1960s Time Capsule With Questions About Nudity, TV And Smog Opened In California

1960s Time Capsule With Questions About Nudity, TV And Smog Opened In California

This week the city of Dana Point, California opened up a time capsule that the community sealed back in 1966. The metal tube, safely tucked inside a boulder in 1968, contained a lot of things you’d expect in your average 20th century capsule — like photos and newspapers. But the most interesting thing inside might be the questions that the people of the 1960s had for 2016.

Orange County Harbours Director Ken Sampson, County Harbour Engineer Jim Ballinger and breakwater contractor Ernie Silberberger place time capsule in rock at Dana Point Harbour, Oct. 1, 1968. (Orange County Archive)

“Will TV continue its irritating commercials on the quality of soaps, deodorant, toothpaste, cigarettes, etc?” one person asked, knowing that the time capsule would be opened in 50 years.

Well, we certainly don’t have TV commercials for cigarettes any more. But I definitely saw one for vapes the other day. Welcome to the future, I guess? As for the irritation factor, that’s obviously subjective. But ads for products like deodorant and soaps with any kind of budget at all tend to strive to be entertaining rather than informative. Whether you consider them irritating is up to you, I suppose.

“We see near-nudity on the beaches and our streets. What will we see in the year 2016?” another person wondered in one of the time capsule messages.

The term “near-nudity” definitely had a different meaning back in 1966. And some people of the 1960s might be shocked to walk around Dana Point beaches today.

But some of the most interesting questions and predictions in the capsule may have come from the American Legion, Laguna Beach Post No. 222. The Post contributed a letter asking what the community and the world will look like in 50 years.

An excerpt from the American Legion letter, dated 29 August 1966:

Communist Russia and Red China have but a single aim — world conquest and domination through destruction of free enterprise and enslavement of the masses. The free world looks to us for protection. Will the next 50 years find us strong enough to give it? Will it find us strong enough to protect our own priceless freedoms which we have enjoyed for 190 years? Will the “great society” program of President Johnson and equal rights for all have been truly attained? Will [unreadable] have strangled itself with traffic and smog? Has Laguna been [unreadable] by ugly freeways with endless streams of cars and trucks?

Unfortunately, there are some unreadable portions to the letter. But I think you get the drift. And as for that traffic and smog bit, the LA area has made tremendous strides in the past 20 years in the fight for better air quality. But that being said, these past few months Los Angeles has seen the worst air quality the city has had since 2009.

Roughly 2000 people attended the “rock placing ceremony” in Dana Point back in August 1966, when the community interred the capsule for its 50-year voyage to the year 2016. There were folk singers and beauty queens and politicians of every stripe. But personally, I’m always the most interested in the predictions and questions people had for the future. That’s what got me interested in time capsules in the first place.

A lot of things have gotten better since 1966. But when it comes to traffic, irritating commercials and moral panic over the amount of skin people are showing on the beach, everything seems the same as it ever was.

Local beauty queens pose with the time capsule in Dana Point, California on 29 August 1966. From left to right: Miss San Clemente, Valerie Zagwolksi; Miss Dana Point, Nancy Buenger; Miss Laguna Beach, Marsha Bennett; and Miss San Juan Capistrano, Selena Forster (Orange County Archives)

You can see more photos from the time capsule at the Orange County Archives Flickr page.