A man found a time capsule under his house. The contents were extremely ’90s | CBC Radio

A man found a time capsule under his house. The contents were extremely ’90s | CBC Radio

As It Happens6:06Man finds kid’s 1994 time capsule under his house, tracks down the person who it there

Stephen Graff was having some work done on his house when he happened upon a hidden treasure from a bygone era.

Tucked away in the crawl space beneath his Springfield, Miss., home was a weathered coffee can, stuffed with toys and keepsakes from the ’90s, and a child’s letter, charmingly hand-scrawled in pencil. His brother-in-law, a construction worker, found it and brought it to him.

“I unfolded the letter and found out that it was, in fact, a time capsule that a 12-year-old boy had put under the house at one point,” Graff told As It Happens host Nil Köksal.

“That is when I really thought it was kind of special.”

Pogs, Ninja Turtles and Disney

The letter, dated Jan. 12, 1994, declares: “This is a time capsul for the futreure.” It was written by Nathan Headden, a self-described “12 yr old with the intelect of a 30 yr old and the spelling of a 7yr old.”‘

“I got a chuckle out of that,” Graff said.

With it was was a collection knick-knacks and pop-culture gems, including:

  • A Casey Jones action figure from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon.
  • A TaleSpin figurine from a cereal box.
  • A Pog cap and slammer from the wildly popular ’90s game.
  • A sticker and song lyrics from Disney’s The Lion King.
  • A label for Oscar Mayer Little Smokies sausages.
  • A fake $50 US bill.
  • Three football trading cards, featuring John Randle, Keith McKeller and Kent Hull.
  • An alcohol swab.

The young Headden also included a wallet-sized school photo of his younger brother, Grant, whom he described as a 10-year-old with a “promising” future.

In fact, he wrote nothing but kind words about his family, a.k.a. “The Headden Tribe.” He called his older brother, Zac, a “great person;” his mother, a nurse, an angel in disguise; and his father, a carpenter, “the man of a great family.”

Headden’s handwritten letter to the future. (Submitted by Stephen Graff )

Graff, 62, was charmed by the letter. But he admits he didn’t recognize the toys — except for the Pogs, which his daughters collected when they were kids.

A registered nurse himself, he was pleased to see he shares a profession with Headden’s mother.

“That was really, really neat,” he said.

Still curious — and still bad at spelling

In the letter, Headden asks whoever eventually finds his time capsule to track him down. So Graff posted a picture of the coffee can and its contents on social media.

Within just a few hours, online sleuths had tracked down Headden’s profile, and Graff reached out.

“Initially, I was a little apprehensive,” Headden, now 41, told CBC in an email. “I thought it may be someone phishing … for personal information. After a quick glance at his profile I realized he’s a nice, real person.”

A rusty coffee can on a marble countertop next to a stained hand-written letter on lined yellow paper, surrounded by a Casey Jones action figure from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a TaleSpin figurine, a Pog and Slammer, an Oscar Mayer Little Smokies label, a toy car, two small pieces of paper with printed words, an image of Scar and Mufasa from The Lion King, a wallet-sized school photo of a young blonde boy, a (fake) $50 bill, and three football trading cards.
Graff posted the time capsule and its contents on the Threads social media app; soon after, other users quickly tracked down its original owner. (Submitted by Stephen Graff)

Headden, who lived in the house when he was a kid, is now a financial services worker who resides near Denton, Texas, with his wife and elderly corgi. In his free time, he’s a music writer and photographer.

Asked if his self-description at age 12 holds true, he says he still struggles with spelling, but has greatly benefited from the invention of spell checkers.

“I don’t know if I’d describe myself as wise beyond my years now,” he said, “but I am still fascinated with the world around me, especially music, art, and TV and movies.”

A perfect ’90s snapshot

Headden says he doesn’t remember making the time capsule, which he suspects must have been a school assignment. But he’s not surprised he squirrelled it away in the crawl space.

“It was always like a secret cave to Grant and I, so it makes sense I would hide the capsule there,” he said. “We probably would have gotten in trouble digging a hole in the yard too.”

The contents, he says, are a perfect snapshot of who he was at that age. He watched TaleSpin every day after school, The Lion King was his favourite movie, and Scar was his favourite villain.

“I loved Ninja Turtles, especially Casey Jones. That might have even been a duplicate because I can’t see Grant and I being able to part with our only one,” he said. “The Li’l Smokies label and fake $50 are the funniest items to me. Who doesn’t love ‘Lil Smokies though?”

Selfie of a smiling man with short gray hair, a matching goatee and a Patagonia sweater.
Graff says finding the time capsule and connecting with Headden was a wonderful experience. (Submitted by Stephen Graff)

Headden says his dad still works as a carpenter and “is a true craftsman,” while his mother, now retired, continues to be “truly an angel of a person.”

Grant is “a talented carpenter,” while Zac works in construction. Both of his brothers, he says, are terrific dads to their own little ones.

“Everyone is still doing great,” he said. “We’re far from perfect, but still very close.”

Graff mailed the time capsule to Headden, who has put the contents on display along with a few other ’90s-themed toys.

Graff, meanwhile, says he’s happy to have been a part of something so lovely.

“With all of the negative things that seem to capture so much of the attention, to see kind of a feel-good thing like this, and a good connection and giving back something to a boy 30 years later … was pretty special,” he said.

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