A time capsule buried at the former McDonald’s in Ahwatukee at Elliot Road and 51st Street 30 years ago was pulled from the ground on Friday, but time has taken a toll on the old capsule and most of the items inside were completely destroyed.
It was a unique idea to bury a time capsule in the ground outside of the brand new McDonald’s in 1983. At the time, the McDonald’s was the only fast-food restaurant in the area and the community was excited about the opening.
To celebrate, the company invited nearby schools to have their students create their own time capsules, which would be buried together inside a large stainless steel box made from an 18-wheeler gas tank. At the grand opening celebration the entire community was allowed to place items in the box and enjoy McDonald’s dancers and a Ronald McDonald show.
The box was sealed and placed in a cement vault. It was to be opened Jan. 1, 2003.
January came and went in 2003 and by that time the store had been sold into a franchise. Owner Ken Clement said he was never told about the time capsule. Years later he began to get calls, but he still had no idea where the capsule had been buried. An outdoor seating area was added to the building years after the store’s opening and Clement was sure the capsule was probably buried under the porch.
When Clement decided to move his store across the freeway recently, it seemed like a good time to search for the long lost time capsule. With the help of corporate marketing supervisor, Debi Eastep, who was there at the original opening, he located the capsule and had it pulled from the ground.
“We wanted to open it and check on it before we invited everyone down,” Clement said. “I’m glad we did. As soon as we opened it we could see it was completely full of water. I wasn’t surprised to see there wasn’t much left.”
Eastep said when the capsule was buried it was the first time the company had ever attempted anything like it. The box was sturdy and covered in cement, but over the years the seal wore down. Water turned to rust and most of the items inside the box were destroyed.
According to a 1983 manager’s newsletter, people had placed business cards, children’s photos and several other things in the capsule. Eastep recalls a Walkman, newspapers and a large “E.T.” doll. Once the water was drained and items were carefully pulled from the box all that was left was a few Polaroid photos, a menu from a nearby deli, an empty champagne bottle from the VIP celebration, and several small toys.
“It’s really too bad,” Eastep said. “People have been calling. They were the kids that put that stuff in there. This is proof that they weren’t lying. It’s kind of cool to see what’s left, but I know some people will be so disappointed.”
Clement said he’ll make the items available for those who would like to look through them. He owns the store at 48th Street and Warner Road and said he’ll gather the items into a box and send them to that location.
The new McDonald’s, which is replacing the one at Elliot Road and 51st Street, is being built at Elliot Road and Priest Drive where the old Coco’s Bakery Restaurant was. Clement expects it to open later this October with a grand opening celebration the first weekend of November. He does not plan to bury another time capsule at that location.
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