By Amy Bickel
The Hutchinson News email@example.com
It wasn't quite what Kansas State Fair Manager Denny Stoecklein had imagined.
There had been some suspense, after all, about the Sergeant Missile time capsule on the fairgrounds - dedicated on a hot day during the 1973 state fair.
It was the 60th birthday of the fair. Dignitaries were present from across the state. Famed astronaut Joe Engle was a guest of honor. He told the crowd that he could not fathom what technology the country would be using in 2013 - the centennial fair when the capsule would be opened.
"When we open the time capsule (in 2013), again people who are here today will be pleasantly surprised," he said.
Engle didn't realize just how surprised today's fair organizers would be.
Amid the fair's 100th birthday party this past September, Gov. Sam Brownback and fair officials unveiled the contents placed during the 60th state fair - nine reels of microfilm, along with some audio from a Kansas radio broadcaster.
"It was surprising," said Stoecklein. "You certainly have in your mind, all these things and microfilm wasn't at the top of the list of what you would expect."
Fair officials are still trying to unveil the contents of what appears to be a cross-section of the Kansas civilization of that year on what has become an outdated form of record-keeping.
Since the fair ended Sept. 15, officials have been able to review the contents of one reel. The man doing the work stopped when his microfilm reader broke.
Stoecklein said his staff is working on other options to convert the remaining reels by the 2014 fair, at the latest.
"They probably thought we'd be impressed with the technology - not realizing how things would advance past that," he said.
Preserving a view of Kansas life
According to a story in the 1973 edition of The Hutchinson News, materials from "the nine areas of Kansas life" were sealed inside the missile. Each of the 105 counties in the state was invited to submit materials to be microfilmed for the capsule. Those areas included business, education, farming, government, livestock, media and religion.
What Stoecklein has seen so far are pages of old newspapers with information pertaining to the "livestock" part of life. One paper, the Elkhart Tri-State News, talked about the history of Morton County, along with the market for fat cattle. An advertisement in the paper by Fisher's Inc. showed an International tractor.
A page fro the Lawrence Daily Journal-World showed the stock exchange activity.
"Opening the missile in 40 years to view the contents should provide the next generation with a rare insight into our present life," Kansas State Fair Board President Robert Teagarden told The News in 1973.
Hutchinson resident Ruth Stucky owned the company - Micro Securities Inc. - that did all the microfilming. She started the company in 1971 in Hutchinson. It grew as more customers wanted items microfilmed, including courthouse records, medical records and newspapers.
At various times, she employed 30 to 35 people, she said.
In 1973, the fair asked her to microfilm all the newspapers and articles coming in from every county in the state. She did it for free.
Microfilming was the only way that amount of information could be stored in the capsule, Stucky said.
"It was the most efficient way to condense and save so many documents," she said. "I don't remember how many documents we filmed, but we filmed a lot of documents."
She sold the business to Underground Vaults and Storage in 1988. She still has one 35-millimeter microfilm reader, which she has offered to sell the fair so fairgoers can view the capsule contents.
Stoecklein said the fair hasn't finalized how the documents will be viewed. Once the microfilm is printed, the information might be put in a notebook that people can look at inside a new museum currently being constructed. The Lair White House museum will open during the 2014 fair.
"Not a bad existence"
Stoecklein said a new time capsule would be dedicated next year. He added he is shying away from technology that could be outdated. Instead, he is rounding up "hard items" - photos, ribbons, tickets and newspapers that will be sealed away for 25 fairs.
"If we do a flash drive or a DVD, how long is that technology good for?" asked Stoecklein.
The time capsule already has left some glimpses into the summer of 1973, when Jerry Holley, general manager of WIBW and then president of the Kansas Broadcasters Association made an audio recording for the fair's capsule. You can download and listen to the recording here: http://hutchnews.com/www/statefairaudio2.mp3.
He talked of how the association formed in 1953 to "cover the then current problem involving university sports networks" - in order to keep the networks from becoming a bid situation. He talked about how broadcasters couldn't' advertise cigarettes and tobacco, but newspapers and other media, could.
"I suppose the big story this summer of '73 is furor surrounding Watergate," he said.
Despite some bleak issues, like Watergate and Vietnam, he said the summer of 1973 was a good one.
"We had very few tornados, abundant rainfall, crops are good," he stated. "The largest wheat crop in the history of Kansas will be harvested this year."
He talked about how space exploration and moved from the moon program to the Skylab space station, noting that as he made the tape, three astronauts were in the space station spending the longest period "to date in the weightlessness of space."
"I suppose to you listening to this tape so many years from now, we sound a bit primitive," Holley said. "We thought the same way about the pioneers who settled the state of Kansas over 100 years ago. Ours is not a bad existence, and as I pause during mine to make a tape recording, which will be heard years in the future, I'm forced reexamine our life in the year 1973. It might have been a lot worse.
He ended by saying, "For you in the future, I hope it is a great deal better."