HUNDREDS of Corner Inlet district residents both present and past turned out on Saturday January 25, 2020 to witness the opening of the historic time capsule buried in Foster almost 43 years ago.
Inside the capsule were 249 envelopes containing letters written by local people to themselves or to their families along with photographs, coins and newspaper clippings among other items, as well as documents prepared by local organisations.
Foster and District Historical Society president Meg Rogers said about two-thirds of the envelopes were claimed by their authors or their intended recipients on the day, with their contents bringing laughter, cries of surprise and joy, and reminiscing tears.
Revealing what was in the capsule has been a keenly anticipated highlight of the Foster community’s sesquicen-tennial celebrations that are being held hroughout 2020 to mark the township’s establishment in 1870.
The round, steel capsule had been interred outside what were the Shire of South Gippsland offices in Pioneer Street on Thursday June 23, 1977 by the then Governor of Victoria, Sir Henry Winneke and the Shire President Cr Tom Morgan.
It was found and lifted out of the ground on Tuesday October 29, 2019 by staff of South Gippsland Water, the present-day occupants of the former municipal building, and taken to the Foster Museum in Main Street in readiness for the opening ceremony.
Seven of Cr Morgan’s 11 children were present at the Museum on Saturday afternoon to open the capsule, a task intended to have been made a little easier for the occasion as the eight bolts holding the lid down had been loosened in advance.
However, the best-laid plans can go awry, and a hammer and chisel were quickly found for Tony Morgan to use to break the seal between the lid and the capsule’s mouth.
Inside the capsule were several packages doubly wrapped in olive-green plastic and tied securely with string enclosing buff-coloured envelopes of varying sizes, both large and small.
The envelopes were printed in blue ink with an especially designed logo reading “Rotary Foster 2020 Time Capsule” along with an address panel for the recipient’s name headed with “President, Rotary Club of Foster” and “To be held in custody until the year 2020.”
Each envelope also had a panel for the sender’s name and address and was individually numbered.
The time capsule was a joint project devised by the Foster Rotary Club, together with the South Gippsland Shire Historical Society as it was known in 1977, and the Foster and District High School, now Foster Secondary College.
Corner Inlet district people, families and organisations provided historically relevant documents illustrating local life in 1977, along with memories of the previous 107 years since the founding of Foster in 1870.
A list detailing all of the envelopes in the capsule was prepared at the time but unfortunately was lost during the intervening decades.
The Foster and District Historical Society arranged for the envelopes to be recorded once they had emerged from the capsule, before being handed over to their rightful owners or their descendants.
After being sorted into alphabetical order volunteer runners took the envelopes over to a team of scribes ready to write down the names in the shade of five marquees set up on the Museum lawn and marked with letter range signs, including A-F, G-M, N-S, T-Z, and Organisations.
Queues of clearly excited individuals and family groups soon formed in front of the relevant marquee to collect their envelopes, with some people ripping theirs open straight away while others tucked them away for later examination.
Just before the capsule was opened, Foster 150 organising committee chair John Davies welcomed the several-hundred-strong crowd that had begun to form outside the Museum ahead of the scheduled capsule opening time of 3 pm.
The gathering quickly and significantly grew when many of those attending Saturday’s Foster Secondary College Centenary Reunion arrived in what seemed like surges of pedestrians around the Bridge Street corner and through Pearl Park.
After acknowledging the traditional custodians of the Corner Inlet district, their elders past and present, and their spirits and ancestors, John said he had “been a local for 64 or 65 years” and described how the Foster Community Association had formed the Foster 150 committee some two years ago.
“Foster 150 started to “plan the festivities for the sesquicentennial – 150 years since the discovery of gold and the development of the township of Foster,” he said.
After giving a short history of Foster, John said “the time capsule was organised by Foster Rotary and buried in 1977 with the intention of it being opened in 2020.
“The 150th committee in conjunction with South Gippsland Water … transported [the capsule] here and have loosened the bolts (thanks to Ken White) but have not opened any of the packages or items,” he said.
“We have descendants of Tom and Hilda Morgan here today, as Tom was the Shire President at the time and he performed the official duties along with the Governor of Victoria, Sir Henry Winneke.”
“Letters gone full-circle”
Foster 150 committee member and capsule opening organiser Prue Fleming told the gathering that “the letters [in the capsule] have gone a full circle and the end of their journey is today.”
Reading from the June 29, 1977 edition of The Mirror Prue said Cr Morgan had remarked that he was honoured the Vice-Regal couple were present at the capsule interment ceremony, but he himself did, “not expect to be around when it is dug up 43 years hence.”
