Draper-Aden and futuristic equipment to seek OBMS time capsule

Photo by Liz Kirchner
The “Spirit of 76” oak planted by Blacksburg Middle School students to celebrate the country’s bicentennial may mark a time capsule, but definitely marks small-town history. Local engineering firm Draper-Aden will search for the time capsule at 9 a.m. Friday.

The red oak on Blacksburg’s Main Street marks the spot where the old Blacksburg Middle School once stood.

That handsome tree was planted on a hot day in early summer by students, faculty, and visiting dignitaries trooping down the front steps of the school together in bell-bottoms, plaid minis and wide ties celebrating the nation’s bicentennial as schools did all over the country that year.

The tree, dubbed “The Spirit of ‘76” by those kids, might also mark the site of a time capsule containing objects collected to represent an America in the year Apple released its first computer.

This Friday, in interesting parallel, students will again gather at the oak, this time to look for the time capsule.

Intrigued by the story, local consulting engineering firm, Draper-Aden Associates, will use powerful ground-penetrating radar and electromagnetic induction to sweep around under the handsome oak to search.

Last month, a News Messenger article told the story of Paul McMahan, a Blacksburg eighth grader back then, who helped plant the tree and remembered it vividly as the work of the entire school.

The February article requested information about the time capsule, receiving emails from students and faculty.

Some remembered that there was no time capsule at all, some recalled digging the hole to place the time capsule, others remembered stabbing around under the tree, looking for the capsule and planning to carry it with them as the school moved to its new home more than a decade ago.

While the tree may or may not mark the site of the 42-year-old relic, it definitely marks the site of local history and shared memory of small-town life not so long ago and national pride.

So, as development of the former OBMS site looms, the fates of the still-mythical time capsule and the very real tree are unsettled.

McMahan, who first brought to light the tree’s place in Blacksburg’s history, is considering a fund-raising campaign selling personalized pavers to raise money to successfully move the mature tree.

He is also planning to take cuttings from the tree this spring, raising new Spirits for the future that lies ahead.

The public is invited to attend as Draper-Aden’s leads the search for the time capsule under the old oak on S. Main Street at 9 a.m. Friday.

For more information or with more information, email communitynews@ourvalley.org or visit Facebook at: “Old Blacksburg Middle School Historic Oak Tree and Time Capsule.”