A day after Sunset High School bid 43 graduates farewell, its current students, staff and alumni caught a glimpse of what the school was like 25 years ago.
With Kurt Cobain screaming “Come As You Are” on speakers Wednesday, Principal Tony Fabricius and retired Sunset High School Teacher Martha McClure dipped into a time capsule sealed since 1992. One by one they unearthed student essays, posters, books, mixtapes, fast food cups, damp copies of the Triplicate, photo albums, unused condoms and a copy of Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy.”
They also uncovered a toddler-sized graduate gown, known as a mini-grad outfit for youngsters participating in graduation with their parents, as well as a chart of babies at the school.
“We’ve got two charts of kids in attendance,” McClure said. “We had babies, babies, babies galore.”
Sealed around July 2, 1992, the time capsule is an old Army trunk housed in one of the jail cells at the Del Norte County Historical Society. According to Triplicate Writer Stephanie Holland, students put together the time capsule as a way to be able to remember what life was like in 1992 and to see changes that have taken place.
“It’s like a big huge yearbook,” LeShel Campbell told Holland in 1992. “When we sealed it, it got really emotional.”
On Wednesday, Sunset staff streamed the opening of the time capsule on Facebook Live, allowing those who couldn’t be at the ceremony to share their memories with their fellow alumni.
“I worked in the nursery for almost 19 years,” Christy Shelley Page said on Facebook. “I was there in the 90s. Wonderful school.”
Before opening the time capsule, each alumnus and Sunset staffer was given a chance to introduce themselves. Rebecca Dutton was little when she walked across the graduation stage with her mother Jennifer in 1992. Rebecca Dutton introduced her little girl Clarity and said her first school was Sunset High School’s nursery.
Jennifer Dutton said she went to Sunset High School after becoming pregnant at 15. She said she could take her daughter into every class to the delight of her classmates, who were happy to play with the little girl. After attending Sunset, Jennifer Dutton said she has since graduated from college.
“My goal was to go to college always and I got a lot of support, I had a good education and I was able to go to college,” she said. “I got my bachelor’s degree and I got a master’s degree.”
According to McClure, Sunset always differed from the other schools in the district. In 1992, the school obtained a “weaner pig,” used a backhoe to dig a pit and roasted it for the school’s annual barbecue, she said. They would also often dig for razor clams and fish for geoducks at the harbor to make clam chowder and host a big clam feed, McClure said.
McClure also described Sunset as ahead of its time in other ways. Before Open Door began operating the Del Norte Wellness Center, it set up an examination table in Sunset’s nursery, disseminating information and testing students for sexually transmitted diseases, she said. They also gave out birth control and offered examinations for the students’ little ones, McClure said.
“I used to refer to the kids at Sunset as the fallen angels,” she said. “Because once you made it to Sunset the rest of the world kind of left us alone where we could do crazy things. Where we could go to a hike somewhere or we could kill a pig and barbecue it in the backyard. It was a really cool time.”
As they laid out the items in the time capsule, Fabricius told Sunset’s current students they will be able to take part in another time capsule when school resumes in the fall.
“We may or may not use the same trunk now that we know it leaks, but we will do another one and we’ll make it for maybe 15 years,” he said. “I’d like to see it open, so 15 years.”
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org .