50 years later, Sandwich opens up its past with time capsule

Special to the Union Leader
January 01. 2013 10:37PM

SANDWICH - Residents of this 250-year-old town kicked off the New Year in historic fashion on Tuesday during a well-attended open house that featured the unveiling of a time capsule from 1963, stories from the past and a lot of laughs.

The Sandwich 250th Committee and the Sandwich Historical Society coordinated the standing-room-only reception held at the renovated Town Hall from 2 to 5 p.m., with fireworks following the time capsule opening. Fifty years ago, members of the town's 200th anniversary committee filled the capsule with memorabilia, but just what's inside was a mystery to most - until Tuesday.

Sandwich Historical Society President Geoffrey Burrows, Town Moderator Lee Quimby and 250th Committee Chair Jennifer Wright presided over the time capsule's opening, taking each item and placing it in a glass case for display at the town offices. Inside the time capsule were a gavel, notebooks and records from the town's 200th Bicentennial Committee, guest books, stationary from 1963, and photographs and a program from the 1963 Sandwich Fair.

"There really isn't much in here," said Burrows as he pulled the last item, the stationary, out of the box. "That's it."

Burrows related a story from his youth, when the kids in town hung out at the local Texaco station. At the time, gas pumps could be tinkered with so that the next user to pull the pump from its rack would ultimately get gasoline spilled all over him or her. Famous Oscar-nominated actor Claude Rains (yes, the guy in "Casablanca") retired to Sandwich, and one time, his stepson was the victim of such a dousing when he stopped at the gas station.

Resident Peter Pohl recalled knowing another famous Sandwich resident - renowned mathematician Norbert Wiener, regarded as the father of cybernetics.

Residents like Daphne Alcock Frentress and local author/historian Joan Cook recalled their youths in Sandwich.

"Being a child in Sandwich was wonderful," said Frentress, recounting how she and friends hung out at the Texaco station, at the park and played with the "toys" and learned history at the Sandwich Historical Society.

Cook said she and her family grew up working the farm in Sandwich. "We were poor, but we didn't know we were poor. Life was so simple. Sandwich was so safe," said Cook, who is also assembling a collection of historic photography to be displayed later this year.

"1963 was the year the '50s ended," said Burrows, recalling that the U.S. deployment in Vietnam was deepening, the nation discovered Bob Dylan, and the Beatles headed up the British music invasion. He said it was the year the Quimby School graduated its last class and closed, and more tragically, the year President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Wright said the 250th Committee would assemble a time capsule later this year, to be opened at the town's 300th celebration. Special events this year will include a Winter Carnival featuring a celebration of the sandwich, a July 4th event with fireworks, photography displays, a steamboat parade, an oral history program, and a return of the production "Our Town."

The last year or two have been filled with milestones, reveals, and accomplishments for local historians. The Quimby Barn was moved, renovated and reopened as the society's Transportation Museum, and the statue of Niobe and portions of the Great Wall of Sandwich were restored and unveiled.

For more information on the Sandwich Historical Society, visit www.sandwichhistorical.org, or call during winter hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday, at 284-6269.

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Larissa Mulkern may be reached at LMulkern@newstote.com.


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