The Time Capsule
The Time Capsule

For the past three months, rolling around the back seat of our pickup truck has been this strange assemblage of what might look to the casual observer like a bunch of four and five inch PVC plumbing fittings.

That’s the sort of thing that happens when you live with a history buff who is planning to stuff modern-day Southold into this tube, and then carefully stuff it into a hole in the ground to commemorate the town’s 375th Anniversary.

Now, the original settlers of Southold brought their families to this fair shore on October 21 of 1640, and 375 years to the day from that date, on Oct. 21 of this month, a crew of Southold history buffs plans to stuff our time capsule into a cement vault prepared by Southold Public Works Director Jeff Standish just for this occasion. The public is invited to attend this public event. It will be at 5 p.m.

We’ll stand at the corner of Route 25 and Youngs Avenue in Southold, by Silversmith’s Corner, listening to the clanking of the traffic signal beacon at that corner as we lay down the monument reminding the people of 2040 to open the capsule.

Proclamations will be read. Official goings on will be conducted. And then, we’ll walk away from that spot and let the contents of our airtight plastic spaceship marinate until all who remember what was in there have drifted away.

Now, a time capsule is a pretty cool retro sort of thing to do, but when you start thinking about what really should be put in a time capsule, that’s when you stump the band.

I’ve spent the past few weeks trying to solicit ideas, and I’ve gotta tell you, most people I’ve talked to are just as stumped as I was.

I started out on Instagram, which is a good place to ask questions if you want a serious answer. I posted a picture of the time capsule and asked what should be put inside.

Someone named sailstarlight said we should put a bottle of Croteaux inside. Another woman was pretty pissed off that we made the time capsule out of plastic.

I hadn’t the heart to mention that, not only will a bottle of Croteaux not fit inside the time capsule, but if you want to store wine in a time capsule, chances are a rosé is just about your worst choice. But perhaps we will insist that a fresh Croteaux be served at the unveiling.

As for the plastic, well, we were considering making the time capsule out of Orangeburg pipe, but any of you who’ve had to dig up a collapsed cesspool line at your house would probably have agreed to go with plastic instead.

And really, modern septic systems are what we are all about today. What will they look like in 25 years? We’d love to know what the next 25 years of innovation bring. Perhaps this contraption will look as antiquated in 25 years as Orangeburg pipe does today. But perhaps not.

If Benjamin Braddock graduated from college today, someone would still whisper the word “plastic” in his ear.

Over on Facebook, Rick Kedenburg of Peconic wanted to ask a question of the people of 2040:

“Is the the earth better today than the earth we left you?” he asked. “If you can say yes then I say thank you. If not then you must consult your own conscience.”

Plastic was weighing heavily on my conscience when I took my little reporter’s notebook over to the IGA in Southold earlier this week, across from Silversmith’s Corner, to see if anyone had any good ideas for what to put in the time capsule.

Ed Hayward of East Marion was just heading into the store with his empty cart. It was his 90th birthday.

“I don’t care what you put in it, because I won’t be here,” he said.

Mr. Hayward said he’d worked for 38 years for the Andy Boy broccoli company, working his way up from a broccoli packer to a head of the company. He said the company was unionized and it worked out well for him.

“If they want to work, there’s work there, if you’re a hard worker,” he said of young people starting out in a career today, then he looked hard into my eyes.

“Whatever you do, I wish you well, but I won’t be here,” he said.

I accosted several other strangers: a woman neatly organizing her groceries into the trunk of her SUV, a young father with a young girl, a woman waiting in the passenger seat of her car with a Dunkin Donuts coffee in her lap while her friend was inside shopping.

They all laughed, looked befuddled and then seemed nervous at being put on the spot. It was a good question, they said, but they had no idea what the answer should be.

Across the street, a cluster of people was gathering around the door of the Village Liquor Store. I love a good coffee klatch, so I ducked across the street.

One woman there wouldn’t tell me her name, but she suggested that we put 375th Anniversary Committee Chairman Herb Adler in the time capsule. Herb might actually enjoy being put in a time capsule, so I probably won’t mention this to him.

There’s a rumor going around town that there will be a thumb drive filled with 375th anniversary high school projects in the time capsule, but she mused that thumb drives might be completely obsolete in 25 years.

She suggested we include pictures of the area surrounding Silversmith’s Corner, which might look complete different in 25 years.

“This landscape right here, Southold, is obviously changing. Is the IGA still here? The liquor store?” she asked.

Maggie Conway, the proprietor of the liquor store, graciously offered a bottle of liquor, but I wasn’t sure it would fit through the mouth of the capsule.

Attorney Ed Boyd, whose office is upstairs from the liquor store, trudged in from the parking lot. He was tired from a 3 a.m. rescue call with the Southold Fire Department.

“I know these windows will still be here in 25 years,” he said, looking at the multi-paned storefront windows, whose glazing was cracked and looked like it had already been cracked for 25 years.

He suggested we stuff some politicians in the time capsule.

“We’re so divided into political camps that we can’t get anything done,” he said.

We couldn't fit this fire truck in the time capsule.
We couldn’t fit this fire engine in the time capsule.

When I demurred at the possibility of putting politicians in the time capsule, he offered up one of the department’s older fire engines.

“We can’t seem to get rid of them,” he mused, then offered his thoughts on why the fire departments throughout the East End are having trouble recruiting new volunteers.

“The difficulty is the demand on time and hours. Time spent bringing in money doesn’t bring in an awful lot of volunteers,” he said.

Will people in 25 years have time to volunteer? That is a good question. Perhaps we can put the question in the time capsule.

By the time I headed back to my car after a few more people declined to offer any suggestions, I decided that perhaps we should just fill the time capsule with questions about all of our fears about the future, and whether they have come to pass.

I put the key in my ignition and then called my sweetheart. The Bluetooth kicked in as the woman in the car next to me stepped out of her car to hear me say “I love you, honey” to my car. She giggled and looked away. I rolled down my window.

“Isn’t it weird that we talk to our cars now?” I asked.

“It’s wonderful! And weird….You got it!” she said, as she fished three neatly folded, already used plastic grocery bags off of her back seat and then headed into the grocery store.

I went back home to the pickup truck, where 375th Anniversary Committee member George Cork Maul was fiddling with the fittings on the time capsule. We drove off through the terrain of Southold — the farm fields, the wineries, the new construction, the boat ramps, the marks of Superstorm Sandy and the people scurrying around, talking to their pockets, a world removed from their physical surroundings.

“Some things change very quickly and others don’t change at all, and knowing which is which is what it’s all about,” he mused.

If you want to know what’s in Southold’s time capsule, come to Silversmith’s Corner on Oct. 21, 2040. In the meantime, keep on thinking about the future. It’s all we have left.


Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at

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