Bella English

The things they carried — and buried

Quincy High history teacher Jane Lundquist shovels dirt onto the time capsule buried at the school.
Kyle Barsamian
Quincy High history teacher Jane Lundquist shovels dirt onto the time capsule buried at the school.

If you were to put something in a time capsule to be opened 20 years from now, what would it be? It’s a harder question than it might seem. For me, maybe a letter to my kids, or some stories about the Boston Marathon bombings, or the Red Sox winning the 2013 World Series (Hey, the season is still young).

Freshmen at Quincy High School came up with some great ideas, and last week put them in a time capsule and buried it 6 feet deep in the school’s courtyard. The teens will open it at their 20th high school reunion, in 2036.

The capsule was the brainchild of Jane Lundquist, who teaches early world history to freshmen. Her students — about 110 of the school’s 400 freshmen — spent months working on the project. This seemed the right year, since beloved principal Frank Santoro is retiring. And this class of 2016 will graduate exactly 40 years after Lundquist graduated from high school.


“I teach ancient history and, to some of my students, ancient is what happened to them last weekend,” Lundquist said. “I try to get them to have a little better concept of time.” Quincy High School is quite diverse, and Lundquist wanted to try something that would connect her students.

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“You may be a jock, you may be in drama or the horticulture club, but you’re all Quincy High School kids,” she said. She feels it’s particularly important for freshmen, who still can feel rooted in middle school.

As a City of Quincy frontloader dug out the space, Santoro joked that “they’re going to put me in the hole.” He’s 64 and has spent 41 years as an educator. At the ceremony, he spoke to the students about the remembrance of things past.

“In high school, we’re only a four-year cycle, and as you leave, it’s important to remember who you were,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be nice for people in the future to know more about us, the first group of kids coming through in the new building?”

The old Quincy High School, built in 1922, will be torn down this summer. The new high school opened three years ago. The time capsule was buried right in front of the restaurant run by students in the culinary program, which is open to the public.


Dennis Thibeault, a welding teacher, lent a hand to make a metal case for the plastic capsule, which is nearly 4-by-2 feet. To keep track of it throughout the years, a metal plaque marks the spot: “QHS Class of 2016 Time Capsule, to be opened in June 2036.”

At the ceremony, a student welded the capsule shut, and others threw the dirt on top.

What did the teens put in the capsule? Lundquist encouraged them to write a letter to themselves: What music they liked, who were their friends, favorite classes, and the like. Each class gets a Quincy High T-shirt, and Lundquist buried one, with the students’ signatures on it. She put in a list of all the current freshmen.

She wrote her students a letter for the capsule: “Dear Class of 2016, You’ve had quite a freshman year!” She listed some of the memorable events, including an undefeated freshman football season, a winning freshman boys’ basketball team, “snow, snow and more snow,” the “History Question of the Day” in her class, and putting together the time capsule.

She also asked them to remember Santoro, “who always put the students first and encouraged excellence.” And Steven Johnston, the dean who will follow the class all the way until graduation: “a friendly, helpful man who always tried to keep you on the right path.” She thanked them for being her students.


As for those students, one boy put in his Xbox. “It was broken,” Lundquist explained. The Quincy newspapers went in, as well as the school paper and a copy of The Boston Globe. Lots of photos — and student IDs — went in. A poster from the school’s recent production of “The Wizard of Oz.” A list of popular slang words. An empty Mountain Dew bottle.

‘I teach ancient history and, to some of my students, ancient is what happened to them last weekend. I try to get them to have a little better concept of time.’

“You wouldn’t believe how much they like Mountain Dew,” she said. (The stuff has been banned from my house since my then 5-year-old son sipped some and was up until midnight, jumping from bed to bed in our motel room.)

Lundquist admits she gives “a ton of homework,” and one girl in her advanced class decided to put her history binder in the capsule, with every sheet of paper — “every map, every timeline” — since the first day of class. Lundquist reckoned it was 4 inches thick.

When she asked the girl how she was going to study for her final exam without her binder, the reply was: “I’ve made copies of everything I’ll need.”

As he prepares for retirement, Santoro said next fall will be the “first year in 60 years that I didn’t go to school after Labor Day.”

But he said he hopes to be there in 2036, when the capsule is opened. He will be 87, Lundquist 78. “I told him we’d both come, and I would push him in his wheelchair, and I’d have my cane,” she said. “That’s the plan.”

Bella English lives in Milton. She can be reached at