Time capsule's contents offer peek at SLO lodge's past

acornejo@thetribunenews.comSeptember 13, 2013 

For 100 years a small, black metal box has been stashed away in the cornerstone of the San Luis Obispo Masonic Lodge.

The time capsule — placed there when the building was constructed in 1913 — was opened, presumably for the first time, this week.

Until now the time capsule sat undisturbed as parades cantered past, floods left it submerged in water and an entire city center was erected around it.

Inside the old cash box, which survived the elements by being encased in lead, was a collection of items meant to represent the founders of the lodge and the time in which they lived.

Some of its contents were anticipated: old newspapers, coins and hand-scripted lists of members at the time.

Others were a bit of a surprise: a wisdom tooth and hair clippings from members.

A small paper tag was included in the box with the tooth. Written in cursive handwriting, it reads “Our W.M. wisdom tooth.” It is thought to have belonged to the “Worshipful Master” of the lodge.

Also inside were three small bottles containing wine, oil and corn — a symbolic gesture to reflect Masonic history and its connection to King Solomon.

Masonic lodges, or temples, are built to symbolize King Solomon’s Temple from the Bible. Corn (used to represent all cereal grains), wine and oil, staples of the working man in biblical times, have historically been used in the dedication ceremonies of new lodges.

The locks of hair included cuttings from someone with the initials of A.M., who had been nearly robbed of all her hair, according to an attached note.

“I don’t know if it was a baby or not,” laughed Robert Bettencourt, a member and past master of the San Luis Obispo Masonic Lodge. “What I do know is that these were affable, fun people. They made a connection with us 100 years later, when they had no concept of what we would be like.”

A brochure from a banquet, held to celebrate the lodge’s construction, was included in the box.

A photograph of that banquet hangs in the lodge today.

“Now, looking at the photo of that banquet, I know that those are the people looking forward to the day like I am looking forward to the day 100 years from now,” said Bettencourt. “It is almost like their spirits are alive.”

The time capsule’s items will be displayed at the lodge’s 100th anniversary celebration in October.

Lodge leaders then plan to put the items back inside along with objects representative of 2013 and seal it back up for another 100 years.

PHOTOS: See what was inside the time capsule »

Time capsule opened

A 100-year-old time capsule, removed from a cornerstone of San Luis Obispo's Masonic Lodge, was opened this week. Here, lodge leaders remove the box from its lead casing. Video by AnnMarie Cornejo

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.

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