Time capsule offers glimpse of Jackson past

JACKSON — Greg McCoy approached the podium with what looked like a pair of steel salt and pepper shakers.

For nearly half a century the tiny canisters sat in wait within the Town Square veterans monument, placed there by the American Legion in 1976. When today’s Legion members began demolishing it to make way for an updated monument, McCoy, the commander for Post 43, fished out the time capsules. He knew they would be there but had no inkling of what to look for.

“I was expecting something bigger,” he said.

At Monday’s Town Council meeting he opened them and began pulling out bits of Jackson Hole history: a 13-cent postage stamp, a golf tee, a Navy Seabee patch, a Happy New Year pin, a firecracker, an American flag lapel pin and a coin of every kind minted in 1976, the bicentennial.

Besides those trinkets the capsules also held that year’s Wyoming Cowboys football schedule, a financial statement for Jackson State Bank and a newspaper clipping that included on one side a photo of President Gerald Ford delivering an address at Old Faithful — surrounded by prominent conservationists and government officials — and on the other side a grocery ad.

“Bologna was 75 cents, I can tell you that,” McCoy said. “You could get a corn dog for 15 cents.”

And, lastly, the capsules came with a list of the names of those responsible for the first monument, dated Sept. 5, 1976. Appended to the end is a message, signed by Jackson native Felix Buchenroth, to future generations: “May peace be on this earth when whoever read [sic] this.”

The contents of the capsules will be on display at the American Legion on Tuesday for Post 43’s meeting, and then McCoy will reseal them. They’ll return to the darkness of the updated monument “to never be seen again,” he said. “Hopefully the new one will last forever.”

As construction begins on the new monument — an effort to ensure the town’s centerpiece includes the names of all Jackson Hole veterans and leaves room for more in the event of future conflicts — McCoy said the Legion will add another time capsule from today’s community. He’s open to suggestions, not just from veterans but from the town and members of the public.

“This is something that hopefully will be here for hundreds of years,” he said. “It needs to involve everyone.”

He’s heard a handful of ideas so far. Among them are a photo of current post members, a coin the Legion created to commemorate its 100th anniversary this year, another grocery ad to show how much household items cost in 2019, and a photo of the world-famous Grizzly 399 and her cubs.

McCoy might even treat the valley’s future veterans to a drink — perhaps a good cognac or Scotch.

“Two hundred and fifty or 300 years from now that would be a very nice bottle,” he said.

The capsule reveal preceded the council’s latest discussion of the new monument, which the Legion hopes to unveil in February or March. Still fine-tuning a few details, councilors asked to see detailed drawings of the design at an upcoming meeting.

Officials already approved the basics, though. The monument will feature eight slanted panels of black granite, with “human images” from each of the past century’s major wars. They considered adding pictures of Jackson from each of those eras as well but ultimately decided that would muddy the design too much.

Councilor Jim Stanford also suggested adding Buchenroth’s message of peace to the renovated monument.

As for the new time capsule, he offered another thought: “We’ll get a bigger firecracker for the next one.”