Miles Time Capsule Cracked Open at Lerner

May 23, 2012

Former employees of Miles Laboratories and other community members gathered at the Lerner Theatre Tuesday evening for the opening of the Miles time capsule discovered on March 28.

The mysterious box had been uncovered while workers were removing the old steps from the front entrance of the Bayer building. According to an old copy of “The Alkalizer,” Miles’ internal newspaper, the box had been placed within a cornerstone of the building when it was dedicated in 1938.

At the Lerner, historical Miles Laboratories artifacts sat on display in the lobby, and old friends and co-workers reminisced about their time at Miles and their associated companies. As people took their seats in the theater, the five-piece Heart City Brass band played jazz and ragtime with a painted set of the downtown scene as a backdrop.

Before cracking open the rusted copper box, however, those in attendance were transported to the late 1930s via a “radio” show, courtesy of Allen Strike, John Shoup and Stephanie Yoder.

The show featured songs by Yoder and Shoup interspersed with readings of Miles advertisements, including the famous Alka-Seltzer “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz” ad.

Several former employees, including Jack Cittadine and Patsy Boehler, shared their memories of Miles, and Paul Thomas, the unofficial historian of Elkhart County, discussed the importance of the company to the city’s development. Liz Haeuptle, curator of collections at the Elkhart County Historical Museum, then joined Mayor Dick Moore on stage for the opening of the capsule.

The brown copper of the box had long turned green, and time had been tough on the contents within as well. But first out of the capsule came two records, apparently recordings of the National Barn Dance, a once-popular radio show sponsored by Miles.

As the team continued to carefully extract items from the box, they discovered several books holding account information, a written history of Miles and minutes from stockholders’ meetings and old newspaper advertisements. A Miles almanac and weather calendar from 1938 were also in the capsule.

Many of the findings had deteriorated to one degree or another, but it appeared that a good amount will be salvagable.

According to Mayor Moore, all the materials will be put in a safe place until it is determined which of the pieces can be saved. Once the chosen pieces are restored, the city will decide where to display them.

Though the contents of the capsule may not have come out in the best shape, they can be saved and will, at least for those gathered, be a lasting representation of the special place that brought them all there that evening.