COLUMBIA — When the oldest of the three time capsules at Boone Hospital Center was created in 1921, Warren G. Harding was in the first year of his presidency, legendary aviator Amelia Earhart was just learning to fly, and the hospital was opening after construction that cost a whopping $175,000. That amount today wouldn't cover the cost of two ultrasound machines.
Fifteen presidents, countless aviation advances and several hospital expansions later, members of the hospital's board of trustees at their Tuesday meeting opened that time capsule and two others assembled in 1981 and 1996. The event commemorated the hospital's 90th anniversary and celebrated the near completion of an $89.2 million patient bed tower scheduled to open next month.
The three time capsules — which were fused together and consisted of artifacts enclosed in shiny copper boxes about the size of modern-day computer screens — were inside the wall of the hospital’s lobby until recently. Several board members decided they should be opened to highlight the growth of the hospital from its humble beginnings to the nationally recognized institution it is today — and to gain inspiration for the potential contents of a fourth time capsule.
Barbara Weaver, chairwoman emeritus of the board of trustees, said the fourth time capsule will be assembled and placed in the new lobby of the upcoming patient bed tower, fused to its three predecessors.
Weaver has been a trustee since 1981, so she was around when the two newer time capsules were assembled. She couldn't remember what was in them, though, so the morning was all the more intriguing for her.
Weaver, Trustee Jan Beckett and hospital President Dan Rothery took turns opening one time capsule each, using pliers to cut through a tab that covered the boxes' contents. The capsules provided a glimpse of the past, with artifacts ranging from hospital T-shirts, patient logs and even a Betamax tape that was encased in the 1981 box.
“We are excited to look back at our history at a time when we are about to embark into our future with the new patient tower,” hospital spokesman Jacob Luecke said.
The oldest capsule contained yellowed newspapers such as the Centralia Courier, the Hartsburg Truth and the Evening Missourian, which featured the headline “Memorial Day Celebrated by Ground-Breaking for Boone County Hospital.”
Also in the 1921 capsule were brochures created for the hospital’s opening ceremony and a petition presented by Boone County residents calling for the creation of a hospital that could serve all of Boone County. That petition led to the construction of the hospital, which to this day is owned by the county and operated by BJC HealthCare under a complex lease arrangement.
Trustees already have some ideas about what to put in the fourth time capsule: a cell phone, a pager and a Vocera, a handheld device that allows caregivers to communicate across the hospital at the press of a button. Those were displayed on a table in the lobby of the hospital's administrative suites, just a few feet from the hospital's original building.
The new tower, which costs almost 510 times more than the original hospital, is scheduled to open June 26 and will house not only the four time capsules but also up to 128 patients in an eco-friendly tower that is the hospital’s second major addition since the last capsule was sealed in 1996.
Derek Smith is a senior at Columbia Independent School who is completing a one-week reporting internship at the Missourian.