OPINION: Hospital time capsules contains snippets of old Sarnia

Several hundred people recently gathered in the central atrium of Bluewater Health to witness the opening of a series of time capsules that were embedded in the brickwork of the recently levelled Sarnia General Hospital.

That included a time capsule from the original hospital in 1895, and another from a new wing added in 1929.

In the early 1950s, the original hospital was torn down and the 1952 final version was built, with its own time capsule embedded in the cornerstone.

For me, the contents grew more interesting as the dates got older – but each capsule contained something of interest.

The first one opened, from 1952, contained a copy of the Holy Bible and Canadian circulating coins of each denomination, including a 1952 silver dollar. A 1950 course book for student nurses recalled the days when the nurses’ residence sat on Essex Street just north of the old hospital

Among a number of 1952 newspapers was a five-cent edition of the Windsor Daily Star, which was widely read in Sarnia in the ‘50s. I had a paper route delivering the Star. The newspaper carried stories about a new polio serum and a Canadian pilot in the Korean conflict.

Some U.S. coins were among the Canadian ones included in the 1929 time capsule. A handwritten history of the hospital commission will prove difficult to read for future students of history untrained in reading cursive.

Not until 1936 would the Toronto newspapers The Globe and The Mail and Empire merge to form The Globe and Mail, so it was interesting to see a copy of The Globe from 1929.

It would be even more difficult for the cursive-deprived to read the beautiful calligraphy of a Masonic dedication in the 1895 capsule. Sarnia was a city of only 6,000 souls when the first General Hospital opened, and a time when membership in fraternal organizations was common. The Masons were very involved in the planning for the new hospital. The capsule also included the constitution of the Sons of England Benevolent Society – another fraternal organization of the day.

Several handwritten letters from distinguished citizens illustrated the admirable penmanship of the time. Newspapers included Volume 1, Number 8 of the Sarnia Daily Post, the Saturday Globe, the Daily Mail and Empire, and the Sarnia Canadian.

There was even a Canadian 20 cent coin.

GFive Inc., the Sarnia company that bought and razed the old Sarnia General, was kind enough to turn the time capsules over to Bluewater Health, which replaced both of the city’s old hospitals.

Thanks GFive, for saving these historical artifacts!

Phil Egan is editor-in-chief of the Sarnia Historical Society. Got an interesting tale? Contact him at philegan@cogeco.ca