ORLEANS — Greetings, Chronicle readers of the year 2070! You have just opened a time capsule that includes this newspaper, which was published on Aug. 6, 2020.
Fifty years ago, elementary-age children in the town’s summer recreation program looked to the future and wrote cards and letters about their lives in the midst of a global pandemic, including pictures of themselves and their activities. Perhaps, after five long decades, some of them have helped to open this capsule.
Way back in 2020, Recreation Director Alan Harrison and staff members were thinking, ironically, “outside the box” about how kids in the summer arts and crafts program could express their feelings about the times.
“Today, they’re doing tie-dye shirts for themselves,” Harrison said last week/five decades ago. “Ninety percent of the time, they walk out of the session with something for themselves: a bird house or a drawing.” But students in the first two weeks also worked on thank-you banners for the police and fire departments as well as personnel who’ve kept the town’s grocery stores open during a challenging time.
The youngsters also made a special gift for town hall and its staff, and this week have been working on their personal contributions to the time capsule. Individual baggies will include photos of the students and their statements, which can be simple or detailed. “The staff is letting the kids design that without micromanaging,” Harrison said.
When the messages to the future are ready, they’ll be sealed in the baggies and placed in a 16-by-11-by11-inch wooden treasure chest and stored in the vault in the town clerk’s office. They’ll have company.
“We’re gonna get a few pictures from the police department and the fire department,” Harrison said, “and other things we have collected, such as restaurant menus.” Also slated for inclusion is an essay about the town by historian Ron Petersen and this copy of The Cape Cod Chronicle.
The stories the children will tell may involve the many disruptions to routine caused by the pandemic. Harrison admitted that he didn’t really know what to expect when the summer rec program started last month.
“They had gone from mid-March to mid-June with no (in-person) school and really no social interaction,” he said. “They couldn’t play spring sports… Kids don’t social-distance. That’s not their nature.” He worried “how these kids are going to react” to all this.
Happily, said Harrison, “I was wrong. They are fabulously connected and understand the policies of wearing masks. Parents have educated their kids well.” For the rec program at the elementary school, children must wear masks and bring their own water bottles.
“The kids are fine,” Harrison said. “They accept it. I was watching a kickball game the other day. There were eight kids in the field, eight kids at bat, and everyone was wearing a mask. The mask is just there now; it’s not a deterrent to having fun.”
If you’re among those reading this in 2070, know that the rec department and students hope you will appreciate that, in the midst of challenging times, they were thinking of you.
“The kids and staff were not selfishly thinking, ‘What do we today?’” Harrison said. “They were thinking of others, wanting to educate others… We just want to tell people what went on with the town 50 years ago, what hit us with coronavirus and how it impacted us. We said, ‘We’re gonna live our lives, follow some guidelines, and not run away.’”