Memories and Musings: Reflections on a time capsule

Published 7:20 pm Saturday, April 30, 2022

By Gene Gallelli

Something has been bothering me. It is an early memory that pops up unexpectedly that I can neither validate or invalidate. I do know, however, that when I compare the memory with my childhood behavior, I’m fairly convinced that there is a rusted time capsule buried in my hometown.

It goes back to when we were kids who played in the street and in each other’s back yards and wore capes and masks to fight imaginary villains. We all wore radio-hero rings that whistled or glowed-in-the-dark, that we got with cereal box tops and a two-cent postage stamp; it turned our fingers green. Our mothers made us throw them away (we didn’t) for fear we would lose our fingers.

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It was a time when a dime could purchase treasures and toys from the local Woolworth Five and Ten or a large soda from the fountain at the store’s lunch counter.

Red rolls of “caps” that would go bang when struck with the hammer of our toy six-shooters – every cowboy fan had one – were illegal, but we knew a store that carried them under the counter for five cents. We were careful not to shoot the “caps” outside at night because it would have resulted in getting spanked and having our six-shooters taken away.

Dickie – my best childhood friend – and I had gathered most of ours priceless “treasures:” sparkling marbles; old pennies; burned-out radio tubes (imaginary grenades); Captain Marvel decoders; old house keys; the “green-finger” rings we hadn’t thrown away and even foil-wrapped chocolate coins. We put them in a pipe tobacco tin with a lid that we “thought” would be weatherproof and impenetrable and then contemplated where we would bury it. Dickie agreed to burying it in the dirt driveway of my house on Grant Street.

I’m quite certain – although I can’t really remember – that we would have prematurely dug up our time capsule to get and eat the foil-wrapped chocolate coins.

Likely, the need for Captain America and Hawk Boy (our caped alter-egos) to save the world from evil villains, the arrival of snow,

Dickie’s trumpet lessons – and my failed attempt at piano lessons – put our “buried treasure” on our back burners. Until recently.

August 2022 will mark three years since I last visited my hometown, East Rochester, New York. It was the last time I played in my cousin Sam Urzetta’s Memorial Golf Tournament – he was the 1950 National Amateur Golf Champion.

My hometown visits usually had a routine that included stopping and reminiscing at every house I lived in growing up, beginning and ending with meals and memories with my first cousin Lucy and my bevy of second cousins. (Memories of my uncle Frank always ended in tears.)

The longest stop during my visits was at the house on Grant SAtreet where there might be buried under the driveway – now cemented – a rusted tin box filled with treasures, once more valuable than all the gold at the end of the rainbow.

I realize now that the hope that comes with the memory of the “time capsule” Dickie and I buried ages ago is, in my heart, still worth more than all the gold at the end of that elusive rainbow.

Gene Gallelli was Associate Superintendent of the Dare County Schools for eight years. He received his Doctor of Education degree from East Carolina University, where he taught and supervised students studying to become school administrators.

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