Search for time capsule at former Riverview Elementary School in Harrison comes up empty
The whereabouts of a time capsule buried on the grounds of a former elementary school in Harrison remains a mystery.
During the 1950s, 10-year-old Edward Zembrzuski stood outside near a flagpole at Riverview Elementary in Harrison, watching as each class presented an item for inclusion in a school time capsule buried later that day.
“Our class decided to give a magazine picture of a car — a Pontiac or Oldsmobile. And I recall a silver aluminum or metal container about gallon-sized with a twist top,”said Zembrzuski, 76. “The principal gave a speech, and he put a coin inside the time capsule and buried it near the flagpole.”
A dig on Saturday organized by about a dozen volunteers failed to unearth the time capsule.
“It’s disappointing,” said Zembrzuski, a retired art teacher from Burrell School District. “It would have been something to come up with it 65 years later. I know I have a good memory.”
A lifelong Harrison resident who grew up steps away from Riverview Elementary, Zembrzuski said he always wondered what happened to the time capsule. He brought the matter up to his son, David, who conveniently owns an excavation business, DRZ Excavating and Demolition.
David volunteered his time and equipment, excavating for several hours Saturday in search of the capsule.
He was assisted by several volunteers who searched through the dirt with a metal detector.
But the only items unearthed were a few rocks and old wiring from lighting previously installed near the flagpole.
Riverview Elementary, located at 1330 11th Ave., was shuttered in 1980 and is now privately owned by BTLV LLC.
Property co-owner John Barch granted permission for the dig.
“We planned to give the time capsule contents back to the district if found, unless it had a million dollars in it,” Barch joked.
Among several theories about the missing time capsule mentioned by volunteers was the possibility that someone previously had dug it up and the district was unaware, or perhaps it had decayed from the elements (although Zembrzuski insists the capsule was metal, perhaps aluminum), or that they were digging in the wrong spot.
Highlands spokeswoman Jennifer Goldberg said she’s unaware of any district information on the time capsule. Her archived files date to the late 1960s, when the Tarentum and Har-Brack school districts merged to form Highlands — well after the capsule was believed to be buried.
Zembrzuski never forgot about the time capsule.
“I was excited about the dig and wondered what condition the contents would be in,” Zembrzuski said. “I had mentioned the time capsule to friends over the years, but none of them remembered it.”
Harrison resident and former Riverview Elementary student Eric Schmitt, 50, stopped during a morning bike ride to watch the digging.
“I heard about the time capsule and wanted to check it out and see if they found anything,” Schmitt said.
Goldberg attended the excavation, hopeful that a time capsule would be discovered.
“It was truly a community effort to find the time capsule,” Goldberg said. “Although it wasn’t found, the district would have treasured those artifacts. We were eager to share what was found with the Highlands community.”
Anyone with information regarding the time capsule is asked to call Goldberg at 724-226-2400, ext. 4535.
Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.