Dunedin bank opens 50-year-old time capsule

It was part of SunTrust's centennial celebration.
Published October 25 2013
Updated October 25 2013

DUNEDIN — The crowd oohed and ahhed as yellowing 1962 copies of the Clearwater Sun, the Tampa Tribune and the Piper, Dunedin High School's 10-cent school newspaper, were pulled from the silver time capsule.

Layers of paper wrapped around envelopes crumbled so badly that it took several painstaking minutes to reveal there were financial statements inside.

And was there even any equipment still available today, observers wondered, that could play the big, ancient-looking spools of movie film and audio tape pulled from the silver box?

SunTrust Bank at 825 Broadway Ave. in Dunedin on Thursday unveiled the contents of a time capsule that was embedded in the building's walls 50 years ago when it was known as First National Bank of Dunedin. The unveiling was part of the 100th anniversary celebration of the bank's founding.

According to local historians, the bank initially started filling the capsule in 1949 but a plaque shows it wasn't sealed into the bank's walls until May 1963. In 1995, when the bank moved to its current location, the time capsule was removed, driven over to the new Broadway Avenue branch, and sealed into the walls there.

"This is exciting. It's like a period frozen over time suddenly coming to life," said Dunedin Historical Museum director Vinnie Luisi.

Added bank branch manager Deborah Roper: "It was amazing to see what people thought was really cool and important to share with someone five generations down the road."

About 100 current and former employees and customers joined community members Thursday at SunTrust for the anniversary celebration and opening of the capsule. For decades, through multiple names and location changes, it was the city's sole bank, and the celebration Thursday honored that legacy.

Other mementos found inside the capsule included coins, pendants, a 1949 stamp collection, a $1 bill, and historical documents or booklets from several groups around town, including the library and Masonic Lodge.

At the bottom of the capsule were golden bricks from Dunedin High, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School, San Jose and Dunedin elementary schools, Dunedin Highland Jr. High and Chase Memorial, an elementary school for African-American children that closed three months after the capsule was sealed.

Leafing through tables filled with heavy leather-bound books full of photos, news clippings and even handwritten ledgers from the bank's earliest days, former bank employee Jackie Chalk, 87, recalled attending the 1949 capsule ceremony.

The bank received an album, which it later converted to a CD, of the WTAN-AM 1340 radio broadcast of that ceremony, led by bank president and one-time Dunedin Mayor A. J. Grant. People listening to the recording Thursday chuckled as Grant waxed on about "these bank employees and their machines" that were so sophisticated they could add, subtract "and I believe some even find that missing number for you."

A laughing Chalk remembers thinking during the lengthy ceremony that Grant "would never shut up." At the time, she was about 23 and pursuing what turned out to be a 45-year career that saw her go from sorting paper clips as a teen to retiring as vice president in 1988.

On the recording, Grant introduced Chalk as she placed bank financial statements from 1913 and 1948 in the capsule. Thursday, she said she never thought she'd live to attend the capsule's opening alongside colleagues and customers who, in the old days, functioned like a second family.

"It brings back a lot of memories," Chalk, a First Presbyterian Church member, said, clutching a worn historical booklet pulled from the capsule. "I didn't know all that stuff went in. That was a long time ago — when I was a child," she joked.

In the late 1970s, Judith Davis, an artist who uses the alias J.M. Rogers, filled the walls of the old bank building with murals of beach scenes. Her husband Tom's contracting company, Davis & Associates, built the current branch.

"I've been to maybe 1,300 openings of banks and facilities, and this is the only one I've come back to," Tom said. "Because of the time capsule, I thought it would be nice."

Dunedin Chamber president Lynn Wargo smiled as she studied some of the capsule's documents, recognizing the names of prominent Dunedinites that "we've seen in all the history books."

Items that were not claimed by their respective organizations Thursday will be covered in acid-free paper to halt deterioration, then displayed at the Dunedin Historical Museum.

Keyonna Summers can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.