Community opens 50 year old time capsule, finds artifacts of the times, and before

When the reunion planning committee got together to plan their 50th class reunion, they invited the classes of 1963, 1964, and 1966 to join them.  During the planning meetings memories were talked about and shared, with one early grade school memory standing out for a few of them.

Students of New England at the time of school construction were told write thier names on a piece of paper to be included in the time capsule. Those names were rediscovered when the capsule was opened on June 13. [PHOTO BY RACHEL BOCK | For The Herald]
Students of New England at the time of school construction were told write thier names on a piece of paper to be included in the time capsule. Those names were rediscovered when the capsule was opened on June 13. [PHOTO BY RACHEL BOCK | For The Herald]
By RACHEL BOCK | For The Herald

When the reunion planning committee got together to plan their 50th class reunion, they invited the classes of 1963, 1964, and 1966 to join them.  During the planning meetings memories were talked about and shared, with one early grade school memory standing out for a few of them. Some of the classmates remembered writing their names on a piece of paper that was placed inside a time capsule. That time capsule was going to be placed inside the cornerstone of the new 1955 Public School Building. The cornerstone was removed in 2014, due to the present day remodel of New England Public School. A couple of the members of the class reunion committee inquired about the time capsule to the school administration, and found out that it was in the schools safe but was never opened. They both agreed that the class reunion might be a great time to open it.

Due to the growth of New England back in 1914, the New England Public School building (which is where St. Mary’s School is today) was too small to accommodate the growing town. On January 21, 1914 a special election was held and a proposal was passed to bond the New England Special School District the sum of $10,000 for a new school building. The new school was to be built at the same site, however an election on June 20, 1914 the plans changed to build the new school in the northern part of town at a location just south of “College Hill,” a name that was given by the early settlers in 1887. The new school was a two story brick building with a complete basement that was 62 feet by 104 feet and 10 inches in size.  The cost of building the new school was $37,000. The Cornerstone was laid on August 29, 1914, with school being held for the first time in the new structure on February 23, 1915.

In 1954, a new Public School was being built in front of and around the 1914 school building. When the new building was complete, everything needed to be moved over before the old school building could be torn down. The present day school gymnasium was then built on the old school buildings foundation site. This is why the gym at New England Public School slopes down, because it was the previous basement of the old 1914 school. The total cost of the 1955 new school project was $206,360. A dedication ceremony was held on December 7, 1955 in the new school gymnasium. At the end of the ceremony, the new 1955 school building blueprints, a December 11, 1955 edition of the Hettinger County Herald, and other documents were placed inside the original metal box that was found in the 1914 Cornerstone. Also inside the 1914 cornerstone was a Hettinger County Herald from August 27, 1914. The new Cornerstone was then sealed and carried to its new location and cemented into the wall inside the hall of the new building just inside the front door.

The Cornerstone stayed untouched inside that wall for 59 years, and the items of the time capsule were revealed on Saturday, June 13, as part of the four-class reunion celebration.

Nancy Gussey, with the help of Sandra Strommen, took the items out of the time capsule one by one to be displayed on tables for the audience to look at. The artifacts could not be touched because most of the items were very delicate due to their age.

Nancy Gussey made copies of the items so they could be placed on a board for people attending the vent could get a better look, and especially to read the news from the 1914 and 1955 editions of the Hettinger County Herald that were included.

Some items from the time capsule included the blue prints of the 1955 school building, a 1955 class Annual, pictures of the outside of the newly built school and of the home economics room, a 1914 dedication program, along with the December 7, 1955 dedication program, the Hettinger County Herald editions from 1914, and 1955, there was also a news paper clipping of the first basketball game played on the new gymnasium.

The article stated that the  New England Tigers played the St. Mary’s Saints which was the first time the two New England teams met other than tournaments. The gym floor is 8 feet longer, and wider than the floor that they were playing on in the Memorial Building (Memorial Hall).

Also inside the time capsule was the class lists that some of the classmates remembered writing their names on which is what started the revealing of the time capsule process. Nancy Gussey also made copies of the class lists that had the written names on them, along with the picture of that grades teacher for people to take as a memento.

Russel Wilhelm from Honolulu, Hawaii, who traveled the farthest for the reunion, was a second grader when he moved into the new 1955 school,.

“I know we did it, I really don’t remember, someone said that we all pushed our own chairs from the old school into the new one” Wilhelm said.

Also in attendance of the opening of the time capsule, were Elaine Hegge, Fran and John Hanstad who were in the graduating class of 1956. Their class was the first class to graduate in the new school. Some of their memories included getting out of class to help move boxes and books over into the newly built school.

Elaine’s husband Richard Hegge, who graduated the year after, and John Hanstad played on the New England Public Tiger basketball team that played the first game inside the new gymnasium. “I played guard, I played all over I was the ball hog” Hanstad said.

Elaine Hegge and Fran Hanstad were also cheerleaders, for the basketball team.

The class of 1965’s 50th class reunion along with the classes of 1963, 1964 and 1966 enjoyed a fun filled weekend of guided school tours, Horse drawn tours of New England, and visiting with classmates during mixers. On Friday night a catered meal was at the school with entertainment of the New England Elementary School Kit Katz Dance team, and a duet of Let it Go from the movie Frozen performed by cousins Ali Herberholz and Anna Eisenbarth. Saturday morning a breakfast was served at the Broken Brick, and the Memorial Hall was open to tour the upstairs which contained some of the classmate’s personal memorabilia that was on display. There was also a raffle that the classmates could buy tickets for a chance to win some homemade quilts, and other prizes.  One of the quilts was a t-shirt quilt made up of old Tiger themed t-shirts that was made by Nancy Gussey.   Sandra Lutz Strommen was 1965 graduate, and part of the reunion planning committee.  She figures around 160 people from the four classes were in attendance over the weekend. Strommen said out of those four classes 24 of their classmates were in the military. There was also a memorial table set up at the Memorial Hall, with a vase of white roses and pictures of the 14 classmates that had passed away over the years. The reunion came to end Saturday night with a Banquet at the Memorial Hall, with entertainment of Julie Opdahl, Nancy Belland, Mark Koller, and Keith Witte who performed songs from the 1960’s.

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