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Time capsules give Clear Lake a blast from the past

Clear Lake Elementary alumni Mike and Leanne (Cason) Cantrell brought their daughter Madelynn to the opening of the time capsules from 1987. Here we see the family holding (from left) a Michael Jackson poster, photos of popular toys and a copy of The Oxford Leader. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
May 30, 2012 - Clear Lake Elementary took a nostalgic walk down memory lane Friday evening as former students opened seven time capsules buried in the spring of 1987.

"It was exciting," said Leanne (Cason) Cantrell, who was a fifth-grader when the capsules were created and placed in the ground. "We really didn't remember what we had put in them."

Among the items preserved for posterity were a can of Play-Doh; an Autobot Transformer toy complete with instruction booklet; a She-Ra action figure; class photos; baseball cards featuring Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Reds legend Pete Rose; photos of popular toys and cars from that era; an old TV Guide; multiple copies of the Oxford Leader; Garbage Pail Kids trading cards; maps of Michigan and Oxford Township; a school lunch menu; a list of 1980s slang terms and their meanings; and student predictions of where they saw themselves in the future.

"I was surprised by some of the stuff," said Mike Cantrell, who was a fourth-grader at Clear Lake in 1987. "I actually thought we'd put more personal stuff in, but it looks like we did it more as a class, which is still very cool."

"It was a blast from the past," said Sue Johnson, who taught at Clear Lake from 1980 to 2010. "It truly was a lot of fun to see all that stuff. I literally couldn't remember what we put in there, so I was real surprised."

Paul Gerhardt, principal of Clear Lake from 1973-88, served as Master of Ceremonies for this historic occasion as the school's K-6 alumni donned white latex gloves and carefully removed the contents of each capsule, so they could be projected on a large screen for the whole audience to see and enjoy.

"It feels like old home week here, it really does," said Gerhardt to the assembled crowd of Clear Lake students, staff and parents, both past and present. "I'm glad to see so many of your here tonight. (1987) was a while ago, but it still seems pretty fresh in a lot of ways."

Gerhardt indicated the capsules were buried in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of Michigan's statehood and Michigan week, an annual celebration that's taken place every May since 1954.

The capsules were originally buried deep beneath a large rock. Two trees were planted beside the rock, an apple tree because the apple blossom is the state flower and a white pine tree, which is the official state tree.

Gerhardt has fond memories of standing inside the giant hole as smiling students took turns climbing down a ladder to place their time capsules inside.

"As I recall, I couldn't see out of the hole and I'm 6-2," he said.

But for Gerhardt, the real thrill of Friday's event wasn't so much seeing the capsules' contents as it was seeing the students who once roamed Clear Lake's hallways and filled its classrooms.

"I feel a personal attachment to every single one of them," he said. "Anytime I meet kids from school, it's always fun to hear about the things they're doing now. You see them in their formative years, then you see them as adults making contributions to the community. It's great."

Gerhardt recalled how he used to keep a jar of suckers in his office and whenever it was a student's birthday, he'd have them sent down, along with a friend, to enjoy some candy and chat for a spell. "Being an elementary principal is really a different kind of job," he said. "If you work at it, you can really have a relationship with kids."

Gerhardt wasn't the only one pleased to see so many Clear Lake alumni at the capsule opening. "It was amazing to me to see all those kids come back," said Johnson, who taught third grade in 1987. "They've all grown up and turned out really well. I had quite a few of them (as students)."

"I loved seeing all the faces," said Mike Cantrell. "We haven't seen some of these people since we went to Clear Lake."

It was Mike and Leanne Cantrell who started the Facebook page entitled "The Case of the Missing Clear Lake Elementary Time Capsule..."

"We were wondering where our capsules were," said Leanne, who graduated from Oxford High School in 1994.

"We thought they were lost," said Mike, a 1995 OHS graduate.

Although the Cantrells, who now live in Utica, are glad the time capsule mystery is finally solved and they got the opportunity to see some old schoolmates again, the best part of the event for them was the fact that it was a family affair.

"It was nice to bring our daughter (Madelynn, a first-grader) here to our school 25 years later," Mike said. "That was pretty cool."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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