Wind storm yields time capsule, of sorts
A 110-foot Sitka spruce flagpole that has been a downtown Anchorage landmark for decades blew down in Tuesday night's wind storm, snapped violently at its base.
The flagpole at the Anchorage Veterans Memorial, west of I Street on the Delaney Park Strip, fell sometime after 10 p.m., said Michael Pollitt, a carpenter with the municipality dispatched to appraise the situation Wednesday morning. It sheared off part of a smaller spruce tree as it fell to the northwest.
"It looks like it snapped at the base and cracked as it hit the ground," Pollitt said.
The city will cut up the log and move it, said Parks and Recreation department spokeswoman Holly Spoth-Torres. Then city officials will consult with veterans groups about what to do next.
The pole showed signs of rot, said Cal Kerr, a former forester with the state who stood photographing the scene on Wednesday. He held a piece of crumbling wood scraped from the marrow of the log.
"There's dry rot in here, brown rot, white rot here, too," Kerr said.
The flagpole didn't appear to have been treated with creosote or other preservatives, he said.
The city of Ketchikan originally gave Anchorage a Sitka spruce pole in 1959, according to a plaque at its base. In 1987, the pole was trimmed to 90 feet because it was deteriorating, and moved from the historic city hall site in downtown Anchorage to the Delaney Park Strip.
In July 1999, the 110-foot replacement pole was installed to "continue the tradition established in 1959 of displaying the flags of this great nation and state in grandest honor," according to a plaque at the site.
Spoth-Torres said that the large American flag that flies atop the pole is missing. The silver globe that crowned it split open like a melon.
The city has that, Spoth-Torres said.
On Tuesday night a group of strangers out looking at storm damage discovered a forgotten relic inside the broken globe: a battered Maxwell House coffee canister with a long history.
Anchorage Assemblywoman Harriet Drummond and her husband were taking a starlit walk downtown after midnight when they came on the flagpole. People had gathered to look at the downed pole and globe, including photographer Charles Tice and Barry Piser, a copy editor at the Anchorage Daily News.
The group discovered the coffee can and Tice decided to open it with his pocketknife.
"He said, 'You know I think this is a time capsule,' " Drummond said.
Inside was a yellowed copy of the Daily News from May 6, 1961, with headlines about Alan Shepard, the first American astronaut in space, and breakup on the Tanana River. Also in the can: a list of names, a 1960 penny and a Union 76 gas card bearing the name Charles Gillick.
Piser turned the coffee can and its contents in to the Parks and Recreation department Wednesday.
Gillick, reached at his home in Soldotna on Wednesday, said he'd never forgotten about the hastily assembled time capsule of more than 50 years ago.
He was a 22-year-old volunteer firefighter in a much smaller Anchorage when he and his buddies learned the globe was being stored at their downtown fire station.
"We said, 'Let's put something in there that will be for posterity,'" said Gillick, who is retired from the U.S. Air Force.
They left no instructions as to when it should be opened.
"I always wondered if (the globe and flagpole) still had the stuff in it or not," he said.