Wartime Wednesday: The Crypt of Civilization
Eighty years ago, a 2,000 square foot room in the granite basement of Phoebe Hearst Memorial Hall at Oglethorpe University was welded shut, not to be opened until the year 8113 A.D. Devised by Thornwell Jacobs, who is considered to be the father of the modern time capsule, the room contains hundreds of items including microfilm of more than 800 “authoritative books on every subject of importance known to mankind.”
A professor, writer, and clergyman, Jacobs refounded Oglethorpe after its devastation during the Civil War. While researching and teaching about past civilizations, he was struck with the lack of available information, giving him the idea to create a running record of everyday life. Inspired by the Egyptian pyramid and tomb openings in the 1920s, he wrote an article for the November 1936 issue of Scientific American proposing the creation of a time capsule.
The article solicited recommendations and aid from scientist, industry leaders, and philanthropists to supplement his own suggestions of books, films, phonograph records, food furniture, machines, toys, and cars. The final inventory is diverse, including items such as a wrist watch, plastic fork, lighting fixtures, beer, a pair of mannikins, cigarettes and a lighter, and recordings of Hitler, Stalin, Roosevelt, and Chamberlain, as well as the voices of Popeye the Sailor and a champion hog caller.
The target date of 8113 A.D. for the crypt’s future opening was determined by considering 1936 (the year the idea was devised) to be the halfway point to the future. By Jacobs’s calculations, six thousand one hundred and seventy-seven years had passed since the establishment of the Egyptian calendar in 4241 B.C.
In an effort to prevent the opening of the capsule before its prescribed date, a stainless steel plaque is mounted above the door assuring would-be “grave robbers” that the items are “encyclopedias, histories, scientific works, special editions of newspapers” and that “no jewels or precious metals are included.” The plaque goes on to appeal to their “sense of sportsmanship of posterity for the continued preservation of this vault until the year 8113.”
Today, the crypt remains sealed along with dozens of other time capsules under the watchful eye of the International Time Capsule Society headquartered at the university.
All’s fair in love and war. Or so they say.
High school and college were a nightmare for Doris Strealer and being an adult isn’t much better. Men won’t date a woman of her height, and they don’t understand her desire to repair car engines rather than work as a nurse or a teacher. When her father’s garage closes, and no one will hire a female mechanic, she joins the Red Cross Motor Corps, finally feeling at home. Until she comes face to face with her past in the form of Ronald McCann, the most popular boy in school.
On the brink of a successful career as a surgeon, Ron’s plans crumble when he’s drafted and assigned to an evacuation hospital in England, the last place he expects to run into a former schoolmate. The gangly tomboy who was four years behind him in high school has transformed into a statuesque beauty, but a broken engagement in college leaves him with no desire to risk his heart ever again.
Will the hazards of war make or break a romance between this unlikely couple?
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