Sir Henry replied; “Your shire president is a pessimist. He is sure he won’t be here when the capsule is raised but I certainly will be (I’ll be only 111 then) and expect to be invited back to officiate at the ceremony!”
Prue said, “Tom was right, and Sir Henry was wrong, as neither of them are here today!
“The seven Morgans who are here will open the capsule and the shire secretary [Rod Lomax] will pull out the bags, which will be taken to the table where a group of volunteers will sort the letters as we don’t have a record,” she said.
“And when you get your letter, you don’t have to share if you’re scared; you can keep it to yourself, and those letters that aren’t collected today will be kept here at the Museum.”
District Service Clubs
John introduced Rod to the crowd, who was the municipality’s shire secretary and also a member of Foster Rotary in 1977 and is the service club’s incoming president for 2020/2021.
Rod said in that same year there were four service clubs active in the Corner Inlet district; Foster Rotary, the Toora Lions, Foster Apex and Fish Creek Jaycees.
“Foster Apex and Fish Creek Jaycees are no longer but the other two are still going strong,” he said.
“I was shire secretary and also a Rotarian and was involved with the time capsule project.
“I remember that Lady Winneke had had an accident during her visit here and had caught her heel in a step at Port Welshpool, which meant she couldn’t attend a luncheon,” Rod said.
“Sir Henry continued with the luncheon, and because the gardens at Government House were over-run with rabbits Tom [Cr Morgan] decided to present the Governor with an old rusty rabbit-trap he had done up with gold paint!” he laughed.
“Now I’m to plunge my hand into the capsule and be the first to find any redback spiders!”
Of the original 249 envelopes, about 80 still remain at the Foster Museum, with some to be posted to or held for those addressees who were not able to attend the capsule opening on Saturday.
There are about 30 envelopes belonging to district organisations, some of which are now defunct though others are still going, along with 20 or so personal letters identified by surnames starting with initials from A to K, and 30 more starting with L to Z.
Historical Society Meg Rogers said the Foster Museum will be returning to its usual school term opening hours of 11 am to 3 pm on Saturdays and Sundays from this coming weekend.
“People are welcome to sign for and claim envelopes that are addressed to them personally from the Museum, however we will require a letter of authority from an individual or organisation for third parties to be able to collect on behalf of others,” she said.
“We will be preparing a list of all of the envelopes we have left and will publish the list in a future edition of The Mirrorto make sure we can find as many eligible claimants as we can, with any unclaimed envelopes to stay here safely at the Museum.”
Capsule for 2070
Foster Rotary, the Historical Society and the Foster Community Association are planning to refill the capsule in December 2020.
It will be buried before being dug up in 2070 during Foster’s 200th bicentenary.
Toora Pool celebrates 50 years
IT was a day of celebration and recognition at the Toora Swimming Pool last Sunday, Australia Day.
A good crowd of locals, former residents and past committee members turned out for the mid- morning gathering to celebrate the fifty years of the pool in Toora. Pool president, Rachel Brown gave a background of the pool development and several speakers reflected on the building of the pool and the progressive improvements that have taken place over the past half a century.
Past president Neil Cook spoke of the many years of struggle to keep the pool viable until the Shire finally took responsibility.
To mark the fifty-year celebration, local historian Neil Everitt wrote a detailed history of swimming at Toora including the original swimming pool located in Muddy Creek north of the township. The book, titled “A Place to Swim” contains details of the fund raising and building of the present pool and has many photographs from 1932 through the years including the construction stage and many photos of the improvements and the latest splash park.
Foundation President, and life member, Jan Mildenhall was invited back for the occasion as guest of honour and to launch Neil’s book. She recalled the early years and the wonderful support she had especially the work of pool secretary, Bob Andersson and the way the community got together to build the pool. Jan complimented all the committees that followed and the work they have done to provide what is in place now, a magnificent aquatic centre used by 25,000 people last year.
In launching the book Jan spoke of Neil Everitt’s dedication in writing local histories and said “A Place to Swim” is yet another example of Toora’s history being preserved.
During the celebrations two life memberships were presented by pool president Rachel Brown. The first was to Ilda Parry, a long serving committee member of the Friends of Toora and District Swimming Pool. Life membership was also presented to Neil Everitt in recognition of thirteen years as a committee member of the pool starting in 1966 at age twenty-three. He was Treasurer for six years, including when the pool was built in 1970, and was president for four years from 1975 to 1978.
At the conclusion of the speeches a 50-year birthday cake was cut and all present enjoyed morning tea by the pool and catching up with the many former residents who had returned for both the pool 50th and the Foster High School 100-year celebration.