said Honchell was his favorite teacher of all time.

Items inside the time capsule included comics, magazines, a TV catalog, medicine, a flashlight, a pair of girls shoes, silverware, newspapers, hand-drawn pictures and floor plans of students’ homes, and handwritten letters describing students’ lives. 

In one letter, a student speculated that the medical field would find cures for more diseases and that humans would live on different planets in 50 years.

Gifford, looking at the items displayed on a table, said she felt a tinge of melancholy.

“This was us 54 years ago,” she said. “Everything is possible when you’re 11.”

Claire Trzasko, of Royal Oak, was also present for the opening of the time capsule. She attended Lincoln Elementary from 1994 to 1998, when the elementary school closed.

“It’s amazing to see some of these photos, because I miss the building,” Trzasko said. “I used to go visit after. My elementary school years at Lincoln are such a good memory for me.”

She recalled having snowball fights in the winter and tether ball tournaments in the summer, as well as learning cursive on the blackboard.

“I just can’t believe some of these photos. They’re amazing. It’s so crazy just to see what the landscape looked like back then,” she said. 

Call Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at (586) 218-5006.

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