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Jones Elementary unearths 30-year-old time capsule
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A 45-rpm record of Bay City Rollers’ "Saturday Night" and platform shoes came out of the earth. "High School Musical 2" memorabilia and a cell phone went under the dirt.

Current and former faculty and students at Jones Elementary School south of Gainesville spent Thursday morning excavating a time capsule from 1976 and planting one prepared by today’s three fifth-grade classes.

Fading memories and the lack of historical records hampered efforts to find the 1976 capsule.

Diggers found the wooden container, softened and splintered by the passage of years, after two hours of unearthing firmly packed soil in two locations near the gymnasium and relying on photos in a newspaper clipping.

After former students combed through the disco-era artifacts, current students placed their capsule — a plastic container sealed by silicone — on the freshly dug-up ground.

"It’s a lot of fun to see the faces of the kids and their excitement," said Charles Hanes, who was in the sixth grade when the original capsule was buried.

Now 43 and living in Hoschton, he helped organize the event, including contacting former students.

The original plan was to dig up the 1976 capsule 25 years later. But 2001 came and went without the school or the former students and teachers taking note of the anniversary.

Ironically, in 2001, the school dug up the ground close to where the time capsule was buried to plant a tree in honor of Billy Ellis, a longtime and much-beloved Hall County educator who died of cancer earlier that year.

This year, Hanes and Charles Shockley, a Jones fifth-grade teacher in 1976, worked to organize the event. Shockley, a retired educator who teaches half-time in English for Speakers of Other Languages at Jones, helped locate former teachers, including principal Tommy Martin.

Thursday morning, workers had trouble digging up soil from the hardened ground, so principal Hank Ramey called the school system’s maintenance department, which sent a backhoe to the site.

Workers dug for a while on the left front side of the gym entrance, then moved to the right side after some former students noticed more similarities there when studying the newspaper photo.

School officials wanted to make sure they had the right location before moving equipment. So, they intensified their study of the second site, comparing bricks and other objects, such as a downspout and the edge of a sidewalk, as they appeared in the photo.

Ramey was smiling and peppy all through the ordeal, but at one point he observed, "It’s looking more and more like Geraldo here."

He was referring to TV journalist Geraldo Rivera’s infamous 1986 live broadcast of the opening of gangster Al Capone "secret vault," which turned out to be empty except for debris.

Workers at the Jones site finally struck gold — or rather, decaying wood — about 2 feet from the Ellis tree. Their first find was a small paper replica of the U.S. flag. Eventually, they pulled a black plastic trash bag from the hole and placed it in on a table.

Then, in front of students, former students began pulling items from the bag, including perfume, a pair of sunglasses and a "96 Rock" bumper sticker (a reference to a former FM rock station).

The vinyl 45 was dirt-encrusted and the label had faded, but former sixth-grader Mark Smith remembered the artist and song title.

The recollection drew a few smiles from former classmates.

The new time capsule includes coins, a $2 bill and letters students had written to themselves.

The plan, as with the 1976 capsule, is to unearth the container in 25 years.

And here’s to those students reading this is 2032: The capsule is to the left front of the gym entrance. And there are no trees nearby — yet.

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