By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
Twenty years ago, a casket was laid to rest. And 80 years from now, it’s supposed to be opened.
That was the idea, anyway, when Everett celebrated its centennial in 1993. That coffin, a donation to centennial planners from the Collins Casket Company, holds a message to the future, not human remains.
It’s a time capsule. Inside are Everett centennial items, photos and other memorabilia. And it’s hidden in a wall inside the Everett Performing Arts Center. The theater opened in Everett’s centennial year.
“I had that casket in my office for a long time. We kept adding to it,” said Steve Breeden, who in 1993 was the city’s communications director.
Breeden, who also designed the city’s logo, decorated the metal casket. “As I recall, we put vinyl graphics on it and painted it gold. It was pretty cool looking,” he said.
Cee Strong was part of a centennial planning group that worked on the time capsule. The Everett woman recalled Monday that a picture of a clock, in the surrealistic style of painter Salvador Dali, was part of the casket paint job. “It gave it a little bit of hilarity,” she said.
Along with centennial lapel pins and awards, Everett photos and sealed letters, Strong said the casket contains a Barbie doll and a sheet of Elvis Presley stamps, issued in 1993.
The performing arts center opened in August 1993 as the Everett Community Theater, with a gala that brought singer Tony Bennett to town. A brief article in Herald archives tells about the placement of the time capsule, which was scheduled for June 10, 1993. “Keepsakes from today and messages from citizens and workers of Everett are being collected for burial in a time capsule at the foot of the Community Theater,” the article said.
Traditionally, time capsules are placed in cornerstones of important buildings. People who remember said that isn’t what happened with the casket. Strong and others know just where it is.
“If you stand in the lobby looking at the steps, over to the left there’s a room. At the time, it was a first-aid room. It’s a tiny room that snugs up against the stairs,” Strong said. Space for the casket was walled off inside that tiny room. “You can’t get there. There’s no access,” she said.
Centennial planners, she said, left detailed instructions with the city clerk’s office about how to find the casket. And a plaque about the time capsule was supposed to be hung in the theater. “Where the plaque is today, I don’t know,” Strong said.
Intended for a future generation, the instructions include measurements to find the exact spot, Strong said. “One would just need to take a tiny little saw and cut a hole,” she added.
There’s a little wrinkle in those 20-year-old plans. Kate Reardon, the city’s spokeswoman, said Tuesday the clerk’s office didn’t immediately know where those directions might be. The clerk’s office has a seven-page document listing 1993 centennial events. The biggest event was the April 27, 1993, Charter Signing Day celebration at Naval Station Everett. And the list includes the time capsule placement that June. There are no details on where to find the casket.
Strong said the directions were left with Elaine Moschili, who worked at the clerk’s office. Moschili, according to Everett Public Library archives, died in 2004.
Pete Kinch, Everett’s mayor from 1990 to 1994, remembers that items from the centennial and the new theater were placed in the time capsule. “Beyond that, I don’t know,” Kinch said Tuesday.
Gail Chism, who lives in Everett’s Lowell neighborhood and is planning that community’s 150th anniversary this year, knows where the time capsule is. “When you walk in the theater and go left, there is a women’s bathroom,” she said. The small room with the walled-off casket is between that restroom and the nearby stairway.
It was Chism who clued me in on the time capsule. She called about it after I wrote last November about centennial bricks being removed outside the theater. The bricks, inscribed with names of people who contributed to the centennial celebration, were destroyed during construction of the new plaza next to the Everett Performing Arts Center.
Reardon said Tuesday that the city, with the Everett Historical Commission, is still working on a way to recognize donors named on the bricks. One plan calls for a display in the Wall Street Building of Everett’s first 100 years. It would include a 1909 painting by Charles Sorenson, titled “Everett in 1892,” and a plaque naming centennial donors.
And 80 years from now, will anyone remember there’s a casket to be opened? I’d have to be 140 years old to find out. “That will be the 100-year mystery, huh? Maybe they’ll stumble on it,” Kinch said. Breeden thinks he may have written instructions on the casket — but he can’t remember.
“If they find it, maybe they’ll know it wasn’t a murder mystery,” Breeden said. “It isn’t Jimmy Hoffa buried here.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, firstname.lastname@example.org.