A 60-year-old time capsule unearthed at Learning Gate Community School will be a teaching moment for at least one third-grade teacher.
The battered metal box held items buried on July 18, 1948 during a ceremony to lay the cornerstone for the First United Methodist Church of Lutz.
The congregation now resides in a new church off West Lutz Lake Fern Road.
The former church site came into ownership of Learning Gate in 2014.
The time capsule came to light as workers demolished the old church building. Learning Gate plans to build new administrative offices in its place.
Inside the box, school officials found a few, water-logged items, namely: A July 18, 1948 edition of the Tampa Sunday Tribune with full comic section, a Bible, a hymnal and a round glazed window panel.
Using the Tribune issues as a guide, Linda Fuerst foresees a timely history lesson for her third-graders.
One headline captures the connection between then and now: “New Links Found, May Aid Polio.”
In the 1940s and 1950s, polio was a crippling disease that could cause paralysis. The virus frequently attacked children, but it also affected one famous figure, President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Today, the world is battling COVID-19 and is waiting for a vaccine.
Another news item is on “meat rationing,” a part of the Depression and World War II familiar to older generations.
“I talk about my parents a lot,” said Fuerst. “They grew up in the Depression and World War II.”
Learning Gate teachers got a laugh out of one story, in particular, about teachers’ salaries being lower than that of craftsmen. Salaries ranged from a low of $2,812 to a high of $3,150.
Advertisements from Maas Brothers highlighted fashionable clothing on sale at the iconic Tampa department store. The store closed in 1991 and was torn down in 2006.
The comics and some language in the 1948 newspaper reveal some outdated views on race and women.
A brief news item notes the importance of the day for the Lutz church members – a cornerstone ceremony for the then-new church construction.
The congregation traces its beginnings back nearly 100 years through church mergers and other church locations.
The article described a concrete block building plastered with stucco, an auditorium measuring 30-by-50 feet, and a rear addition of about the same size.
The total cost? Thirty-five thousand dollars.
When Learning Gate bought the property, the vacant church was adjacent to the campus of Learning Gate’s middle school, at 207 W. Lutz Lake Fern Road.
School officials considered keeping the aging structure. But, Learning Gate Principal Michelle Mason said, “It was in a complete state of disrepair, unsalvageable. The financial cost of it was enormous.”
In addition to new offices, Learning Gate also is renovating existing school buildings to upgrade air-conditioning and to enlarge classrooms.
Work is expected to be complete by the start of the new school year.
The discovery of the time capsule was not unexpected.
“They had been told to be on the lookout,” Mason said.
Water had seeped into the box.
It took a while to dry out the newspapers and books.
Mike Reid, the worker who found the time capsule, said about 40 people stopped by to view the church before the demolition.
“A lot of people who came by were married here,” he said. “I think it was pretty cool.”
Victor Alonso remembers his wedding there, and the years he and his family attended the church.
“It was a sweet time,” he said. “It will be sad whenever we drive by and it’s gone.”
But, he added, “I feel better that it’s being acknowledged.”
Mason hopes to pass on the artifacts to church members, and has reached out to church officials.
Now that the word is out, Mason said, “I’ve had so many people reach out who want to see if they can come by and see it.”
Published June 10, 2020
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