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It’s about time

Jenifer Ragland

A city time capsule accidentally uncovered 26 years too early will still have a permanent home in South Lake Tahoe history.

The 1973 capsule, buried during the dedication of the Johnson Memorial Fountain at the El Dorado Government Center, has been made into a special exhibit at the Lake Tahoe Historical Society Museum.

“It is in the public’s best interest to use this unfortunate accident to be able to see the contents of the time capsule and the history it represents,” said City Clerk Angie Peterson, who received the damaged capsule from the construction workers who found it earlier this year. “Although it was only 20 years ago, it is city history that some people may not be aware of.”

Peterson said the display will also serve to educate people on the preservation of records.

“It’s interesting to see that you just can’t put things in a box, put them in the ground and expect them to last 100 years,” she said. “There is some care needed to preserve paper records.”

The contents of the capsule include newspaper clippings, photos, original plans of the government center and personal belongings of the Johnson family, including a 1900s-era rolling pin.

The Johnson family were pioneers of South Lake Tahoe who owned much of the land in the area. Grandchildren of the family donated the property at Al Tahoe Boulevard and Johnson Lane to the city and the county for the purpose of a joint government complex that was to include a City Hall.

The time capsule was to serve as a tribute to the family, as well as preserve the important event.

But events that took place in the meantime have tainted the relationship between the Johnson family and local governments.

That is why Marjorie Springmeyer said she is upset about the unearthing and the display, and intends to voice her opinions at tonight’s City Council meeting.

Springmeyer, the eldest of the Johnson grandchildren who donated the land, said the incident has brought back bitter memories of a time she would rather forget.

“I feel like it has dug up the past and dug up the whole tricky business of the city and the county,” she said. “I’m so upset I can’t believe it.”

The source of her anger is what she believes it missing from the display – the history of government decisions that resulted in the county jail building at the government complex rather than a City Hall, which is now located in a building the city leases.

But Peterson said she decided to display the time capsule, rather than rebury it, because of the state it was in. And the goal of the display was to tell people about the time capsule, not necessarily every historical event surrounding the government center.

“My purpose was really to only do research as to the time period in which the time capsule was buried, the dedication ceremony and the contents of the capsule,” she said. “I was not getting into why we don’t have a City Hall there or why the city and the county made those decisions.”

Ellen Boyle, a Lake Tahoe Community College intern working in Peterson’s office, helped dig up photos and newspaper articles published at the time of the capsule’s burial, which are also included in the display for background information.

The exhibit can be viewed at the museum at 3058 U.S. Highway 50 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week starting June 20.


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