Contents of the time capsule included a JCPenney 1988 catalog, newspapers, books and hand-written letters. - Julia Moore

Party like it's 1988

It was a day of memories both sweet and bitter as Kennedy Elementary School unearthed relics from 1988.

Parents and former students packed the school gymnasium as the contents of a time capsule buried in the spring of 1989 were opened. Former students hugged as current students gathered on the gymnasium floor in rows.

"I remember burying it," said former Kennedy student Jennifer Aker (then Gregoire), adding that she recalled placing her sixth-grade picture in the container.

"Is that me?" Aker asked as the 1988 photos were projected on the assembly screen. "That's me!"

It was "1988 Day" at the school, and students and faculty members wore bangles and neon colors celebrating the era. Principal Tom Ettel wore a blonde mullet wig.

The assembly began with a slide show introducing elementary school students to the popular culture and technologies of 1988.

Garbage Pail Kids, boom boxes, California Raisins and cassettes were shown in a slide show while 1988 hits played in the background.

"We've done retro days, but I think this makes it a little more fleshed out," Ettel said.

Following was a student report on the life of President John F. Kennedy and a minute of silence to note the 50th anniversary of his assassination.

The time capsule included perfectly preserved skateboard wheels, a JC Penney fall 1988 catalog, baseball cards, a school handbook made from a dot matrix printer and a copy of "The Indian in the Cupboard" by Lynne Reid Banks. Also filling the capsule were numerous student letters, ranging from the serious — such as a reaction to the Tiananmen Square massacre — to kids' fondness for tacos and burritos.

Students cheered loudest at items from the era that are still familiar, such as Lego playsets in the Sears catalog and a picture of Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. 3, both products of 1988.

"What's amazing is everything is intact, and I would say pristine," said former Kennedy Elementary Principal Bob Hartwig, who had the role from 1987 to 1996.

Much of that success keeping items preserved was attributed to the work of fifth- and sixth-grade teacher Dave Potter, who designed the capsule and taught at the school from 1981 to 1997.

"My big concern was water would seep in," Potter said.

Potter used layers of gravel and bricks to prevent water from damaging the sealed and buried capsule.

"There was a little science behind it," Potter said. "Everything held up really nice."

Long after retirement, Hartwig remembered the time capsule he set from 25 years prior. He made his way from his home in Salem for the ceremony.

"The funny thing is, I think about it every year," Hartwig said.

His enthusiasm is something he passed on to Ettel.

"When I was hired, within days I heard, 'Well, you know about the time capsule, right?'" Ettel said at the assembly.

The biggest challenge came toward the end of the assembly when Ettel came across a cassette tape of 1988 Kennedy students singing "It's a Small World (after all)."

He had the tape, but had to search for a cassette player.

"I had to hustle to find where we had one," Ettel said.

After the 1988 items had been sorted through, work began on a 2013 time capsule — destined to be opened in 2038. Students provided lists of the top movies and songs of 2013, along with Oregon Ducks and Beavers bracelets, a Dutch Bros cup, Angry Birds toys, an iPhone, a One Direction DVD and a Skylanders videogame figure.

Reach newsroom assistant Nick Morgan at

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