Two time-capsules-in-one were found recently by construction workers in the courtyard at the Eaton Rapids High School. Workers found a large steel box, measuring 16” x 16”, that had been placed there in the late 1970s.
Inside the first box, which was in good condition despite being underground for 50 years, were numerous things from 1977: Pepsi, Mountain Dew, and Welch’s Grape Soda cans (empty), a Montgomery Wards catalog, the State Journal, a Seed Catalog, a flag, the Flashes, cookies (well, cookie crumbs, actually), books and bibles, a TV Guide, an Ingham County Newspaper, a few local postcards, salt and pepper packets, and several religious books. There were a few photocopied items from the 1928 ERHS yearbook and a reprint of the 1886 ERHS school newspaper.
The big bonus was that it also included things from the class of 1928, according to a slip of paper which was placed at the top of the box. Underneath the 1977 artifacts was another stainless-steel box, well-sealed from any moisture, about the size of a shoebox.
“I shook it, and it sounded like crayons,” said ERPS Superintendent Bill DeFrance about the smaller stainless-steel sealed box before it was opened.
Sealed tight with caulk, the smaller box was opened. The contents included more items from the late 1970s and several items that really didn’t seem to have a local connection, such as a menu from the Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington DC. Four unbranded cigars. A small bottle of whiskey. A warning on an envelope: “Not to be sold or I’ll come back to haunt you.”
“That sounds like something my dad would say,” said Dennis Letts, the youngest son of C. Paul Letts. A little historical sleuthing resulted in a connection to Paul and David Letts with the box. David was a 1928 graduate of Eaton Rapids, and Paul graduated in 1929. Dennis remembers hearing that they placed the box there at one of their class reunions, along with their good friend, Frank Naylor. They all played football together, Dennis explained. David was in the Navy in Washington, DC.
Coins from around the world were in the box, along with a $2 bill. A yellowed 1918 Portland Maine newspaper with WWI headlines was in excellent condition. A sermon on a cassette tape from an East Lansing church was included, the latest technology at the time. Various personal items were in the box, including several photos of Lt. David Letts in the Navy and one of the 1928 ERHS track team with names written on the back, including Coach “Sindy” Sindecuse, ERHS class of 1923.
A receipt for the purchase of the two watertight sheet metal boxes was included, $72.47 in 1974 dollars.
The item of the most historical interest was a photo album of the class of 1928. There were forty-eight members of the class, and David Letts had collected forty-four photos for his album. Below some of the photos the word “died” was written and some had an obituary tucked in behind the photo.
Cornelius Paul Letts (1911-2003) was a teacher and the principal at King Street School for 22 years, retiring in 1975. Letts was also a life-long Boy Scout and was the first person in Eaton Rapids to become an Eagle Scout. Later he earned the Silver Beaver Award, which honored his years as a leader and advisor to the Boy Scouts. He was known for his “Dutch rubs” on misbehaving students.
David Letts (1909-1983) started working at the ice cream factory after his graduation. By 1936 he left Eaton Rapids and was working for Detroit Edison. He graduated from the Detroit Institute of Technology in Engineering in 1941. David enlisted in the Navy in 1942 and became a Lieutenant Junior Grade in the Bureau of Ships until 1948. In 1948 he moved from Washington DC to Lansing and joined the Naval Reserves, retiring from that in 1969. He purchased Winkler Heating and Air Conditioning in 1948. In 1958 he purchased Guardian Oil Corporation with partners.
“Whether we’re aware of a little or a lot, we all learn interesting things we were unaware of before,” said Dennis Letts. “Every town has its history and it’s nice having people who explore it and share what they learn.”
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