Originally Published: February 14, 2012 9:26 p.m.
PRESCOTT - The voices from the past were loud and clear at the Elks Opera House Tuesday.
First, there was former Mayor Frank Tutt hoping that the contents of the 50-year-old time capsule would give the audience "a first-hand recollection of life in Prescott in 1962."
Then came former City Attorney D.J. Christensen noting that "Prescott was synonymous with progress."
And finally came former City Manager Art Bunger telling the crowd how happy he was that his son Rick had been chosen as one of the Centennians, the group of children appointed in 1962 to open a city time capsule on Feb. 14, 2012, Arizona's 100th birthday.
The letters lent a personal touch, but the voices came in other forms as well.
The Yavapai Dental Society piped in with a real tooth, inlaid with gold.
Then there was the word from the Yavapai County Medical Society, which provided a Sabin vaccine for a dreaded disease of the day, polio.
Gadgets of the time included a General Electric transistor radio, a Norelco electric shaver, a pink princess telephone, light bulbs, and a Porter-Cable electric drill.
Indeed, the 1962 time capsule came packed with memories of Prescott in an earlier time.
A typed inventory of the contents of the solid copper box listed 46 items. Most came tightly wrapped in aluminum foil.
In front of more than 400 spectators on Tuesday afternoon, six of the original Centennians unwrapped and announced the contents of the time capsule, carrying out the responsibility they had accepted as children.
For the people who were there 50 years ago, the personal letters and the images were obviously moving.
"I loved to see the pictures, and I loved to hear the names," said Kathleen Turley Clark, a Centennian whose father Gerald Turley served on the Prescott City Council in the 1960s. "I saw a picture of them breaking ground (for the new city hall), and there was my dad. He would have loved to see this day."
Julie O'Kon Vallely also commented on the emotions that arose from the opening of the time capsule. For her, the existence of the personal letters came as a surprise. "I had to hold it together then," she said afterward of reading the letters from Tutt, Bunger, and Christensen.
Rick Bunger, who stood by while the letter from his father was read, said afterward, "My dad's message was really special."
The people in the audience also had moments of revelation, as the contents brought up cultural icons and long-forgotten businesses.
A gasp arose at the sight of a magazine-cover photo of President John F. Kennedy - in 1962, just a year before his death.
Audience members also reacted to a Sears catalog for Christmas 1962, a metal toy model of a Volkswagen bus, a copy of Chubby Checker's "It's Pony Time" album, a beat-up brick from the demolition of the 1876 Howey's Hall building, and a cotton blouse from shirt factory Maler Manufacturing Co.
The creators of the 1962 time capsule also made sure to include plenty of official history of the time. The capsule included old phone books, the plans for city hall, city maps, a city budget, an Arizona road map, a copy of Arizona Highways, and several editions of the Prescott Evening Courier.
"I thought they did a really wonderful presentation of the times," said Centennian Cheryl Matli, who traveled to Prescott for Tuesday's event from her home in Victoria, British Columbia. "They didn't miss much."
Setting the stage for the eagerly anticipated time capsule opening were performances by local elementary and high school students.
To open the program, the Prescott High School Show Choir performed the National Anthem and a western medley of songs.
Decked out in outfits of shimmering blue, the choir sang and danced to turn-of-the-century favorites such as "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," and "When the Saints Go Marching In."
Then came the performance of a song that local music teacher Judith Clothier had written especially for the event - "Prescott, Arizona Centennial Song: This Mile-High Sparkling Gem."
Performed by a choir of local fourth-graders wearing centennial T-shirts, the song captured many of Prescott's high points through the years.
"In eighteen hundred and sixty-four, Abe Lincoln had a quest. Expansion is our Union goal, so you must travel west," sang the children. "We'll hang our hat in Prescott town. We'll ranch and mine and farm."
The event also included the introduction of the new Sesquicentennians, the children chosen to carry on the time capsule tradition in 2062.
The contents of the 1962 time capsule will be on display at the Prescott Library's "viewery" throughout the month of March. Prescott Preservation Specialist Cat Moody said the display would begin on March 1, and would give the community an opportunity for an up-close look at the items and photos.
Some of the contents will then go to Sharlot Hall Museum, and some may also go back into the copper box for the community's next time capsule for 2062.