LEWISTON – There are treasures buried in Kennedy Park. Phil Nadeau is sure of it.
Not gold, jewels or priceless artifacts, these would be caches of personal mementos buried to mark festivals and solemn occasions. Nadeau, Lewiston’s deputy city administrator, is sure there are at least three such time capsules.
The city has clues to where two of them are, but Nadeau is convinced that there is a third.
“You have to believe that over 100 years, someone has stuck another time capsule down there,” Nadeau said. “The odds of coming across it are pretty remote, unless it’s somewhere we’re going to dig.”
Crews will be digging in Kennedy Park during the next few months, mostly around the southwest corner. Work on a new skate park is scheduled to begin in May and the city will be building a new pool house, playground and basketball courts around it.
The rest of the park will see digging, just not as much. Plans call for moving some Kennedy Park landmarks – the gazebo and the Civil War monument – within the park.
“So it’s important for us to know where these things are buried,” Nadeau said. “We’d like to be aware of them, find them, and take possession of them so that they don’t get destroyed.”
At least two time capsules are known: One was buried near the corner of Park and Pine streets in 2001, when the traveling Vietnam Wall Memorial left town. Organizers gathered up the photographs, letters, flowers left behind by wall visitors, put them in a vault and buried them under a stone marker.
That marker is still there, near the corner of Park and Pine streets.
The second went underground in the summer of 1976, to mark the nation’s bicentennial. Newspaper accounts of the time say it was buried at a special ceremony, under the park’s flag pole.
But organizers, eager to keep the capsule hidden for at least 100 years, snuck in and moved it. Nobody is quite sure where – including city officials and local historians. Bicentennial event organizer Arthur Bisson has since died. His 2001 obituary claims he was the last of a small group that knew its location.
The time capsule was a big event in 1976. Arthur and his then wife, Judy, dressed up as George and Martha Washington while they collected goodies for the capsule. Judy, now living in Augusta, said it contained newspapers, photographs, coins and other memorabilia.
“Anybody that wanted could contribute,” Judy Bisson said. “That’s why they had us dress up, to get people to donate things.”
Judy didn’t pay attention to where the capsule was buried but she remembers the capsule: It was metallic, about a 18-inches tall and wide enough to hold a standard notebook without bending it.
Bisson’s sister, Alice Bisson-Barnes of California, admitted she might know that capsule’s location. She never saw it, but Arthur told her where it was.
“It still has 70 years to go before they’re supposed to dig it up,” Bisson-Barnes said. Arthur hoped it would be found and exhumed around the nation’s tricentennial, in 2076.
Arthur sent her a postcard showing the park’s old fountain, saying he and his colleagues had moved it nearby.
That makes sense, Nadeau said. The fountain was gone from the park in 1976 and later replaced with a star-shaped planter. That planter is there still and local veterans plan to move it to the Veterans Memorial Park, just in front of the Great Falls.
“The idea is to consolidate as many military artifacts at that park as is possible,” Nadeau said. “So, we’ll be on the lookout when we dig there. And if we actually find it, we’ll make sure to put it back in the park.”
This time, Nadeau said, city officials will try to remember where they put it.