From cramming in the library to illicitly hanging in the hallways, memories of high school will last a lifetime. Some moments, items, and lessons, however, manage to slip through the cracks. In fact, one object remained hidden in a school hallway for decades until it was recently uncovered. And its contents revealed something very unexpected.
From September through June of each year, school buildings around the country are packed full of students. Hoover Middle School in North Canton, Ohio, was no exception to that rule.
Running a school, however, takes plenty of work behind the scenes. While everyone knows that teachers do a great deal for their students every day, custodians don’t always receive the same credit.
One of those under-appreciated workers was Chas Pyle. In May 2019, though, he had a specific task; this would go beyond simply sweeping the floors or changing some lightbulbs.
As any student can tell you, a locker is an essential part of everyone’s day. This time, however, Hoover Middle School’s lockers needed a little bit of TLC. Thankfully, Chas was on the case.
In one stretch of hallway, there was a particular bank of lockers. The trim, which connected the metal to the wall, had somehow come loose. It needed to be reattached. So began a grand adventure.
Nothing was seriously broken, so Chas didn’t think it would be a big job. He sized up the situation and got to work; without breaking a sweat, he had popped the offending piece of metal loose.
Now that the trim was completely off, the custodian simply needed to reattach it and get on with his responsibilities. Something, however, caught his eye and stopped him in his tracks.
In the dusty space between the locker and wall, there was something red sitting on the floor. While he wasn’t sure what he had spotted, Chas fished it out from the crevice.
It was a red purse! Clearly, some student had lost her beloved bag and its contents behind that piece of metal locker trim. Surely, Chas thought, she would want her possessions back.
Well, when something goes wrong in a school, what happens? You head to the office! Chas picked up his newfound purse and did just that. They were going to get to the bottom of this.
While it usually isn’t okay to rummage through someone’s purse, the school staff decided that this was a special circumstance. They slowly opened the zipper, hoping to find a clue of the owner’s identity.
Inside the purse, they found several items that belonged to Patti Rumfola. As they dug deeper, though, they encountered a problem. It wouldn’t be easy to return this purse after all…
Patti wasn’t a current student…. or someone who had been in the building recently. She graduated from Hoover High School in 1960; her purse had been lost for nearly 60 years!
While Patti hadn’t been a student for quite some time, her purse was chock full of stuff. It didn’t have a clue to her whereabouts, but it did provide a glimpse into her former life and the things she held dear.
First and foremost, there were plenty of school supplies. Patti definitely made sure that she was prepared for class! There was also some makeup and a single stick of Beech-Net chewing gum.
That wasn’t all Patti was carrying, though. The purse also contained some faded baseball and football schedules and a couple of old ticket stubs. She definitely had plenty of school spirit!
With the help of Facebook, the school tried to track down Patti. Eventually, though, they hit an unfortunate dead end. She had passed away 2013 at age 71. There was one silver, lining however.
Patti had five children, so the school sent them the purse. While it helped them see a side of their mother they never knew, the kids also found something else in the bag.
Within the purse, there was a faded teal wallet containing a few coins. While currency might have changed over the years — good luck buying anything for a penny — they still provided an opportunity.
Those coins, which were tarnished with time, became a prized possession. “Each of her five children kept one of the wheat pennies as a token of remembrance of their mom,” the school explained in a Facebook post.
In light of Patti’s passing, her kids were particularly grateful to receive the unintended time capsule of their mom’s younger days. The objects inside that old purse shed light on the girl who carried it around those school hallways, though time capsules recovered at the location of one former Albuquerque Public School indeed gave voices to other students from the ’60s.
On Arbor Day in 1968 the staff at Montgomery Elementary School had decided to plant a few new trees on its grounds. And, with the earth already tilled around the trees, they came up with another idea – they could sow a few time capsules into the dirt beneath the fresh foliage.
Students at the school then penned letters to future readers and detailed their lives in the late 1960s. Multiple classes participated in the project – sealing their messages into glass, cork-topped milk bottles. But not all of the time capsules would come to light when crews tore up the same earth in 2016.
In fact, the team uncovered only one of the 1960s capsules. They popped the cork off of the container but struggled to pull the messages out of the bottle. So, they cracked the glass and started to remove the letters hidden inside. And one of them stood out for all of the wrong reasons.
