WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - If you were watching 7 News This Evening Tuesday night, you saw us open a time capsule buried in the cornerstone of the WWNY broadcast studio 50 years ago.
We didn’t really know what we’d find, or what kind of shape the things inside would be in.
We were not disappointed.
7 News This Evening anchor Jeff Cole was joined by chief weathercaster John Kubis and sports director Mel Busler, and some friends of the station - Glenn Gough, the retired longtime sports anchor of WWNY; Joe Rich, for many years an anchor and reporter; and Harold Johnson, the president of Johnson Newspapers, the parent company of the Watertown Times.
What did we find? Photograph after photograph of downtown Watertown. Shots of the Paddock Arcade as it appeared in 1969; Public Square, with the old Woodruff Hotel still standing; and the destruction caused by the failed 1960s experiment in “urban renewal” that tore down much of Court Street.
There was a “program log,” a list of station programs from 1969, and a program from Watertown’s Centennial celebration.
There is also a canister of film and an audio tape recording. We haven’t seen or heard them yet, but will get the material transferred to digital format and share them on 7 News.
Also in the time capsule, a copy of the Watertown Times from August 19, 1969, the day the time capsule was placed in the wall - the top local stories concerned whether there would be bus service in Watertown and a “sickening stench” along part of LeRay Street.
The newspaper owned the TV station back then; in fact, the Johnson family started WWNY (now WTNY) radio and then WWNY TV and built the building from which WWNY still broadcasts. Harold Johnson was 15 at the time.
“It’s great to be here. I saw myself as a kid and that’s kind of taken me back a little bit to realize how much has happened in 50 years," he said.
Tuesday night, he pointed out a find from the time capsule - two scaled down newspaper “plates,” copies in metal of the front page of the paper when man first walked on the moon.
And there was a note - a script really, one that was recorded in part back in 1969 by then-WWNY anchor and news director Bob Tompkins. But some of the most interesting parts never made it to film, though they were in his written script.
On the moon landing: “What new worlds have been conquered by the time this cornerstone is opened? Whether you have spent a vacation at an orbiting vacation space station, and whether other life has been found, somewhere in space.”
On music: Tompkins wondered if “once in a while, you still dig out those old records by such ancient performers as Frank Sinatra, Herb Alpert or Barbra Streisand, or whether those names mean anything now.”
And he left a question, one made made poignant by the passing years: "We think we are living in man’s most exciting age.
“Does it compare with the excitement of yours?”
Joe Rich said he enjoyed “just to recall old memories of the way things used to be, and how wonderful things are today.”
“I want to thank all of those people that made it possible for me to be part of this wonderful endeavor,” he said.
We’ll bring you more reports in the coming days and weeks on the material from the time capsule, and we’ll be asking for your help in deciding what should go into the capsule when it is reburied - for the next 50 years.
Reporter Abbey Buttacavoli spoke with Gough, Rich, and Johnson after the opening and included their comments in the time capsule wrap-up we aired on our shows late Tuesday and early Wednesday.
Here’s her report: