Masons’ time capsule retrieved before elementary school demolished

Masons’ time capsule retrieved before elementary school demolished - A close up of a piece of paper - Product design
Among the items in the time capsule are a federal paper about the wage freeze of 1971 and a school directory for Monroe County; all type-written and mimeographed. SARA MATTHIS/Keys Weekly

Before the final demolition of Stanley Switlik Elementary takes place, the Marathon Mason Lodge 323 helped excavate a time capsule buried in 1971 in one of the central columns of the main administration building.

On Sept. 10, it was uncovered.

“Underneath the cornerstone was a really cool copper box, all soldered shut,” said Principal Brett Unke.

Most of the items were Masonic in nature. There were brochures and pamphlets and newsletters that described club business. The materials were from different Mason lodges around South Florida — Key West (including an all-Hispanic lodge), Marathon and Dade County.

“I recognize a couple of names — like the Scharch family from Big Pine Key,” said Adam Geaneas, the past master for the Marathon lodge (sort of like an outgoing director). Other familiar names include Coffey, Mayette and Martin-Vegue.

“That says there were 75 in attendance at one meeting … incredible,” said Geaneas.

Another item of interest was a 20-page Monroe County School District directory. Every single person’s name and phone number, at every school, painstakingly typed out on a typewriter and reproduced on a mimeograph. Other items were original, with the strike marks visible on the opposite side of the sheet of paper … with no corrections.

Also included in the time capsule was a federal pamphlet about the wage freeze of 1971. It included this quote by then-President Richard Nixon: “I am today ordering a freeze on all prices and wages throughout the United States, for a period of ninety days. … I am relying on the voluntary cooperation of all Americans — workers, employers, consumers — to make this freeze work.”

More Mason cornerstones are scattered around Marathon — at the Marathon government center, the courthouse, etc.

“And, of course, we’ll put one in the new elementary school when it is completed,” Geaneas said.

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