We’ll discover exactly what was discovered in that letter a bit later, but first, let’s learn a bit more about the school and the area in which it was discovered. The end of World War II in 1945 kicked off a population boom in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As such, the public school district in charge of the state’s biggest city had to add multiple new institutions to keep up with the sheer amount of new students. By 1956 nearly 40,000 children attended schools under the Albuquerque Public Schools system.
In the same year, Montgomery Elementary School opened, but by the early 1980s the school had closed its doors – to students, at least. APS used the facility as a training center for teachers, the fine arts and special education. However, by 2016 the building had become too run down to serve its purpose anymore.
The district then decided to tear down the old Montgomery Elementary School buildings that year. In its place, they would eventually construct a brand-new facility for teacher training to continue. A new school on the same site was also considered, but the original structure had to go first.
When news spread of APS’ plans to tear down Montgomery Elementary School, though, they started to hear from former students. They didn’t reach out to oppose the demolition, but to let officials know to be on the lookout for something as they leveled the building. That’s because, as we explored earlier, they had buried time capsules on the grounds in the 1960s.
Time capsules have, of course, been around much longer than Montgomery Elementary School. Experts estimate that they could have been used long before the oldest examples they know of. For instance, Faneuil Hall in Boston had a time capsule hiding in its grasshopper weathervane with artifacts from the 1760s inside.
In another more famous incident, a burst pipe inside of the Massachusetts Statehouse led repairmen to a surprise. They found a time capsule stuffed into the cornerstone by revolutionaries Paul Revere and Samuel Adams. They had placed the container there in 1795 – filling it with coins, newspaper and a silver plate etched by Revere himself.
More recently, the use of time capsules has proliferated in a major way. Indeed, the moniker for these containers was only coined in 1938. William E. Jarvis explained at least one reason for their popularity in his book Time Capsules: A Cultural History. He wrote, “We all ‘want to be here’ in one way or another.”
Jarvis went on to write, “That’s why some of us [try to] freeze ourselves alive to be thawed and revived in the era of our choice. That’s why people construct crypts, ‘time bombs,’ time capsules and cornerstone deposits.” Still, Jarvis also admitted that time capsules rarely provide historians with anything of great value.
Rather than appearing with valuable relics of the past, most time capsules end up revealing junk, Jarvis argued. Typically, the contents say little about the people who buried them, and historians derive little value from them. The Montgomery Elementary discovery might fall into this category for experts; but for the school’s former students, it meant something more.
As such, pupils from multiple classes had gathered at their former school when word spread that a single time capsule had been found. They didn’t know to which class the glass bottle belonged – many of them had participated in the 1968 time capsule burial event, which had taken place on Arbor Day.
Former student Brad J. Clement told the Albuquerque Journal in 2016 that school officials had decided to plant new trees on that Arbor Day in 1968. With the earth already moved, they realized it would be the perfect time to bury some time capsules on the site. And multiple classes participated in the project – including Clement’s.
The only way to figure out who had buried the capsule was to open it – but even that wasn’t a straightforward process. Former student Cindy Linke had the honor of opening the cork-topped bottle, and she told the newspaper that she “[remembered it] being much bigger.” Clement did, too, but he knew it was because “when you’re a child everything seems bigger.”
Linke couldn’t pull the letters through the thin neck of the container. So someone handed her a piece of rebar and she cracked the glass open instead. Then, everyone began to read the letters inside to figure out which class they came from.
As it turned out, the messages came from a Montgomery Elementary fourth grade class – of which Clement had been a part. Leafing through the stack of about 25 letters, the man found a message that he had written when he was ten. And in a video made by the official channel for Albuquerque Public Schools and uploaded to YouTube, he’s seen reading it to the gathered crowd.
Clement’s message began by introducing himself to the future reader – little did he know it would be himself orating the letter. He wrote in 1968, “My name is J. Brad Clement, my age is ten years. I am in fourth grade, Montgomery, Room 15. My teacher’s name is Miss Hoffpauir.”
The next line made Clement question the veracity of the claims made by his fourth-grade self. As a ten-year-old, he wrote that his friend was Brian O’Conner. In the clip of him reading out the message, the retired music teacher counters, “I don’t recall that.” Then, the video shows both Clement and the crowd listening to him breaking out in laughter.
