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Time capsule from 1977 opened 55 years early in Council Bluffs

It wasn't supposed to be opened until 2076.
Posted at 8:04 PM, Jul 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-22 21:04:19-04

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa. (KMTV) — Workers were going to break ground on the Pottawattamie County Courthouse when they found a marker for a time capsule from the country's bicentennial.

You could call it a lucky coincidence when Pottawattamie County Buildings and Grounds Director Jason Slack and his crew found all the contents of a time capsule while working on the courthouse.

"Everything was pretty much wet and soaked, inside the time capsule, it had been leaking for years, the bottom of it was filled with mud and sediment and a lot of the metal parts and pieces were corroded and oxidized," Slack said.

That's when they started taking everything and boxing it up to protect it. Now, all the contents of the capsule are laid out on tables to be dried and preserved in a warehouse.

There are all kinds of items ranging from literature to a scrapbook to shoes. It spurs nostalgia for Pottawattamie County Supervisor Tim Wichman.

"The interest rate on a house was about 12 to 13 percent, you could buy a house for as low as 18-thousand and the 40s, that's changed dramatically. Those same houses that sold for 47-thousand dollars in 1977 are probably worth over 200 today," Wichman said.

Kat Slaughter with the Historical Society of Pottawattamie County says there's a lesson we can learn from residents' efforts to preserve history.

"History isn't just papers, it's people putting their lives together and not just, it might sound really bad but boring history classes, these are physical things in people's stories and their lives," Slaughter said.

Wichman believes the discovery was meant to happen.

"It wasn't where it was supposed to have been and it was accidentally hit by an excavator, everything kind of fits together, that it was time to find it and save what's left of it," Wichman said.

That's what Wichman plans to do, save it so the next generation can uncover a piece of the past.

"It's just kind of really cool to see, we'll put everything back together so somebody in 56, 55 years from now will be able to open it up and take another look," Wichman said.

There is a discussion to put the contents in a sealed vault that is water-tight until 2076.