Time Capsule Open at Former Boys’ School Paso Robles CA


A stone plaque placed in the lower right corner of the entrance to El Paso de Robles Youth Correctional Facility has hid a secret behind it for more than 67 years.

This secret was finally revealed on Thursday afternoon.

In the space behind the marker was hidden a thin copper container about the size of a jewelry box filled with black and white photos, yellowed business cards, journals, and even parchment – all of them. memories of the mid-20th century, when the remote control Paso Robles Institution served as a youth conservation camp for hundreds of teenagers.

“It’s a very special place and the end of something very special,” Heather Bowlds, director of the California Juvenile Justice Division, told the dozens of people who gathered to watch the little time capsule s ‘to open. “It is important to keep these memories and to be proud of all the work that has been done here.

The time capsule was placed at the entrance during the facility’s groundbreaking ceremony in January 1954, most likely with the intention of not being opened for another 100 years.

The contents of the time capsule were unveiled Thursday at a ceremony hosted by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Dozens of former factory workers attended, all eager to take a peek inside the historic treasure.

The capsule was opened some 33 years earlier than expected, as the old boys‘ school is expected to make way for a massive new development soon that would completely transform the northeastern part of Paso Robles.

Time capsule contains memorabilia from the 1954 dedication ceremony

The El Paso de Robles Youth Correction Center opened in 1947, as a renovated former military base that the California Juvenile Justice Division purchased for $ 8,000.

The establishment, commonly known as “the boys’ school”, closed its doors in 2008.

Today, barbed wire fences guard dilapidated and aging dormitories and classrooms where young men – as a 1954 Tribune Telegram article put it – “recycled as prosperous citizens for their homes and their families. communities ”were spending their time.

When the time capsule was placed in January 1954, approximately 340 boys lived in the camp, according to the State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Their average age was 16 years old.

The boys lived in cottages with the staff and “worked together to make life as normal as possible,” according to a press release from the corrections service. They attended classes, had a group, participated in sports like swimming and soccer, and attended youth counseling classes.

A middle school and a high school both operated on the property.

A key concept of the facility was the idea of ​​“therapeutic communities” and vocational training, said Bowlds, something that is considered important in youth services today.

“If you look at the research going on and what you should have online for young people to be successful – it’s therapeutic communities, professional skills,” she said. “Sometimes history repeats itself.”

Bowlds said she was eager to take a look at the early 1950s progress report that was included in the time capsule to see what the then administration might have identified as the issues and the dominant solutions of the day.

Also of major interest was a mysterious parchment that was wrapped next to a thick stack of business cards from estate agents, lawyers, and contractors in San Luis Obispo County.

Due to her age, the scroll was difficult to unroll during the ceremony. All that could be discerned was the front page, which was labeled with the title “History of Paso Robles School for Boys” and the signature of Gerald G Spencer, the principal of the school at the time.

The time capsule also contained copies of Paso Robles Press, published the day before and the day of the inauguration ceremony in 1954, which then attended California Governor Goodwin Knight.

The capsule also included a rolled-up copy of a Telegram-Tribune newspaper labeled “do not read until 2054”, as well as sheet music, an aging patch with the number 63 and a small, green-stained Bible from the copper box.

A photo included in the capsule showed a small pencil drawing on his back, supposedly done by one of the camp residents.

Among those in attendance for Thursday’s unveiling was the facility’s last superintendent, David Bacigalupo, who examined some of the items that had been placed in the capsule.

Like him, Bacigalupo said that those who attended the ceremony were “interested in seeing what was in the time capsule,” but also eager to give “that last hurray,” “to conclude and perhaps to pay tribute to this institution “.

This story was originally published October 14, 2021 2:09 pm.

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