Most Scouting activities are planned at least a month or two in advance. Some bigger trips are booked more than a year out.
But scheduling a troop activity 19 years ahead of time? That kind of forethought is unheard of.
That is, until I heard about Troop 463 of Sunnyvale, Calif.
In 1999, the Scouts of Troop 463 buried a time capsule with explicit instructions not to open the thing until 2018. That’s the same year the troop would celebrate its 50th anniversary.
Inside, the Scouts included items like a Sega Game Gear handheld console, a Beanie Baby, some copies of Time and Newsweek magazines, and a few Scout T-shirts.
They also added their predictions about the future, at least two of which came true.
One Scout said we’d have self-driving cars by 2018. Check. Another wrote that “the values of the Scout Oath and Law will be as important in the future as they are today.” Right again.
“The goal of the Scouts who buried the time capsule was to show that Scouting in 2018 is as important and useful as Scouting was in 1999,” says Greg Spears, a Scout leader in Troop 463. “They were successful in their goal by attending the anniversary celebration and sharing their experiences.”
In August, nearly two decades after the time capsule was buried, current and past members of Troop 463 gathered with shovels in hand to make good on their promise.
Boys’ Life was there
Boys’ Life magazine documented the Scouts’ time capsule experience in a four-page article in its December 1999 issue. (Read it at the end of this post.)
“We’ll get a laugh out of this thing in 20 years,” Tenderfoot Scout David Yurash told BL.
The Scouts did it all themselves, from designing the capsule to determining what to put inside. They buried the black cylinder under sand and concrete as the adult leaders watched.
Their efforts also were featured in the Jan. 17, 1999, edition of the San Jose Mercury News. One Scout’s comment in the article speaks to the pre-Y2K hysteria of the time.
“I hope the world won’t come to an end in the year 2000,” 11-year-old Daniel Huaun told the paper, “because I want to be here to open this in 20 years.”
50 years of adventure
On Aug. 18, 2018, about 200 current and alumni members of Troop 463 gathered to celebrate the troop’s 50th birthday.
They built a rope bridge, reminisced about their favorite Scout outings and ate s’mores in apparent defiance of the 86-degree heat.
But the highlight of the day was digging up the time capsule. Actually, make that time capsules. Plural.
The location of another Troop 463 time capsule, this one buried in 1993, has been an ongoing mystery in the troop. Leaders knew that Scouts had created one, but they had no clue where it was buried.
When Scouts and leaders unearthed the 1999 capsule, the found a surprise right under it: the 1993 capsule.
“Several alumni Scouts were present who had saved their memories and messages in the 1993 capsule,” said committee member Gunjan Gupta. “They were elated to discover it.”
Make your own time capsule
Time capsules are a great project for Scouts of any generation. Plus, Webelos Scouts who create one can fulfill a requirement for the Looking Back, Looking Forward adventure pin.
Here’s a recent Boys’ Life guide to making your own time capsule using PVC pipe and plastic test plugs.