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Ashland Officials Perplexed Over Lost Time Capsule

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On the eve of its 150th anniversary, the town of Ashland has lost its memory -- and is looking for a little help digging it up.

Town leaders organizing the town sesquicentennial celebrations planned for 2008 are furrowing their brows trying to recall where they buried a time capsule full of memories way back in the mist-shrouded past — 1983 to be exact — hopefully in time for next year's event.

Even Rosanne Shalf, the town's most ironclad databank for dates, places and people, scratches her noggin, struggling to remember why the town buried the thing to start with.

"Yeah, let's see if we can figure that out" says Shalf, author of "Ashland, Ashland." In '83, she recalls, "There was a great big deal because the RF&P gave Randolph-Macon College what we call the 'wye,'" referring to a Y-shaped property that ran from the railroad tracks to behind the old St. Anne's Catholic church on R-MC's campus.

A long pause, and then: "It was a big celebration for the town's 125th anniversary — that's what it was," she says, the "Eureka!" unspoken but implied.

"Of all the things that have happened in Ashland in the past 30-plus years, nobody's quite sure what happened" to the time capsule, Ashland Town Manager Charles Hartgrove says. His research into the capsule's whereabouts yielded only the burial location of an earlier time capsule from 1976, a shelf in the town hall vault.

"I didn't know it was in the vault until about last week," Hartgrove says. He calls the missing capsule — and the happenstance recovery of the '76 capsule — "sort of a mystery because there are a number of people who were around for the 1976 and the 1983 celebration who are still on [town] staff."

Hartgrove is hoping someone with information might log on to the Ashland Web site's 150th anniversary suggestion box — www.town.ashland.va.us — to "let us know. Because that'd be great."

With or without the '83 capsule, Ashland has big plans for its 150th celebration — a year's worth of events that will culminate in a blowout celebration next fall.

And if the town's time capsule conundrum yields nothing more than a lesson passed from the town's Pac-Man-playing '80s forbearers, it will be this: The folks back in 1976, celebrating the nation's bicentennial, knew how to follow directions from the capsule's builder: Don't bury it.

"The guy told us not to," says Shalf, recalling well his now-prophetic words. "He said they get lost when they get buried." S



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