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50-year-old time capsule for Arizona centennial

Tim Robbins kneels next to the time capsule, on Feb.  11, 2011, that was embedded into the walls of Prescott, Ariz. City Hall in 1962. Robbins, who was 7 years old at the time, and was a part of a Centenarian committee that put schoolwork into the capsule was supposed to reopen the capsule in 2012. (AP Photo/The Daily Courier, Les Stukenberg)

Tim Robbins kneels next to the time capsule, on Feb. 11, 2011, that was embedded into the walls of Prescott, Ariz. City Hall in 1962. Robbins, who was 7 years old at the time, and was a part of a Centenarian committee that put schoolwork into the capsule was supposed to reopen the capsule in 2012. (AP Photo/The Daily Courier, Les Stukenberg)

Tim Robbins remembers being nervous, but excited, as he sat in the Prescott city council chambers 49 years ago.

Back then, he was part of an exclusive group of 6- and 7-year-olds charged with protecting Prescott’s history.

Robbins was one of nine children picked by then-Mayor Frank Tutt to serve as “Prescott Centennians,” a committee that would one day open the time capsule placed in the walls of Prescott City Hall.

The year was 1962, and construction was just getting started on the new city hall building on Cortez Street.

As a member of a pioneer Prescott family, Robbins joined the handful of other kindergartners, first-, and second-graders who would have the responsibility of shepherding the large metal time capsule through the decades.

“The time capsule is to be opened and its contents examined by the entire committee on Feb. 14, 2012,” stated a letter that little Timmy Robbins received from Tutt on Oct. 9, 1962.

Tutt and other city leaders were looking ahead to Arizona’s 100th anniversary, and they tapped the youngsters that they thought would still be around for the state’s centennial celebration.

And they were correct in Robbins’ case. Except for a few years away for college and early engineering jobs, the 55-year-old Robbins has lived his entire life in the Arizona city.

Like his great-grandfather, grandfather (early Yavapai County Sheriff Robert Robbins), and father before him, Robbins also raised his family in Prescott; his son and daughter both remain in the community.

Records from the early meetings of the Centennians show that Robbins and the other members conducted official business, complete with the presence of the city attorney and city clerk.

Robbins remembers getting plenty of coaching, however. “We didn’t have a clue,” he said of those early meetings.

Although the group was mandated to meet once a year, Robbins said the annual meetings dropped off soon after the groundbreaking of the new city hall on Oct. 15, 1962.

Now, Robbins is working with other members to re-create the group in preparation for the opening of the time capsule at Prescott City Hall next February.

Barbara Gilliss, chair of the local Centennial Committee, said the opening of the time capsule would be a centerpiece of the celebration that will take place in Prescott, Arizona’s Territorial Capital, on Feb. 14, 2012.

Documents from the early 1960s “make their responsibilities very clear,” Gilliss said of the Centennians. “They are responsible for taking the time capsule out. My part as chairman of the Centennial Committee is to make sure there is a celebration.”

Along with conducting their early meetings, Robbins said the Centennian group also was involved in the groundbreaking that occurred Oct. 15, 1962.

Although the children were present for the sealing of the time capsule, Robbins has only vague memories of what is inside.

“There was a transistor radio donated by GE,” he said. “It was an example of the high-tech at the time.”

In addition, Robbins believes that a power tool was a part of the contents, as was a record of “twist” music – perhaps by Chubby Checker, a popular singer of the time.

That is consistent with the Prescott Evening Courier’s account of the event, which noted: “Each (of the Centennians) was given a key to the metal box that contained various items, ranging from a transistor radio to a ‘twist’ record, which will be sealed in the foundation and will not be opened for 50 years.”

The capsule also likely includes artwork from schoolchildren, Robbins said. He believes that some of his own art made it into the capsule, but notes, “I can’t tell you what it is.”

For Robbins, the reveal of the contents will be an exciting event.

City officials recently located the time capsule in the cornerstone of city hall and are storing it for safekeeping, Gilliss said. But the contents will remain a mystery, because the box is soldered shut and the lock is covered in wax.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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