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Wednesday, October 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

State marks 125 years with new ‘Keepers’

OLYMPIA -- Washington students take the oath to be Keepers of the Capsule and help prepare the state's time capsule for the next 25 years. (Jim Camden)
OLYMPIA -- Washington students take the oath to be Keepers of the Capsule and help prepare the state's time capsule for the next 25 years. (Jim Camden)

Young "Keepers of the Capsule" take the oath Tuesday.

OLYMPIA –Washington marked its quasquicentennial Tuesday with an eye to the future, swearing in a new group of children charged with sending a bit of today to coming generations.

Quasquicentennials are 125 year anniversaries. They aren't quite as big a deal as when a state hits an even hundred, but state officials made the most of this anniversary with a three-hour birthday party in the Capitol Rotunda offering a range of events that backed up Gov. Jay Inslee's description of Washington as a place that embraces diversity.

A benediction sung by a member of Squaxins, the tribe native to the area of the South Sound where the Capitol is located.

The Olympia High School orchestra playing military anthems and the state's unofficial rock song, “Louie, Louie.”

A mariachi band from Yakima.

Square dancers from Seattle who stepped through several numbers, including a rendition of “You Keep Me Hanging On.”

But the stars of the party were some 135 young volunteers who took an oath to be “Keepers of the Capsule” and carry on the task of adding to the state's time capsule that will be opened in 375 years.. . 

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. . .For its centennial in 1989, the state installed a time capsule in a 3,000-pound vault at the south entrance to the Capitol Building and recruited hundreds of 10-year-olds with November birthdays to be Keepers. They helped think of things to set aside for future residents and promised to return in 25 years to help the next generation of Keepers for the second installment.

A call for that next generation went out one year ago, and 135 signed up. Some are children of the original Keepers, but most are like Emma Shay of Spokane, a 10-year-old with a November birthday who heard about the program through Camp Fire and travelled across the state with her parents for the ceremony. The Balboa Elementary fourth grader had the task of carrying the Centennial Flag for the group, in part because of a Spokane connection. Erica Gordon, who is in charge of this quarter-century’s recruitment, was a Spokane fourth grader who signed up through Camp Fire in that first round of Keepers and tapped Emma for flag duty.

Emma said she wasn’t sure which part of the ceremony she liked best because they were all pretty good, but she’s definitely putting her Keeper medallion – a disc with a Native American image of “The Prophet of Direction” on a green ribbon – in a special place. She and the other children will help select items from 2014 to be stored in the vault on Washington’s birthday next year. Most will be sealed until 2389, but a few will be opened by Emma and other Keepers to see and enjoy.

Among the items set aside in 1989 for opening on Tuesday were magazines, banners and state Centennial memorabilia, including a white plush toy of mascot Big Foot. A carrousel of color slides were in a box, but no projector. There were four bottles of Chateau Ste. Michelle wine, two cabernet sauvignons and two late harvest Rieslings, all from 1985. It was a vintage the winery said might hold up for a quarter century, Knute Berger, the former coordinator of the Time Capsule Project, said.

Gordon said this time they might include some whiskey from Washington craft distilleries instead of wine for the 2039 opening. That wasn’t an option in 1989, because there were no Washington distilleries.

The capsule will also contain greetings from Washington residents, who can send their messages to the future through a link on the website at The messages will be preserved on microfilm.

The youngsters were told some of the things that went in the first capsule just 25 years ago are things they might not recognize, like a floppy disk and a phone book. Emma said she has “no real clue” what a floppy disk is, but of course she knows what a phone book is. She’s just never used one.

Asked what she’d recommend for the next capsule, Emma paused. “I haven’t really thought about it,” she said. After all, she added, she just got the assignment this week.

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Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981. He is currently the political reporter and state government reporter in the newspaper's Olympia bureau office.

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