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Time capsule unearthed at MCMC

justine wettschreck/Daily Globe Jean Eich, Sharon Lais and Mel Snow examine objects found in a time capsule that was unearthed during construction Monday at the Murray County Medical Center.1 / 2
justine wettschreck/Daily Globe Some of the items found in the time capsule were old medication boxes, mostly empty, from the 1950s.2 / 2

SLAYTON -- As it turns out, the rumors of a time capsule buried at the Murray County Memorial Hospital about 60 years ago are true.

Construction workers at the Murray County Medical Center expansion project in Slayton broke open a concrete block that was at the base of the old flag pole Monday and found a copper box that had been buried during a dedication ceremony in 1951. Until more research is done, the exact date of the burial will remain a mystery.

The box was opened Tuesday with a tin snips during a MCMC Hospital Board meeting, and the contents examined. The box was jam-packed with newspapers, hospital documents and even some old medication boxes.

"We still use some of these medications today," said MCMC CEO Mel Snow Wednesday morning as he knelt on the floor of the Murray County Museum perusing the time capsule's contents.

One side of the copper box eroded somewhat over the last 60 years, allowing the contents to get very damp. The newspapers and documents were carefully separated and are spread across a concrete floor in a storage area at the museum to dry.

"It was actually a mistake on their part," Snow said. "Cement eats copper, so moisture got in. It's a good thing we found it, because in another 20 years (the contents) would have been gone."

MCMC Purchasing Director Jean Eich watched from inside the hospital as the box was discovered.

"The construction guy was busting it up, and he hit the block with the bucket," she said. "We could see that something had come out. He pulled the box out and brought it to the construction office."

Watching the process was quite interesting, she said.

"They were looking for something all day and then there it is," she said. "It was 4:38 in the afternoon and almost everyone was gone for the day."

MCMC Marketing Director Sharon Lais said there had been rumors that a time capsule had been put in the ground at one time, but no one really knew for sure where or if they would find anything.

"Wow, just look at this stuff," Lais said, carefully picking up documents.

The contents included several issues of the Murray County Herald dating back to 1945, which told the story of how the hospital came to be.

"It was dedicated to veterans, which why it was named Murray County Memorial Hospital," Lais said. "The old hospital was privately owned."

One document, which encourages citizens to "vote yes" for a county-owned facility, shows the proposed floor plans for a hospital. The plans are described as "compact, airy and convenient."

"No steps to climb," the brochure states. "It is light and cheerful and easily enlarged if future need requires, without interrupting service a minute."

Because the medical center is in the midst of an expansion/remodel, the words seem eerily fortuitous.

The box contained blank hospital warrants, which were used as checks, along with a few other everyday items such as a paper straw and a baby bottle nipple. A Reader's Digest from 1951 was included, as was a Life magazine and a Legion magazine.

The Sunday edition of a Minneapolis Tribune is also included, but because the papers are still to damp to handle extensively, any possible relevance to the hospital or area is unknown.

Also included were old boxes, mostly empty, of pharmaceuticals with names like ether, chloride solution, benadryl and penicillin. Nursing policies stated a registered nurse would work 44 hours each week for $225 a month, with rotating shifts and 11 paid holidays --Lincoln's birthday, Washington's birthday, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Christmas Day, Good Friday, Thanksgiving and Armistice Day.

An original copy of the hospital by-laws, rules and regulations for the medical staff was also included, as was a booklet from a medical conference, a list of the contracts for service and equipment for the hospital, and a study that was done to show how much the contents of the facility would cost, with breakdowns for individual items such as desks, chairs, surgical equipment and kitchen tools.

A folder containing photos of the first doctors at the hospital was also inside the capsule.

Because the hospital was dedicated to veterans, a list of all of the soldiers who died in World War I and World War II were also included, along with some VFW paper poppies and a program from the May 30, 1951 Memorial Day program.

"We're going to make a new time capsule for the construction we're doing now," Lais said. "We need to start getting input about what should go inside."

Snow, Lais and others are still in the process of deciding what should be done with contents, with possibilities that include a display case at the hospital or at the museum.

Daily Globe Reporter Justine Wettschreck can be reached at