Digging up memories

Cousins Juli Whitehead, left, and Olympia Bynum laugh about memories as they read old letters found in the 1970 time capsule.

TownNews.com Content Exchange

Despite water damaging almost all of the paper products inside the 1970 Loudon County time capsule, Olympia Bynum’s letter wrote when she was 6 years old managed to survive along with others from family members.

Bynum’s grandmother, Charlotte Lucile Reagan Havens, placed an envelope in the time capsule for each of her four grandchildren — Bynum, Karlen Boring, David Havens and Reagan Havens — and one extra envelope to cousin Juli Whitehead, who was born after the time capsule was buried.

In Bynum’s envelope was a letter she wrote when she was 6 years old to her cousin, David.

“Dear David,” Bynum wrote in the letter. “How are you today? I have my hair cut now. I am taking ballet lessons. Thank you for the balloons. Love, Olympia.”

Other letters placed in the capsule by Charlotte were found, including one written by Whitehead’s mother, Judy Boring, and one by Reagan Havens.

Whitehead said her grandmother kept everything — every note, every letter. Her grandmother’s wish was for her family to be together for the time capsule unveiling, Bynum said.

Bynum said she promised her grandmother she would get the family together in Loudon County to relive the memories she buried for them.

“The main thing is getting us all together,” Bynum said. “That’s what was important to mamaw. She had three kids and she lost her middle one, who was my daddy, at the age of 53, and she lost her next one three days later at the age of 56 … and papaw died 10 years prior to that. That was always her biggest priority. This is what’s important.”

Ruth McQueen and Rachel Harrell, Loudon County Sesquicentennial Committee members, said they were “at a loss” when they dug up the time capsule and saw the desecrated remains. Bynum’s letter, and a few others from her family members, were miraculously almost wholly intact.

Harrell said it was “just meant to be” because Bynum was the one that found her.

Bynum relocated to Georgia, but for the last two years has spent the equivalent of days looking for someone with knowledge of the time capsule.

“I was calling banks. I was calling the chamber of commerce. I was calling anybody that would answer,” she said. “I would say, ‘I’m trying to find out about the time capsule that’s supposed to be opened up June of 2020’,” and they’d say, ‘Honey, I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.’ So I’d wait a little bit and find somebody else.”

Whitehead said she and Bynum got the idea to check the courthouse after she saw a previous News-Herald story reference the time capsule.

When Bynum called the courthouse, she was directed to Harrell. Bynum said she was relieved to find someone. She was nervous she wouldn’t find someone with knowledge about the capsule.

“I had already said I was driving up there on June 20, and I’ll drive around Loudon County all day until I find a crowd of people. I was willing to do whatever it took,” Bynum said.

Unfortunately, one cousin was not present at the anniversary celebration Saturday, but the other four were. Bynum plans to also be present at the next time capsule burial ceremony.

“This is just so much more than I was hoping for,” she said.

This article originally ran on news-herald.net.

TownNews.com Content Exchange