By Richard Sullins |

“There’s something inside, and it’s not a body,” shouted Broadway Mayor Donald Andrews as a time capsule buried 51 years ago during the town’s 100th Anniversary celebration was opened on October 16 before a crowd of 150 onlookers.

Two men dug up a child’s casket buried just inches below the ground at the northern foot of the town’s water tower. Inside were items that had been placed there during the town’s centennial celebration in 1970 to commemorate the founding of Broadway 100 years prior and there was great excitement among the crowd about what was inside.

As the men began to pull away the seal, it became clear that portions of it had failed over the years and the contents inside the vessel had been damaged by the seepage of moisture. Andrews held up two items for the crowd to see. First was a Master Card belonging to Dr. Bill Tulloch, a dentist who operated a practice in the town for many years.

The second was a leather container from a Buick car dealership with a lady’s plastic rain bonnet inside. Andrews got a laugh from the crowd when he said that “this might have been more helpful if they had used it to line the bottom.”

The only other item that could be easily identified was a 1970 edition of The Sanford Herald, the county’s only newspaper at the time. The container held two stacks of other documents perhaps an inch in height, but the moisture that had penetrated the seal of the container made it impossible to risk an attempt that day to pull the pages apart to determine what they were.

It was clearly a disappointment for those who had come. Many had parents or grandparents who had written letters as children and those letters were said to have been placed inside the box, and they were hoping to catch a glimpse of their own personal history.

But Andrews told the crowd that those glimpses into the past had not disappeared, but perhaps just delayed. He said that the town will be contacting document preservation experts, such as the North Carolina Office of Archives and History in Raleigh, to seek help in preserving the pages and making them available by some means for the public to view.

Among those in the crowd as the capsule was opened was Cecil Cameron, a Broadway native who worked for year at Central Bank and Trust (now Truist Bank). Taller than most and with a thick shock of white hair, one could almost see history being replayed as he described it.

Cameron, along with local pharmacist and good friend Woody Beale, were attending a portion of the town’s 100th anniversary celebration in 1970 when someone walked up and handed them a shovel. It was Cameron and Beale who buried the container 51 years ago.

“It was a day much like this one. I remember that it was pleasant but digging a hole in the ground in this part of the country can get hot pretty quick”, he remembered. When the hole was finished, a couple of bricks were placed in the bottom for leveling and it was covered up.

“There were so many people along the streets that day, and everyone was involved in doing something for the celebration. So, they asked us to bury it and we thought that was doing our part,” Cameron said.

“We had all been asked to dress in period costumes like people wore back in 1870 when the town was started. It seems like there was some sort of an event almost every day for a couple of weeks. And it all came to an end after we buried the thing and they closed off the street for a community dance. I remember it well.”

Others who were present for the opening were four students of a former Broadway Elementary School 3rd grade teacher, Ms. Mary Agnes Rosser. These former students – Carolyn Cameron, Jo Ann Wyatt Thomas, Shirley Thomas Buchanan, and Mary Ann Holt – were among those directed by Rosser 51 years ago to write letters that were to be placed inside the box.

They left without seeing their letters written as grade school students in the 1970s, but also without bittersweet memories of a writing assignment that became part of the town’s history. Instead, they left the town’s water tank that day with renewed hope that their words will someday be seen again by themselves and future generations.