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High school excavation workers uncover a history mystery

Harlow Eichler, RRHS class of 1951, Grace Fleischer ('49), Jack Nickels ('51) and principal Debra Bernard await the opening of the time capsule found by construction workers at the high school. (photo courtesy Rocky River schools)

Student Council co-president Katie Perez, principal Debra Bernard, Student Council co-president Kim Leitch and Board of Education member Jean Rounds look at items found in a time capsule discovered in the building's 1949 cornerstone. (photo courtesy Rocky River schools)

By Sue Botos

Rocky River

The past, present and future all came together at Rocky River High School recently as the present-day construction team, working on future additions to the building, unearthed part of its past.

A copper time capsule was found in the 1949 cornerstone of the school, and was opened in an informal ceremony last week in front of students, school officials and members of the classes of 1949 and 1951. While the class of 1951 was the first to graduate from the high school after classes were moved from the old middle school building on Lakeview Road, exactly who put the capsule together remains murky.

Jack Nickels, a member of the class of 1951, said he knew that it was not his classmates.

“I knew immediately. It was missing anything about the Korean War,” said Nickels, who attended the opening festivities along with fellow class members Harlow Eichler and Grace Fleischer Neuman, ’49.

The only hint to the capsule’s origin that Nickels could recall pointed to the class of 1950. “Jay Chandler (’50) mentioned a time capsule at football practice in September of 1949,” he said in a recent interview.

The items in the capsule are being digitally recorded by the Rocky River Historical Society, and include a 1949 yearbook and a number of newspapers, which Principal Debra Bernard said were in “perfect condition” due to box being welded shut. Bernard was most intrigued by a 1949 student handbook, which she said looked like a “3 by 5 notecard,” but described principles she said the schools adhere to even now.

“What I loved the most was the handbook. The educational philosophy, with the focus on student learning, parallels ours today,” said Bernard. “The strand of tradition remains the same, no matter how things change.”

Nickels related another parallel between his class and current students: construction.

“I can relate to that. I sympathize,” he said, adding that it was even more challenging in his time. “We had to carry around camp chairs from the funeral parlor because the furniture people were on strike or it was backordered,” said Nickels. He added that students also had to tote around all of their books and belongings because lockers had not yet been installed.

Nickels and his classmates attended their first three years of high school in what became the middle school, now the site of the current middle school parking lot. Although the new high school was not quite completed, Nickels remembered that students had to move in during the 1950-51 school year because the former building was set to house grades 6 through 8.

“I remember they only had the front sidewalk finished. It’s sort of like the kids have it now,” Nickels said, referring to the battle to keep the halls free of mud.

Bernard said that the discovery of the time capsule has inspired the class of 2011, led by Co-presidents Katie Perez and Kim Leitch, to put together their own capsule. She said that the students plan to include not only items from the present, but things from the past, including what was found in the 1949 container, as a gift to those who may find it in the future.




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