Not unlike the headlines of today, it was an event that drew nationwide attention to Dodge City. Newspapers from as far away as Pennsylvania and New York City reported on it.
At Boot Hill Museum on a warm August evening in 1972, more than 200 "mourners" watched and prayed as the Reverend Rudy Treader officiated at a "funeral" with no deceased except for perhaps a stray housefly.
In a first for Treader, they buried no "body." Instead attendees placed memorabilia from the early 1970's into a "time capsule" to be opened in the future to serve as a porthole into the past. For example, a pastel blue "Princess" dial telephone was included in anticipation of an era when this type of phone would be obsolete and unfamiliar to those opening the time capsule.
Celebrants placed everything into a steel lined concrete burial vault weighing 2,700 pounds. The scheduled for the time capsule to be disinterred was August 20, 2022 - the date of Dodge City's 150th anniversary.
This burial was just one event in a busy week which culminated a year-long Dodge City Centennial celebration. After the burial, many drove up to memorial stadium to watch the pageant, "Dodge City Symbol of the West." Over 400 residents portrayed Dodge City's wild west past for 3,000 spectators for six nights. Out of state producers put on the show using two large movie screens, a giant stage, lighting effects, covered wagons, old cars and a dozen horses filling the football field.
Planners spent over $100,000 on the Centennial celebration including the pageant, picnics, marches, parades, an air show, revival church services and various contests. One of these contests was the "Brother of the Brush" beard growing competition. All men were expected to participate by growing a brushy beard. Young boys were exempted as "Little Shavers."
The Centennial committee sold a vast of array of souvenirs commemorating the centennial. Among the keepsakes were bowties, license plates, buttons and pins, dishes, coins and drinking vessels. Jim Beam Distillery even produced "Boot Hill" whiskey in special ceramic bottles just for this huge Centennial celebration.
The time capsule did not rest in peace until August 20, 2022. Planned construction to expand Boot Hill Museum necessitated its unearthing last week. Halloween day was a fitting time to disinter the "burial." After digging it up, the integrity of the capsule was compromised, so the Museum staff opened it and removed the contents.
The "Princess" telephone is a perfect example of how things have changed since 1972. Nobody uses a dial phones today; they are all digital with buttons. Furthermore landlines which plug into a wall are nearly extinct and are becoming scarcer with each passing day.
The surviving items from the time capsule are at Boot Hill Museum and are being carefully cleaned and held until they can be returned to documented capsule contributors. If anyone has any information to share about contributed items or about the Centennial celebration, please contact Boot Hill Museum at 620-227-8188.