Time in a box: Columbus leaders unearth mementos from 1972


Aundrea Self with WCBI and local historian Rufus Ward second from left, inspect items from the 1972 Leigh Mall time capsule Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021 in Columbus, Miss. Various items were put into the capsule 49 years ago, and the capsule was opened as part of the celebratory activities marking Columbus’ bicentennial. (Tyler B. Jones/The Commercial Dispatch via AP)

COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) — Leaders of an eastern Mississippi city have opened a time capsule that local residents buried nearly 50 years ago in anticipation of this year’s bicentennial celebration.

Columbus was founded in 1819 in what was considered at time to be Alabama. It became part of Mississippi and was incorporated in 1821.

The metal box with books and other mementos was put into the ground at Leigh Mall on Aug. 22, 1972, a year before the mall’s opening, The Commercial Dispatch reported.

Earl Martin is a former public relations director for Sears, Roebuck & Co., and organized the preparation of the time capsule back then. He took the box to The Commercial Dispatch and asked the newspaper to advertise for items to be buried.

Soon after Leigh Mall opened in 1973, a flood hit Columbus.

Items pulled from the box Wednesday included water-damaged 1972 yearbooks from Caldwell High School, Lee High School and Mississippi State College for Women, which is now Mississippi University for Women. The box also held a Columbus phonebook; the 1972 Sears fall/winter catalog; the Aug. 22, 1972, edition of the newspaper; and large box full of photos.

“We’ve got lots of pictures here,” said local historian Rufus Ward. “They look fairly stable, so we don’t need to take them out. I think they can be salvaged.”

Once the items are properly cared for and dried out, they will be on display at the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library.

Jim Hull, a retail developer based in Georgia, bought Leigh Mall in November 2019. Mayor Keith Gaskin contacted Hull a few months ago about having a time capsule opening ceremony.

“Opening the time capsule is a beautiful reminder of bygone years and the people who saw fit to communicate with us now,” Hull said Wednesday.

Some who watched the time capsule be buried were also there Wednesday to see it opened. They included Tom Cole and Marsha Page Ward, who played with the Caldwell High School at the ceremony in 1972.

“What I remember was just being nervous because it was my first performance with the band,” said Ward, who was a freshman playing the flute.

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