Time capsule offers glimpse into 1960s

BRUNSWICK - History reflects not only the changes that have occurred as years pass, but also the constants. That lesson was reinforced Friday, when a time capsule sealed in the early 1960s was opened.

Documents stored for the last 43 years in a metal box behind the cornerstone of the old Mid Coast Hospital reveal a community preoccupied not only by world issues such as nuclear war, but also by local problems, such as how to expand the town's schools and raise money for the local library.

Workers found the time capsule during construction of the new Mid Coast Senior Health Center, slated to open in September.

"We didn't know that (the time capsule) existed and there were no specific instructions about when to open it," said Herbert Paris, president and CEO of Mid Coast Health Services.

Hospital administrators gathered on Friday in the lobby of the old hospital to cut the box open.

Inside they found annual town reports from Topsham, Harpswell, Brunswick, Bowdoinham, Durham and a report titled "The Town of Freeport: Maine's Most Industrialized Town."

The box also contained a menu from the Hotel Eagle, which once stood where Hannafor on Maine Street is now located. A broiled, charcoal-flavored choice T-bone steak cost $2.95 in 1960, a time when Maine Street was lined with stately elms, as a photograph of downtown Brunswick showed.

Along with these items, the box also included directions issued by the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization for how to erect a family fallout shelter. Concerns about nuclear proliferation also were evident in the many newspapers found inside the time capsule.

An Aug. 31, 1961, headline in the Brunswick Record read "Brunswick Not a Nuclear Target," reflecting the town's struggle to find its place in the world conflict of the day.

A Sept. 7, 1961, article in the Portland Press Herald reported the activation of National Guard reserve units in response to the construction of the Berlin Wall.

Other articles had a local focus, and dealt with problems that still exist today.

"Committees ponder school space puzzle," read a Sept. 29, 1960 headline.

To the hospital administrators, perhaps the most important documents contained within the time capsule were those that detailed the construction of the old facility.

Paris said no such time capsule exists in the new hospital on Medical Center Drive, but he said he is gathering documents for a history of the hospital. The documents found Friday will help with that effort.

In the meantime, construction on the Mid Coast Senior Health Center is about 60 percent complete. Once completed, the facility will include Thornton Hall Assisted Living, Mere Point Nursing, Bodwell Sub-acute Care, Mid Coast Hospital Outpatient Rehabilitation, Lifeline Emergency Response System, and The Garden, a residence for people with memory impairment. The facility also will include an automated teller machine, a pharmacy and a hair care center.

"There's a whole continuum of care," said Thornton Oaks marketing director Marlise Swartz. "If someone retires to Thornton Oaks and then they decide they need assisted living, it's right here."