LINCOLN — Fifty years ago, in commemoration of the town of Lincoln’s centennial anniversary, a group of residents buried a time capsule somewhere near Town Hall. Five decades later, the exact location of the time capsule has been … well, lost to time.
Attempts were made last month to locate and retrieve the box so that it could be opened as part of the town’s 150th celebration this year. Those attempts failed, and the matter remains something of a mystery.
“We’re still working on it. I’m hoping to have it before the ground gets too hard to dig,” said Town Administrator Phil Gould.
He felt confident of the time capsule’s location last month when members of the town’s 150th Celebration/Parade Committee began digging outside of Town Hall. They made a sizable hole near a stone marker they believed marked the spot of the buried treasure, but came up empty.
Gould attempted to drum up more information on social media, calling on Lincoln residents who may have been involved with the centennial celebration back in 1971.
He connected with Paul Zangari, one of the few surviving members of the Centennial Committee. Zangari, who posted an update on Facebook a few weeks later, said he was a college student at the time, and unfortunately could not attend every event. He does not recall exactly where the time capsule was buried, and although he heavily reported the events of the centennial, does not have a record of his news releases pre-hard-drive disks.
He suggested that the time capsule could be buried near another stone marker dedicated in honor of the centennial by the Lincoln Lions Club, but he couldn’t be sure.
Other residents commented that they remembered the time capsule – but not where it ended up. Some believe it could be between Town Hall and the Lincoln Water Department, where the “Brothers of the Brush” buried their shaving razors as part of the centennial celebration.
The Brothers of the Brush, of which Zangari was a member, grew out their beards for an entire year in 1971, the year the time capsule was buried. It’s unclear if the razors were buried with the time capsule, or in a separate ceremony.
Gould said he’s hoping the razors were included in the box, so that they might set off a metal detector. He’s eager to try.
“I’ve been told it’s there, but Town Hall has been added onto a lot over the years. I’m hoping it wasn’t built or paved over at some point,” he said. If it was moved during construction, he’s struggling to find someone who knows where it ended up.
“I feel like I’m looking for Al (Capone's) secret vault,” he said. “But I haven’t given up yet.”
While the 1971 time capsule remains a mystery, news clippings from the time offer a glimpse into the town’s other centennial offerings.
Lincoln’s vaudeville star Eddie Dowling was scheduled to return home to kick off the centennial banquet, which took place in Pawtucket. There was no venue large enough to accommodate the crowd in Lincoln.
Dowling’s celebrity appearance was to be the highlight of the event; however, his wife fell ill and he was unable to attend. The main event instead was the coronation of a Centennial Queen. Eighteen-year-old Rhode Island Hospital School of Nursing student Kathleen Kelly took the crown.
Another central attraction was a 191-pound cake, shaped like the historic Arnold House on Great Road, donated by North Providence bakery owner Jacob Kessler.
The celebration concluded with a six-division parade that summer, which featured a reading of a special message from President Richard Nixon at the review stand. Nixon was allegedly invited to attend personally, however a White House aid replied that the president’s schedule would not allow for him to do so.
Instead, he was to prepare a message specifically for Lincoln regarding the “I’m for America” movement, a nationwide campaign promoting patriotism through “I’m for the USA” stickers.
The parade began near St. Jude Church, and traveled up River Road, past Town Hall to Lincoln High School. It included floats representing the various villages in Lincoln. During Saylesville Week, the Brothers of the Brush were “auctioned as slaves,” according to a newspaper account.
Other centennial events included a country fair at the high school, complete with aerial acts, free entertainment in the big top, a motorcycle stunt show and fireworks.
Villages planned their own events, including a fair in Quinnville that featured pie-eating contests and bike/doll carriage decorating contests. There were concerts and socials held across town, and a softball game between the Brothers of the Brush and the Centennial Belles.