Fifty years ago, on a cold 58-degree February afternoon, two time capsules were entombed in a vault outside what is now Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center. One is dated Feb. 28, 1973, and the other is from 1916. Encased in copper, the time capsules were buried with instructions that they should be opened on Feb. 28, 2023.
“It’s an incredible experience to see and touch these items placed in the time capsules 50 and 100 years ago, and to reflect on the rich history of what is now Atrium Health Navicent,” said Atrium Health Navicent President Delvecchio Finley at a ceremony held to open the time capsules. “So much of what’s great about our health system today was built on the foundation of the work of the teammates who’ve gone before us. Now, it’s our turn to drive for excellence, not just to provide high-quality care close to home, but for future generations.”
Adults alive in 1973 will remember “The Poseidon Adventure” dominating the box office. Macon’s favorite musical sons, the Allman Brothers Band, were living at The Big House that year and enjoying the success of their first No. 1 album, “Brothers and Sisters.” The Vietnam War had just ended, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its verdict on Roe v. Wade and gasoline was a mere 40 cents a gallon.
Locally, Ronnie Thompson was mayor of Macon and the “biggest snowstorm in Macon’s history” was making headlines in the newspaper. They called it the Great Snow of 1973, and the National Weather Service attributed it to a polar air mass moving across the Southeast. You can read all about it, as the Feb. 18, 1973, special snow edition of The Macon Telegraph and News was included in the box.
As the 1973 box was carefully unpacked, Finley’s gloved hands pulled out a photo of 3-week-old Amanda Carrol McDaniel, daughter of Paula Huffmaster, who worked in the hospital’s administration division at the time.
A voice from the back of the tent said, “That’s me!” as the audience made a collective gasp of surprise.
In an interview after the discovery, McDaniel said she found out the morning of the opening that her pictures — there were two of her, actually — had been included.
“I had wanted to go over to see what the 1916 time capsule looked like, but then when my mom called me and I found out that my picture was in the 1973 one, I knew I had to go over,” said McDaniel, who works as an OB-GYN department secretary at Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center. “I think it’s really wonderful that she included my picture. Since she worked here for such a long time, and I have as well, it’s like we are a part of this place — or rather, this place is a part of us.”
Other glimpses of Macon’s past stored away in the 1973 box include an Ocmulgee National Monument commemorative coin, uncirculated 1972 coins, a Sidney Lanier stamp debuted in 1972, nursing recruitment brochures and a program from December 1971 dedicating the hospital’s new tower.
The 1916 time capsule, originally placed in a hospital cornerstone, was discovered in 1971. Some of its items went on display inside the hospital, while others were resealed and buried along with the 1973 time capsule to be opened in 2023.
World War I dominated the headlines of the Oct. 31, 1916, edition of the Macon Daily Telegraph, which was included in the box. War correspondents reported that, “Year 1917 may bring battles which will end the world war,” according to a German field marshal, and “Action of German U-boat in sinking British steamer with Americans aboard may involve U.S. and Germany again.”
Other fascinating bits of history found in the 1916 box included business cards, coins from the 1800s and early 1900s and a medal from the Fort Valley Mason Lodge No. 110. At the time, the Mayor of Macon was Bridges Smith, and the city was the home to the 1916 Georgia State Fair.
Many of the items pertained to the hospital and its history. These included a charter and bylaws for the Macon Hospital Association dating from Jan. 23, 1894, and a deed of trust that secured bonds in 1916 for the hospital for $15,000.
“First founded as the Macon Hospital in 1895, Atrium Health Navicent has been helping the people of central Georgia to live healthier lives for more than 125 years. These time capsules serve as a reminder of that legacy and of the legacy that our teammates are creating now for the future of central Georgia,” said Atrium Health Navient Board Chair Starr Purdue.
Plans are underway by the hospital system to collect items for a 2023 time capsule to be buried later this year.
“Here at Atrium Health Navicent we have several cultural commitments that we ascribe to,” Finley said in closing the time capsule unboxing event. “One is we innovate to better the now and create the future. If we reflect back on our teammates, neighbors, fellow Maconites and central Georgians being represented here in 1916 and 1973, just think of what the aspirations of those people at that time were, for the present of health care, for the future of health care and for what we have today. We have the opportunity always to be thinking the same way: How will we play a small part in that continuum of time to make the impact that betters our now and creates our future?”