Thursday, August 23, 2012
In 1962, Ann Ostenso was figuring out how to sit down in front of a second-grade classroom while wearing a mini-skirt. “Pantyhose had just come in,” she said. “We were wearing skirts 5 inches above the knee.”
Fifty years ago was Ostenso’s first year teaching, and she recollects details without much prompting. A time capsule buried the same year at Hacienda Carmel would contain some triggers – a tape of the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debates? A poem from Carmel’s Robinson Jeffers, who died that year? – to jog the 73-year-old Illinois native’s memory even more.
“You won’t want to miss the excitement as we find out what sort of treasures may see the light of day for the first time in five decades,” read the press release circulated before the 50th anniversary party. For a community where the minimum age is 55, the 1962 pod might take them back to their childhoods or early adulthoods. So last Saturday, Aug. 18, Hacienda General Manager Robert Hedberg directed a groundskeeper to dismantle a pedestal with a sundial.
Hacienda legend put the time capsule under the sundial – and too bad Tom White, a retired Carmel CPA whose 1962 clients included the retirement community – didn’t attend the ceremony for burying the thing. He’d been invited, but with no wives allowed, didn’t show.
Groundskeepers were left with a little hearsay and zero eyewitnesses to show the way. Where the pedestal once stood, workers dug three feet deep, and probed further with metal rods.
Nothing. “I am greatly disappointed,” Hedberg said.
They also poked around the ivy at the front gate, but Hedberg decided to abandon the efforts.
Ostenso and other residents of Hacienda Carmel, a senior community along the banks of the Carmel River, were left with a big hole in the dirt and a heap of rubble where they’d expected to find such a cache of memories.
“I was astonished,” says White, 84, while sipping a vodka tonic at the site of the failed excavation.
The 300 or so seniors who live at Hacienda still gathered for a cocktail hour to celebrate the 50th anniversary of these tan cottages. But mints in 50th Anniversary wrappers didn’t quite cut into the disappointment.
White, who also served as Monterey County treasurer, remembers an edition of the Monterey County Herald was included, and a comb or hair dryer – some hair styling device. “I thought, ‘That’s really stupid,’” he remembers.
It could be worse, figures Ostenso’s friend Donna Bessant, 72, who also started teaching in 1962 for an annual salary of $5,000. She once saw a 100-year-old time capsule opened, and it was a bust. “It had a lot of paper and leather in it,” she recalls. “It leaked. Everything was a mess.”
Now Hedberg is committed to creating a new time capsule that captures 2012 for the futuristic folks who open it 50 years from now.
“We will rebuild the planter, most likely with a fountain,” Hedberg says, “and this time mark the location of the time capsule with a plaque.”
Even after he dismissed some of the contents of the alleged 1962 capsule, White struggles to come up with ideas for stocking a new one. After a few moments of thought, he recommends another newspaper, a cell phone or DVD, and Viagra.
Bessant would go for evidence of technology with her Verizon cell phone, and a would-be artifact with a copy of the Monterey County Weekly or the Carmel Pine Cone. (Newspapers, she predicts, won’t exist in 50 years.)
Ostenso would opt for a narrative over an object: “I would write about my mom,” she says. She first bought a place in Hacienda Carmel in 1998 for her mother, then moved in herself in 2004 after her mom died.
Hacienda residents say they lead relatively charmed and active retirements, with book clubs and, according to its website, events in the “community for vigorous, mature persons.”
Still, Bessant says uncovering a bundle of goods from 1962 would prompt some fond memories of being in her 20s. (“Inside, I’m 28,” she says – then predicts she’ll live for another decade.)
“It’s nice to remember things you forgot,” Bessant says. “You live in the present for the most part.”
Bessant arrived at the anniversary party expecting a view of the contents of the little box of history. When she gets the news that there was nothing recovered, her face drops, and in full dramatic effective, she lets out a long, crescendoing “Noooooo!”
HACIENDA CARMEL is located south about two miles east of Highway 1. For more information, call 625-7801 or visit http://haciendacarmel.us