BEVERLY HILLS—What can one generation leave for the next? Nearly 80 years ago, the residents of the City of Beverly Hills answered that question with a contemporary time capsule.
This week, a mystery, which had intrigued residents for some time, was solved. A time capsule, which had been buried in an exterior orifice of the old Beverly Hills Post Office in 1933, was at last opened, to the great curiosity of onlookers. The surprising discovery of the capsule was made a number of years ago, though officials in the city decided to open the capsule as plans move quickly to turn the old post office into a new and rejuvenated center of life for Beverly Hills arts.
The time capsule had been buried in 1933, the same year in which the now-historic Canon Drive post office was first built. The post office actively served the community for about six decades, from 1934 through the early years of the 1990s. The City of Beverly Hills and the board of the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts came together to relish the historical and social importance of the capsule.
Wallis Annenberg Board President Richard Rozenzweig conveyed the excitement over the find. “We were ecstatic to discover this piece of rich history, left for us by an earlier generation… so many of the stories, especially those regarding recovery efforts… reminds us that our nation’s current struggles are the ones that we have overcome in the past, and gives us hope as we enter the future.”
The capsule was not bursting to the seams with historic relics, but given the scarce time period in which it was buried, that makes sense. A select group of items served to provide a smattering of information on what life was like in Beverly Hills in 1933. The glamor of movies, actors and business remained, while the economic and political struggles of a tumultuous era, were also left on display for all.
Two overhead photos from 1922 and 1932 showcased Beverly Hills, and newspapers (including the now-defunct Beverly Hills Bulletin) from 1933 were among the nearly-80-year-old items found. The newspapers and additional explanatory information featured those stories only learned about in the classroom today, including Prohibition and its repeal, the work of the New Deal’s Homeowner’s Loan Corporation and the National Recovery Act. Debates on the merits of these organizations and their role in business were included.
Film memorabilia was also featured, in the form of a film review of “Duck Soup” and a photo of dashing actor Cary Grant in an advertisement for Oldsmobile.
It was not simply the essence of the times which the capsule’s original creators wanted to capture: they also included rich information on the society in which it was created, and fascinating background on the post office itself. The organizers chose to include an account of the early days of the post office, from 1908 through 1933. According to the included history, the post office made a whopping $89.39 its first year of operation. A photo and roster of the Beverly Hills Post Office’s original employees was also included.
A three-cent-stamp, “the first of the National Recovery Administration,” according to the Annenberg Center,” was also included, with the issue date of August 15, 1933.) Other hot button issues of the day which were expounded upon as well included the National Recovery Act’s role in society and the purpose of the National Industrial Recovery Act.
On March 11, locals will be able to see all contents of the time capsule, when it is on display during the official Annenberg Center groundbreaking. Afterward, the City of Beverly Hills will keep the capsule in the Beverly Hills Library. No plans have been publicized in regards to moving any of the contents outside of Beverly Hills.
The old post office at 470 N. Canon Drive currently occupies land which will shortly become the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and an additional parking structure. A spokesperson had previously stated that the post office is not scheduled to be demolished. According to the Annenberg Center Web site, the construction of the Renaissance-style post office was a Great Depression initiative, and “was constructed as a Works Projects Administration (WPA) project on the site of the former Pacific Electric Railway Station.”
The Annenberg Center will put together a new time capsule, which it will use to replace the 1933 gem.