Nepean High School celebrates centennial Anniversary with time capsule opening

Two male students pull a signed football out of the time capsule.
Nepean High School students celebrated the school’s 100th anniversary with a time capsule opening on Nov. 29, 2023. Photo by Ellen Bond.

By Daria Maystruk

Kraft Dinner, a signed water polo ball and other items straight from the ‘90s were met with roaring applause and chatter as they were picked out of a time capsule by Nepean High School students and alumni on Nov. 29, 2023.

The time capsule, sealed in 1998, was the first of its kind for Nepean and captured the ‘90s in a handcrafted wooden box that had remained planted in the school’s main office for the last 25 years. 

The assembly in a packed auditorium also marked the closing of a new time capsule, to be opened in 25 years. 

As the high school’s 100th anniversary of its building approached, English teacher Karen Hamer took on the task of marking the occasion. She said her own experience at Lisgar Collegiate Institute instilled an appreciation for historical celebrations and reunions that inspired her to take on the challenge. 

“For me, it was important to honour the work that had gone into it 25 years ago,” Hamer said. “It’s important for people to have a chance to pause and reflect on these major milestones … and reflect on how things change and how they stay the same.”

A student pulls an old box of Kraft dinner out of the time capsule.
An old box of Kraft dinner is pulled from the 1998 time capsule. Photo by Ellen Bond.

From there, she said she scoured social media to find alumni who could attend the unveiling and worked with Nepean’s principal, Tracy Shapiro, to organize a school photo in the shape of a ‘100’, in addition to the time capsule idea. 

Joanna Bostwick was one of these past alumni who attended the opening ceremony. She was in the 10th grade and part of the student council when the 1998 capsule was sealed.

She said she had forgotten what they put in the time capsule, so each item was a nice surprise — especially the list of students’ names she had handwritten 25 years ago. 

“It made me reflect on what’s important in your life and even just to take that one hour, it really filled me up and brought me so much joy to take that time,” she said. “I couldn’t believe how nice my handwriting was. I’m a doctor now and it is true that doctors’ handwriting is pretty bad.”

Isaac Cervantes Garcia, a student who was asked to speak at the assembly and who helped gather some of the new items, said the old revealed items were predictable but still piqued the student body’s curiosity. 

“They were like little memories that we had been entrusted to keep. None of the items were all that surprising … Instead, the value of opening the time capsule was in being able to get a sense for time,” Cervantes Garcia wrote in an email to Kitchissippi Times. “It’s one thing to understand what the world was like before you were born, but it’s an entirely different thing to be able to see it for yourself.”

A male teen holds a portrait of Queen Elizabeth.
A portrait of Queen Elizabeth ll was put in the new time capsule. Photo by Ellen Bond.

Ideas for the new time capsule came pouring in from every corner of the school community. Hamer said some of the ideas came from a Google Form sent to clubs and faculties within the school, and others were her own ideas, aiming to represent as much of the school and era as possible.

In the end, students packed away items such as a Presto card, a “Nepean purple” paint stick, a frisbee, a projector and laptop, posters for the GSA club, Key Club and other clubs, the school yearbook and several other items into the newly emptied capsule. 

The students also included  a letter describing each item they were placing in the capsule, and how they related to what it means to “live gold” — part of a school motto coined by René Bibaud, who was the school’s principal from 2007 to 2012.

“I hope that people in the future will also find some nostalgia looking back at these items,” said Bostwick . “I hope they’ll appreciate how complete and diverse the collection is, and that they’ll do something special in 25 years so that it’s appreciated in the same way that we appreciated the one from 25 years ago.”

Many students stand on the stage at Nepean High School. One is holding up what appears to be a trophy.
Current Nepean High School students helped fill a new time capsule which will be opened in 25 years. Photo by Ellen Bond.

What was happening in 1923

Here are some quick history facts of what was happening in 1923 when Nepean High School moved into their new home. 

  • The Ottawa Senators got new owners and a new arena. The team was the defending Stanley Cup Champions for the 10th time. They played at the new Ottawa Auditorium on O’Connor Street, where the current Argyle YMCA/YWCA building now sits. 
  • William Lyon Mackenzie King was Prime Minister and Frank H. Plant was mayor. 
  • The year 1923 brought a rare green Christmas to Ottawa. Residents spent the day on local tennis courts and golf courses. 
  • The made-in-Canada Hoover vacuum cleaner was a popular Christmas present that year, according to Charles Ogilvy’s department store, alongside pianos, cigarettes, candles, and pocket watches. 
  • The use of marijuana was criminalized in Canada, one of the first countries to do so. 
  • Warner Bros. was officially incorporated. Disney Brothers Studio was also founded. 
  • Frozen food was invented by Clarence Birdseye. 
  • The first Time Magazine was published. 
  • The number one song on the billboard 100 was “Yes! We Have No Bananas” by Billy Jones. 
  • The life expectancy for a man was 56.1 years and 58.5 years for women. Today it’s 74.5 for men and 80.2 for women. 
  • The department of National Defence in Canada was created in January. 
  • The Chinese Immigration Act of 1923 came into effect, banning all Chinese from entering Canada except for businessmen, diplomats, foreign students, and “special circumstances”. 
Students form in the shape of 100 in the school yard. The photo is taken from the roof of the school.
Nepean students form in the shape of number 100. Photo by Phil Giansante.
Many items are laid out on a table. They include: pictures, books, an old phone and coffee maker.
A look at some of the items that were put in the 1998 time capsule. Photo by Ellen Bond.
Karen wearing a purple shirt stands at the podium.
Teacher Karen Hamer organized the 100th anniversary celebrations. Photo by Ellen Bond.

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