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Great State: Time Capsules in Purcell

PURCELL, OKLAHOMA — Messages to the future come in many forms. These are spread out on a table in the Purcell History Museum. Pam Ellis, Pam Stanlick, and Phyllis Wagner are still considering what to put in a time capsule for the year 2037. “Purcell is a great place. It’s an awesome place,” says Ellis of the overall message she wants to convey. “It’s an awesome community.”

Stuff that’s definitely going in, a letter from the Purcell Hospital on the state of health care 2012, a $50 coupon for Rodney’s Pizza, a local phone book, some aerial pictures, even a cell phone that belonged to Phyllis Wagner’s grandson. “Unfortunately, it went through the wash,” she chuckles.

Messages to our future selves can be difficult to write. What will strike us as unusual or quaint in a quarter century? As it happens, these ladies have a guide. On August 15, 2012 workers un-earthed a time capsule on the McClain County courthouse lawn. Back in 1987, as Purcell celebrated its Centennial, history museum workers buried that capsule bearing messages for 2012.

Included in the air sealed container; a newspaper, a bonnet made in 1887, snapshots, T-shirt, cookbook. Most of it was run-of-the-mill stuff, but those old pictures contained friends who’d since passed away. 1987 grocery prices caught their attention too. “Three cans for a dollar,” laughs Pam Ellis.

Go back further in Purcell’s long history and you can still see some of the messages early residents sent on to the future; pictures of how things were. B.C. Clarke had his original watch repair business here. Someone thought enough to keep a bench from the original McClain County courthouse, the museum even has pictures and ads from the old Sand Bar Saloon, a relic of Purcell’s wild territorial past.

25 years isn’t a very long time in human history but you just never know. What will we treasure about our past when the future comes? “We’re keepers of these artifacts,” says Ellis, “but we’re also keepers of time.”