HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Mary Lynne Richards is keeping her fingers crossed.
Richards, who works for the Hannibal Parks and Recreation Department, is heading a bicentennial committee in charge of opening a time capsule that was buried in Central Park in the summer of 1969.
The time capsule was placed underground as part of the city's 150th anniversary celebration in 1969 with explicit instructions that the capsule was "not to be opened until year 2019."
Now that 2019 -- the city's 200th anniversary -- is at hand, the capsule is slated to be opened at 10 a.m. next Saturday, May 4. Richards is hoping all the items placed in the capsule half a century ago are still intact.
"We're going to dig it up next week and find out," she said.
The time capsule was buried near the statue of U.S. Rep. William H. Hatch on July 7, 1969, as part of a multi-day sesquicentennial celebration.
According to a report the next day in The Herald-Whig, the time capsule was a waterproof two-ton concrete vault donated by the Concrete Products Co. of Hannibal. It was 93 inches long, 54 inches wide and 64 inches high. It was placed four feet below the ground's surface and had an opening in the top measuring 24 inches long, 14 inches wide.
A story in the Hannibal Courier-Post from July 1969 said a volunteer, Gary Greeman, "slipped into the narrow opening" and, with assistance from sesquicentennial director Bob Bush, deposited packages into the time capsule. "Each packet was wrapped in plastic to insure preservation."
The Herald-Whig story said once all the items were in place, the top of the capsule was sealed, then "four feet of dirt went on top." The Courier-Post story, on the other hand, said the vault was to be "covered with concrete to ground level" and then layered with sod before an engraved stone marker was laid on top to mark the vault's location.
So it appears to be not quite clear if the bicentennial committee will have to dig through dirt or concrete to reach the vault's opening.
"We better get a bulldozer," Richards said.
The news stories said a wide array of items were placed in the time capsule. Among them were the names of Hannibal city officials and all city employees; a tie clasp from U.S. Rep. William Hungate; a letter from U.S. Sen. Thomas Eagleton; written material sent from students in the Berkshire School in Pittsburgh, Pa.; audio tapes from Hannibal radio stations KGRC and KHMO; a "mod" dress from Kline's clothing store; a bust of Mark Twain; sesquicentennial photos; and copies of The Herald-Whig and Courier-Post.
In addition, the Courier-Post story said the capsule also contains a dress worn by Hannibal's "sesquicentennial baby" Tanya Sue King; history books; letters; an 1894 penny; various "literature" from local institutions; and "a small bottle of tranquilizers used by nervous people in the year of 1969."
Richards said the 2019 bicentennial committee is developing a list of items be placed in the time capsule on Oct. 30 for opening in 2069. She said some of the items will include memorabilia from this year's bicentennial events; a copy of Steve Chou's "Bluff City Memories" pictorial history of Hannibal's first 200 years; and some "letters to the citizens of 2069" from local fifth graders who will predict what they think the world will be like 50 years from now.
Richards said the May 4 time capsule opening has been generating quite a bit of talk on social media sites. "I can't believe how much interest there is," she said.
One person planning to attend is Tony Bowman of Hannibal. Fifty years ago, he won a contest to design the official seal that appeared on many items during the sesquicentennial celebration. Bowman's seal even was carved onto the stone marker that rests atop the buried time capsule.
Bowman was given the honor of unveiling the stone marker prior to the time capsule's burial in 1969, so the bicentennial committee invited him to be a part of the 2019 ceremony as well.
Bowman, who was a college student in 1969, said "it was kind of cool" to be part of the sesquicentennial celebration. He said creating the winning seal for the 150th anniversary actually landed him a job as a graphic artist with the Independent Service Co. in Hannibal.
"I worked for them for 46 years," said Bowman, who retired two years ago.
Bowman said his sesquicentennial seal also was stamped on 1,000 numbered coins that were sold for $10 each as a fund raiser in 1969.
"I got No. 1 for designing the seal," he said. "So not only did I get a lifetime career out of it, I also got a silver coin."