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Washington Voices

Valley Odd Fellows time capsule opened at tea

Thu., Oct. 22, 2009

There’s something magical about an afternoon of tea and history that transcends the norm. On Saturday, the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum once again transcended the norm by holding its fifth annual Tea and History program at Opportunity Presbyterian Church.

Victorian-era tea cups and saucers with delicate wisps of flowers painted on bone china sat on tables covered in white linen. Finger size cakes, breads and fruits were served with tea and, as the attendees enjoyed their food and drink, history was sitting in a time capsule that had been embedded in a wall since 1926, waiting for the day its contents would be revealed.

Before the time capsule however, museum director Jayne Singleton honored the museum’s 22 volunteers. “They are a phenomenal asset to the community,” Singleton said and assured the dedicated group that she considers them top notch. “I’m proud to know them all.”

As the volunteers hustled back to their duties, the room became quiet. Cups sat still, hands folded in laps anticipating the time capsule. “When I was told there was a time capsule located in the cornerstone of the Odd Fellows Hall, I thought of a capsule, you know, a long cylinder capsule filled with things,” Singleton said to the 76 attendees.

The Odd Fellows Hall, built in 1909, was torn down this summer along with the rest of the historic Opportunity block on Sprague Avenue. Rob’s Demolition Inc. “popped the cornerstone off” and removed a rectangular copper box about the size of a paperback novel. Singleton was surprised. “I said, ‘where’s the rest of it?’ ”

Time capsules of yesteryear didn’t adequately preserve the contents inside and knowing this bit of information, the Odd Fellows decided a 6-inch tall by 4 1/2-inch wide homemade copper box would protect their moment in history.

One member of the Odd Fellows, W.P. Myers, filled and sealed the time capsule in 1926 and on a cloudy Saturday afternoon, 83 years later, his son, Warren Myers, had the honor of removing the contents.

Tucked inside the capsule was the Spokane Valley Herald dated June 16, 1926. As Myers withdrew the newspaper, the importance of this moment received silent respect for a son who was carefully opening an item his father held so long ago.

Additional papers were pulled from the capsule and as Myers unfolded them, the bold letterhead of his father’s store, W.P. Myers, stared back at him. The letterhead stationery bore the Odd Fellows’ charter membership lists from 1909 and July 1926 with 128 names of well-known Opportunity pioneers, officers of the Wilford Lodge No. 269, as well as the building committee. Singleton read the names as if they were old friends and, being the museum director, in many ways, they are. “I know most of these names,” she quietly said into the microphone.

Although the opening was brief and the capsule’s contents small, this day held a first for all in the room because until that day, no one had attended the opening of a time capsule.

Spokane resident Jack Nisbet, a teacher, naturalist and writer of several books and articles on Northwest history, then spoke to the audience.

An informative, entertaining speaker, he engaged the group with his knowledge on David Thompson, an English fur trader and mapmaker who “almost 200 years ago to the day” was in the Spokane Valley. “Thompson’s journals disprove a lot of our common ideas,” Nisbet said referring to our conceptions on climate, hunting and geography of 200 years ago.

With the time capsule emptied, history recited and tea consumed, Singleton thanked the crowd. “This is extremely exciting for a small museum. We’re privileged to be a part of it.”

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