BELPRE-Two 9-year-olds took a trip into the past this month after discovering a time capsule in the basement of a Belpre house on Blennerhassett Avenue.
The 114-year-old Victorian home belongs to Michael and Brenda Church whose daughter, Claudia, and her friend Madison Spriggs found a strange-looking, hand-made wooden box while playing in the basement on Dec. 8.
"It was just a box made out of wood sitting there on a pile of wood. But we shook it and something rattled inside," Claudia said.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Nine-year-old Claudia Church, left and brother Junie, 6, on Thursday look over the contents of a 51-year-old time capsule Claudia and her friend Madison Spriggs found in the basement of their Belpre home.
That immediately piqued the girls' interest.
"We both wanted to open it," Madison added.
They tried to pry the box, more than a foot long and about two inches deep, open with a crowbar, Claudia said.
"But it wouldn't open, so we begged my dad to open it," she said.
Michael Church was upstairs watching a football game at the time.
"The girls brought this box up and wanted me to open it right away. I didn't think there was anything in it," he said.
Giving in to their request, Michael grabbed a hammer and began working on the box out in the driveway and soon had it opened.
"The first thing we saw were some newspapers. They were wrapped in plastic, but smelled old and musty," Madison said.
Also packed inside the box was a 1961 penny and a list of names of those who were present when the wooden box was originally sealed on Dec. 9, 1961.
Those names included F.D. Keller, MD; Mrs. F.D. (Clarice) Keller, Jean Keller Houston; Joe Houston; and Joel Frederick Houston who was 15 months old at the time.
Michael Church said the time capsule was apparently constructed by Frederick D. Keller, a local doctor whose family lived in the home for 40 years before selling it to a Barlow family who resided there for 23 years.
The Churches have lived in the stately Victorian for more than six years now, Michael said.
There were three newspapers inside the box, all dated Dec. 7, 1961, which would have been the 20th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The papers included The Marietta Daily Times, The Belpre Advance and The Parkersburg Sentinel. The front pages of all three periodicals contained articles and photos commemorating the 1941 attack.
One headline in the Marietta paper read "Shed Tears on Pearl Harbor; Not Hiroshima, Says Harry S. Truman."
Michael Church said Dr. Keller had apparently served in the medical corps during World War II, and therefore had an interest in the 20th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack.
Other local articles in the newspapers included a story about the city of Marietta running low on funds, forcing then-Mayor Don Curtis to order budget cuts. The article mentioned that the city's streets fund was short by $10,000.
Some of the advertisements were from Montgomery Ward, J.C. Penney, Becker Motors and Otto Brothers Department Store.
The Colony Theatre was showing Troy Donahue and Connie Stevens in a movie titled "Susan Slade."
Across the street the Putnam Theater had a double-feature-Howard Hughes presents "Son of Sinbad" with Vincent Price, and "Murder, Inc."
A photo in the social section of The Marietta Daily Times showed a Mrs. Ray Wallace of Route 3, Marietta, who appeared on the "Truth or Consequences" television show with host Bob Barker.
Madison and Claudia also checked out some of the early-60s fashions.
"The dresses haven't really changed that much-except they were fancier and more delicate," Claudia said.
She learned John Fitzgerald Kennedy was president at the time, noting a headline that referred to Kennedy seeking funds for public projects.
The girls shared their time capsule adventure with their third grade teacher, Mary Miller, and fellow students at Belpre Elementary School.
"I think the class really liked our report," Madison said. "We knew what a time capsule was, but we had never opened one. And I enjoy learning about history."
Now she and Claudia are thinking about making up their own time capsule.
Claudia said the copy of the Belpre Advance newspaper is to be donated to the Belpre Historical Society museum, but the Parkersburg Sentinel or Marietta Daily Times papers could be placed in the girls' new time capsule, along with more modern memorabilia.
"Fifty-one years from now someone might want to know what was going on in 2012," she said.
Michael Church said he contacted Joel Frederick Houston-the 15-month-old on the time capsule list-via email earlier this month, and discovered the Houstons now live in Florida.
"(Joel) said his mother did not recall the time capsule, but he added that it sounded like something his grandfather would have done," Michael said.
He added that it was interesting the girls had discovered the time capsule on Dec. 8, just one day shy of the Dec. 9 date that the box was sealed 51 years ago, and that no one had found it for all those years.