Next, the younger Clement shared his favorite TV shows at the time – Lost in Space and The Monkees. He had more personal ties to the latter because, he wrote, “My aunt taught Sunday school to Micky Dolenz, she worked for Micky’s father, and she knew Mike Nesmith.”
After finding his letter, Clement told Albuquerque Public Schools in 2016 how much the message meant to him – he had always loved such relics of the past. He explained, “I have kept journals most of my life. I’ve always been interested in my history and the history of my community, so this is pretty special.”
Plus, re-reading his letter conjured up happy thoughts of his childhood for Clement. He continued, “I remember school being idyllic. I have great memories. I enjoyed walking to school in the mornings.” Then, he recalled one thing he didn’t miss about being a kid. Clement said, “I don’t have great memories of homework, though.”
Clement’s wasn’t the only letter in the time capsule, of course. Amid the other 25 notes was one from nine-year-old Pamela Sue Reinman, according to the Albuquerque Journal. She had dated her message first – February 14, 1968. Then, she shared a bit about her life as a kid growing up in that era.
Reinman described herself, saying, “I collect dolls and play the piano. I am Jewish and we speak Hebrew.” Then, the young girl penned the Hebrew word for “mother.” She also gave a tip to future letter readers about how to decipher the language, explaining, “It goes from right to left.”
Linke, the woman who smashed open the time capsule, wasn’t in the class which created the container. As such, she didn’t find her letter amongst the stack. But she did tell KRQE News 13 that one of the messages inside was still special to her. In a video uploaded by the news outlet to YouTube, she explains, “I was able to read one of my girlfriends’ from a long time ago who lived down the street from me.”
Still, one of the most noteworthy of all of the messages came from a boy named Greg Lee Youngman. His letter wasn’t as cute as Clement’s or as earnest as Reinman’s, though. Instead, Youngman’s message from 1968 began in the creepiest way. According to the Albuquerque Journal, the fourth grader began his letter with the line, “I am dead.”
Youngman then shared a few more details about himself that made the message even stranger. Unlike his classmates, who would have been born in the late 1950s, he declared that he was born in 1900. He also called his school by a different name than his classmates.
Youngman wrote, “I go to Montgomery School. That is the olden school name.” He went on to reiterate the message’s creepiest declaration once again, adding, “You auto now I dead.” Then, the fourth grader apparently shared a list of hobbies that could very well have been a scary ghost’s interests, too.
Youngman wrote, “My favorite subject is spooking the police.” The fourth grader then shared what seemed to be a genuine interest, saying, “I play the guitar. In case you don’t know what it is, it is [a] board with strings on them.” And with that, he was ready to conclude his message to the future.
Youngman concluded his message by writing, “See you later, savages.” To the Albuquerque Journal, it seemed as though the fourth grader thought someone far in the future – perhaps living within a dystopian society – would find his note. But his eerie message could have come from a ghost, Gizmodo claimed.
According to the website, no one on the team could confirm if Youngman was alive or dead at the time of the letter-reading. Either way, his message had made an impression on readers and the press – it was widely shared in the wake of the time-capsule discovery. And those who read it online had a lot of thoughts about Youngman’s note.
One online commenter on the Gizmodo article felt particularly moved by Youngman’s “See you later, savages” sign-off, describing it simply as “epic.” Another person made a joke that the ten-year-old’s letter fit in perfectly with modern internet culture. They wrote, “Horrible grammar and fictional ways to identify himself? Spot on.”
Others tried to explain why Youngman wrote what he did. One user thought that he might’ve been referencing the book Brave New World, saying, “Some kids back then were very well read.” Another reader said that Youngman was pointing out that he might not be around for the capsule’s discovery, but didn’t quite explain himself clearly.
The commenter wrote, “My interpretation: An inarticulate kid trying to communicate that the capsule would not be opened in his lifetime – he would be dead to those reading. Presumably he didn’t expect it to be recovered and opened so soon.” Still more people lauded Youngman’s creativity – with some theorizing that the imaginative writer had become successful as a writer later in life.
Unfortunately, unlike Youngman’s and Clement’s letters, not all of the messages written by Montgomery Elementary students would ever come to light. Linke told Gizmodo that she thought that her message and the other classes’ time capsules still sat underground, and that they’d be lost forever beneath the new school-system structure to be built.