There were a dozen or so curious scholars (which is a redundancy because if you aren’t curious, you aren’t a scholar), a couple of city officials past and present, and the usual hang-arounds from the press in the anthropology collections room at Sonoma State University, looking on expectantly as the lid of the 50-year-old time capsule containing all of Santa Rosa’s secrets was pried open.
What they found was a message from the past – literally – saying: “Do not remove contents for 72 hours.”
This was Tuesday. A new gathering was promptly planned for Saturday.
Now, I am not a Saturday writer, therefore I can’t tell you that I held a copy of the 1968 General Plan in my hands or gazed at the precious text of a speech made by the manager of the Chamber of Commerce. The whole truth of the Courthouse Square time capsule will be reported by others.
But, along with the wait-don’t-touch note there was a list of the capsule contents, slightly damp from 50 gloomy years underground beneath a bunya-bunya tree on the Third Street side of the square.
Those of us who were there in 1968 when the capsules, including one meant to be opened in 2068 (and 72 hours?) were buried already had a vague idea, eroded by 50 years of remembering.
It was never a secret. The content list had been reported by a “cub” reporter for The Press Democrat named Pete Golis. (I don’t think he looks that old. Do you?)
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DESIGNED TO explain to future generations what kind of town this was in 1968, the capsule was buried 50 years ago next month in the historical center of Santa Rosa as part of a centennial celebration of the town becoming, officially, a city — as well as 14 earlier years of false starts and political maneuvering to establish a proper town and become the county seat.
This orchestrated look back at Santa Rosa’s beginnings piqued my curiosity. A trip to the archive at the Schulz Library turned up an 1867 newspaper story about the city fathers’ desire to decide how to use their share of road tax money collected by the county. In order to do this, they had to ask the state for a city charter and elect their own governing body, freeing road tax and other government issue from the purse strings of the Board of Supervisors.
Thus, the official request to the State to become a charter city, which was granted the following March, just behind Healdsburg and several years after Petaluma.
Santa Rosa had a population of about 900 at the time and those citizens were eager for civic improvement. It was reported that “Petaluma was still larger but not for long.”
The first important council action, Ordinance No. 1, had to do with the control of “animals at large,” identified as “wild cattle, hogs and vicious dogs.”
A riffle through Dee Blackman’s index of the early newspapers turns up the warning: “Persons having hogs or cattle running at large in the corporate limits of Santa Rosa had better look to them at once. Ordinances are to be rigorously enforced.”
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WE ARE coming on 150 years and the streets seem relatively free of cattle and hogs. And we will all have a chance to see the contents of the time capsule from 1968, once it is removed with proper scientific respect. Everything that comes out whole will be displayed all summer long at the Museum of History (the old Post Office to you, Pete, and all the other “old folks”) starting at noon March 24 with a 2 p.m. reception.