If it exists, the contents of an elusive time capsule marking the opening of T.C. Williams High School remain a mystery. Where is it? What’s inside? Nobody seems to know.
The questions have remained unanswered for years, and few 1960s-era graduates seem to have anything definitive to say about the matter. Even its location remains a point of debate. Some say that the capsule is buried in the northeast corner of the building while others say that it’s under the flagpole toward the front entrance along King Street.
"My recollection is that it was near the flagpole," said Commonwealth’s Attorney S. Randolph Sengel, a member of the Class of 1967. "But you know what they say about the ’60s — if you can remember it, you weren’t there."
Until last week, the existence of a time capsule from 1965 was an urban legend. But a recently unearthed document has confirmed its existence, setting into motion a series of events that is likely to lead to the discovery of the time capsule during the demolition process of the old building to make room for a parking garage next to the new $100-million T.C. Williams facility. While clearing out old file cabinets in the soon-to-be-demolished building, employees of the school’s guidance department came across a folder containing the program for the Dec. 5, 1965 dedication ceremony. The program includes a "presentation of historic capsule" by Sarah Carlin, now deceased, who was then the vice president of the Alexandria Gazette.
"My memory is that the capsule was on one of the corners of the building," said Lew Stearman, who general manager of the newspaper at the time. "But it’s just as likely to be on the southeast corner as anywhere else."
THE NEWSPAPER’S front-page story covering the dedication appeared on Dec. 6, 1965 under the headline "Crowd of Thousands Attends T.C. Williams Dedication." The article, written by staff reporter Warren Williams, described the ceremony as the first use of the school’s 1,300-seat auditorium. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Woodrow Wilkerson acted as master of ceremonies, which included an invocation, presentation of the school’s keys and an unveiling of a plaque honoring longtime Superintendent Thomas Chambliss Williams.
"Mrs. Charles C. Carlin, vice president and secretary-treasurer of the Alexandria Gazette, presented to Ridgely copies of newspaper stories concerning the building and the Mudtown Urban Renewal project under which it was constructed," the Gazette reported. "The news items are to be place in a metal capsule with other records of the school as part of its permanent record."
Unfortunately, the newspaper did not report the location where school officials intended to bury the capsule. Complicating the search, no plaque was ever mounted to identify the location of the metal container — if it exists. Assistant Superintendent John Porter said that the excitement surrounding the discovery of the 1965 dedication program was an important step forward, transforming the time capsule’s existence from legend to fact.
"My suspicion is that if it’s there, we are going to find it soon," said Porter, who served as the high school’s principal for 22 years. "I can’t wait to see what’s in it."