1997 U.S. Mint Proof Set

When I was a kid, my parents started doling out various family heirlooms to me and my brother. I don’t recall what they gave me, but I remember feeling screwed over because he inherited my dad’s coin collection.

As a history buff, I love tangible connections to our past such as currency. So it was natural to start my own collection! Each and every Christmas, I’d get a mint U.S. coin set like the one above, then augment it with miscellaneous contributions as I travelled around the world.

It’s fascinating to see the pristine condition of these coins, especially in contrast to the poor state of their in-capsule neighbors.

NTPSA Identification Card

Towards the end of college, I discovered a passion for soccer. While I was never physically-gifted, I had tons of hustle and developed a decent “soccer sense” over the years. I even joined a club team named the Mama’s Boys, which played in the North Texas Premiere Soccer Association.

Each NTPSA player was issued an identification card, which you provided to the referee in order to play. In turn, if you accumulated enough penalties, the referee would retain your card, and you couldn’t play your next game until they gave your card back after a disciplinary hearing.

I could either spend time honing my soccer skills, or acquiring a better haircut. Guess which I chose.

In 2000, my club the Mama’s Boys won their only championship, beating our arch-rivals in a shoot-out on a hot May afternoon. It was a great way to cap my career, since I would be leaving Denton in three months and never play with that group again. So after the season, I put my NTPSA ID card in the time capsule.

Celebrating our big win in the 2000 NTPSA Championship

A couple years later, I was out training for a marathon a random thought occurred to me: the ID card contained my picture. And my full name. And my birthdate, Social Security Number, and signature! In other words, the perfect ingredients for identity theft (if ever discovered).

Once again, my UNT education had failed me.

The Two Keys

My time capsule’s shell is a metal cash box, the kind one uses to hold the change from garage & bake sales, with a standard cylinder lock & key. Once shiny & nickel-plated, the key has since worn down to its brass core (just like me).

None of this is remarkable — except for the fact I carried that key in my pocket everyday these past 25 years.

The key was attached to my key ring, outlasting all sorts of neighboring keys, fobs, and grocery discount cards that came & went over the years. While I occasionally fretted about losing it, I love the momento mori reminder provided by its constant companionship.

Besides this key, there was another I discovered upon opening the time capsule: a winding key for the pendulum clock hanging in the Bruce Hall “Bowling Alley”.

This was used to prime the pendulum clock across from the Bruce Hall front desk.

I had forgotten that clock existed. It’s not very prominent, and it didn’t serve any role in my college-era stories. We had to watch YouTube videos of Bruce’s interior in order for me to even recall its location.

We laughed at the sight of this relic, wondering if there was a steady succession of frustrated staff members who never knew the time because they couldn’t ever wind their damned clock!

Interior Condition

After cutting thru the seal of vinyl stickers, I took a deep breath and opened the lid. I first noticed some expected things, such as the centerpiece journal and my tin of Spam. I was also surprised by things I’d forgotten, like a Koosh ball and can of Red Bull.

What I saw when first opening the time capsule. I didn’t realize how efficiently the space was used.

And I immediately noticed some damage.

I had anticipated this. No matter how many precautions one takes, a time capsule making it to its destination is tenuous at best. Going into this, I assumed that the can of Spam couldn’t possibly have survived without self-breaching, but it looked brand-new. However, the Red Bull had leaked. Luckily, the damage was limited. Outside of some loose-leaf papers that were fused together by dried liquid, the worst part was navigating around some slimy residue which had affixed the empty can to the side of the time capsule. The most-important things, such as the journal, were unscathed.

After peeling away the top layers, I soon learned that the time capsule had been fouled.

Once it was emptied, I also learned why the time capsule felt so heavy: its bottom was actually oak hardwood planks, salvaged from the mid-1990’s replacement of the original “Bowling Alley” flooring. A surprise, I’m sure, but a welcome one!

The completely-empty time capsule, with its mini-“Bowling Alley” flooring.

Exterior Envelope

A vellum envelope was affixed to the outside of the time capsule. For the lucky individual who discovered it were two things inside:

  • A note requesting the time capsule be left unmolested & restored to its original location; and
  • Another envelope, this one self-addressed & stamped, which they could use to notify me of the discovery so my “Peter Tingle” would cease.
I always follow instructions.

At the time, I affixed two 33¢ stamps to the letter as its postage, having consulted past history to estimate the amount required for future first-class mail (considering how 2020 went, I’m surprised the US Postal Service is still around). Since today’s price of a single Forever Stamp in 2022 is 60¢, I just barely covered the cost.

The letter was obviously never sent — which is just as good, as it was addressed to my childhood home that my parents no longer occupied (and has since been replaced by a holy-massive McMansion in true Southlake style).

It’s been 30 years since I lived at this address.

Here’s what the finder’s note said:

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Matthew McGarity, and if you are reading this you have discovered my time capsule. I began working on it April 9, 1997 when I was a Bruce Hall resident assistant. I buried it on August 13, 2000 as a hall director finally leaving UNT for greener pastures. If everything had gone according to plan, I would have opened this capsule myself on April 9, 2022.

If you are able to, please place this capsule back where you found it with this envelope once again taped to the outside. Do not tell anyone of its location, so that I might return for it when the proper date arrives. You are also welcome to visit with me on April 9, 2022 when I return to open it, but try not to ruin this project that is dear to me. As you can see, I spent many years on this surprise for myself!

If it is not possible to return my time capsule to its final resting place, please take the self-addressed stamped envelope that came with this note and drop it in the mail. I can only assume it doesn’t cost more than 66¢ to mail a letter in the future! Then, leave the time capsule with the hall director of Bruce Hall with adequate explanation of what it is, and I will contact them when I get the mailed notice.

Even Jim found my past writing style painful to read!