Students reunite as time capsule unearthed
at Highland Piper school after 34 years

Staff Reporter

In 1966, eighth-graders at Highland Piper buried a time capsule next to the school and made a promise in their yearbook to return in the year 2000 and dig it up.

Now, 34 years later, over 30 class members showed up at what is now called Highland Middle School to relive and retrieve memories from the past. At the time, teacher Don Zwier had the class write essays about what life might be like in the year 2000. He then placed the papers in a potato chip tin, along with other items, and buried it.

"I particularly liked this class," he said. "I thought it would be nice for them to have a reason to come back again."

the group

Zwier taught at Highland Piper for 10 years and at Libertyville High School for another 10 years. His face lit up when he saw how many people turned out for the event.

"I recognize some of them (former students)," he said.

Some members of the 1965-66 graduating class traveled over 1,000 miles to attend. Former student Gary Gibbs explained how excited he was while coming in from Vermont.

"This has been haunting me," he said. "I wondered, 'Is anybody else thinking about this?'" Gibbs also recognized several former friends.

"To look and see how people have changed is unbelievable," he said.

Margie Destefano arrived from Florida with her husband Guy. Both took a two-week vacation for the event, rather then attending an upcoming high school reunion. Former Piper student Joan Sheldon is now a teacher at Hawthorn School in Vernon Hills.

"It's like we picked up where we left off-- it's wonderful," she said. "The world was very different (in 1966)." She added that talk of things like computers and Nintendo games were non-existent.

"We put in the yearbook that we'd meet this day at this time," Sheldon explained.

The dig for the time capsule had people worried, as after 45 minutes it had still not been unearthed. This caused speculation that it was buried in a different location. But after an hour of exhaustive work, the shovel of Tom Nicol bumped into something. It was a concrete cylinder, buried about 4 feet deep. He then set the object on the grass and hammered away at it, being careful not to damage the contents inside.

Suddenly the concrete gave way and was pulled apart. Emotions ran high, and when a mustard yellow potato chip tin was revealed, the entire group screamed with joy.

"Man it's pristine," yelled one former student.

The outside of the tin read "The New Era Scientifically Processed Potato Chips." Class of '66 and '67 members huddled in a circle around the can, as their former teacher pulled the lid off, allowing fresh air inside for the first time in over three decades. Inside were the essays, in nearly perfect condition.

"Since you're the teacher can't you just hand our papers out?" joked Janice Bresley.

"I'm not the leader anymore," Zwier replied.

Also inside the tin was a copy of "Time" magazine, pictures of the Beatles and an issue of "Popular Science."

"I'm shakin', this is so cool," said Andi Tranter. Then the class began reading the essays.

The letter from Gary Gibbs predicted people would be eating pills as whole meals and that machines would take the place of people at some jobs. He also said people would be doing underground construction on the moon. Mike Tobin forecasted 170-story skyscrapers, a cancer vaccination and a war with the Soviet Union.

"I'm glad we don't have the race problems we had in the 1960s," his letter read.

Others had hopes of water so clean you could drink from lakes and rivers and a society without crime.

People hugged, some shed a few tears, and others renewed long-lost friendships. The former classmates all planned a picnic for the following day. For teacher Zwier, it was the end to years of waiting--waiting to see the faces he once taught. Listening to the essays they wrote 34 years ago made him proud to see his pupils one last time.

"I couldn't believe it when it actually happened," he shared.

Tom Nicol, a member of the Highland Middle
School Class of 1966, reacts to finding the time
capsule his teacher Don Zwier buried 34 years ago.
The time capsule contained the students'
prediction of the year 2000.
-Photo by Sandy Bressner


Last Updated 6-9-00