Blacksburg Middle School students buried a time capsule in 1976 to celebrate the bicentennial, and it has yet to be found.
It was 1976 and Paul McMahan was in eighth grade when he and the entire Blacksburg Middle School trooped down the front steps to gather in the grass along Main Street, listen to speeches, plant a tree and bury a time capsule celebrating the nation’s 200th birthday.
This story is one of youth, change and national, hometown and small-town pride in America. Now, in light of the imminent development of the OBMS site, McMahan hopes to find others who remember that event, the contents of the time capsule, and feel, as he does, the historic importance of that tree.
He hopes the tree might be worked into the development.
“Letting it provide much-needed greenspace for families to rest, relax and reflect, give inspiration and hope to local children that they too can leave a positive mark on the future of Blacksburg,” McMahan wrote in a letter.
Preparing for the bicentennial event, as schools all over the nation did that year, Blacksburg Middle School students gathered objects they believed best showed what life in 1976 was like in Blacksburg to contribute to the time capsule they imagined would be opened in 2076.
The Industrial Arts classes gathered scrap brass, melted it down and made a plaque to mark its place.
But when the middle school moved in 2003, no one could find the time capsule according to the Montgomery County Public Schools spokesperson Brenda Drake.
“We dug and dug. It’s still there as far as we know,” she said.
The old building was allowed to decline and the plaque that marked the capsule’s spot was lost.
The little oak tree was purchased after students raised money all year. It was planted to mark the time capsule.
“To show the spirit and pride that Blacksburg Middle School Class of 1976 had in our town,” McMahan said, “My hope is to try to save the historic tree and the time capsule buried there.”
A school wide assembly was held on the front lawn of the school in which awards for the fair were given out.
McMahan feels that for himself, and for many students who were there that day, consider the oak a symbol of the history of Blacksburg at a slower, more humble time.
McMahan said that the entire student body, teachers, staff and local community members attended the assembly, including Congressman William Wampler, Jr., a Virginia Tech graduate.
McMahan hopes others who remember the event, have ever sat under, walked their dogs beside, or have admired this tree, would join him in preserving it as a symbol of Blacksburg.
“As Blacksburg moves forward with plans to develop this site for the future, I hope that we remember this little known piece of our past as a symbol of the spirit and pride of the local children who have grown up in Blacksburg and call it their hometown,” he said.
Anyone with information about the time capsule can email the News Messenger at [email protected]