City opens time capsule to kick off sesquicentennial

Gary Mabrey, Johnson City vice-mayor Joe Wise and Johnson City commissioners Todd Fowler and Dr. Larry Calhoun look on as youngsters help unveil a new city flag during Johnson City’s sesquicentennial kickoff event last Saturday. PHOTO BY DAVE ONGIE

By Dave Ongie

For some, it was a walk down memory lane. For others, it was a voyage of discovery.

Johnson City kicked off its yearlong sesquicentennial celebration last Saturday by unearthing a time capsule, which was buried in 1969 in honor of the city’s 100th birthday. Those who flocked to the old J.C. Penney building in downtown Johnson City were treated to a glimpse at daily items that became either very exotic or very nostalgic – depending on your age – while resting underground over the course of 50 years.

Vance Cheek Sr., a member of Johnson City’s Board of Commissioners back in 1969 and a former mayor of Johnson City, was on hand to offer some opening remarks prior to the unveiling of the items he helped bury 50 years ago.

“I represent the last man standing from the 1969 commission, such as I am,” Cheek said with a chuckle. “I’m proud to be a part of the commission that envisioned the celebration that we’re having today.”

A scrapbook of newspaper stories was available for the public to examine. PHOTO BY DAVE ONGIE

Much of what was contained in the time capsule was in the form of literature. Books, pamphlets and reports gave the people of 2019 a nice snapshot at what life was like in Johnson City 50 years ago. From church history to city government and medical reports to yearbooks, phone books and a newspaper headline screaming that men had walked on the moon, there was much to be learned.

Included in the capsule was a letter from Charles Gordon, Johnson City’s mayor in 1969, addressed to the current mayor. Now mayor Jenny Brock and her fellow commissioners find themselves in the shoes Gordon and Cheek were once in, rounding up items for a capsule that will be unearthed in 2069.

Like Gordon, Brock is hopeful the capsule buried this year will be unearthed in a better world than the one it was buried in.


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