, Gloucester, MA

May 25, 2013

Revisiting one Fuller class's past

Students from 1989 ready to open Mr. Thomas' 'time capsules'

By Marjorie Nesin
Staff Writer

---- — On Sunday, a musty cardboard box sealed with crumbling masking tape will act as the central force, the common thread pulling together a group of about 20 adults itching to peak into their past.

Though it’s anyone’s guess what this group, Mr. Charles Thomas’s fifth-grade class of 1989, tucked away in this box 24 years ago, creating a time capsule for years down the road, this Sunday at 4 p.m., the majority of the class plans on gathering at the old Fuller School building field to find out.

“We just won’t know until we open it,” Shawna Rogers said. “Something tells me that we were able to put two things in there, and it had to be two things from your desk or something. Something tells me we did a class video and there’s maybe a videotape in there.”

Rogers and some of her classmates had been itching to open the box ever since they got a hold of it about a week ago, but decided they ought to give everyone the chance to participate. So, they scheduled the big reveal and posted the information on Facebook, where the excitement “just blew up,” Rogers said, describing how the information zipped from one classmate to the next.

“We packed it as a class, and we should try to open it as a class,” Rogers said. “I figured we waited 23 years, we can wait another week.”

When Thomas led his fifth grade classes in creating the time capsules, he had intended the classes to open the capsules at their five-year high school reunions. This class had been due to tear theirs open in 2001.

But, when Thomas passed away, more than 10 years worth of time capsules remained untouched in his basement, still marked with name cards, listing the signatures of each fifth grader from that year. And there the capsules sat — until Teresa LoContro, a student from another class, began looking for her class’s capsule from another year and Thomas’s wife dug out the capsules at her home. LoContro rescued the capsules and distributed the boxes to members of each class.

Vito Ferrara ended up hanging onto the 1989 fifth grade class’s box. He squirreled the mystery box away on top of his fridge, hoping the out-of-sight location will settle any temptations to prematurely peel the tape back.

”I know if I start thinking about it too much, I’ll be tempted,” Ferrara said. “I kind of thought about it a couple years ago. I remembered doing it. I did think about whatever happened to that, maybe they opened it and I didn’t get the call — who knows, maybe it just got lost.”

Ferrara said he hopes opening the box will jog and spark memories. The contents could be “totally silly stuff,” he said, and he has only an inkling of what he might have included, given the opportunity.

”I used to draw boats, fishing boats because my dad was a fisherman, so maybe one of the boats got into it,” Ferrara said.

No matter what hides beneath the cardboard flaps though, Sunday presents an opportunity for classmates to not only reconnect, but to remember their beloved teacher, the capsule being an ode to his characteristic thoughtful nature. He was a teacher who remembered his students and stayed involved in their lives.

”He’s probably the teacher that most stuck in my mind out of all the teachers I had,” Ferrara said. “He probably never ate lunch during the school year because he would set up pickup sports games. In the spring we’d play softball and in the fall we’d do football. He’d organize the schedules of who was playing whom, and he’d be quarterback or pitcher.”

Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at