Time capsule from 1967 opened

Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach and former Mayor Willie Mount, head of the city’s 150th anniversary committee, together cracked open the lid of a 1967 time capsule on Friday outside Historic City Hall amid cheers from a crowd of hundreds.

Mayor James Sudduth buried the time capsule April 28, 1967, during the city’s centennial celebration, with instructions to open it at the city’s sesquicentennial celebration in 2017.

Roach and Mount sifted through the contents as the crowd looked on, pulling out letters from different groups, including the Knights of Columbus, the Lake Charles Association of Commerce and the Phil Price Agency.

A letter signed by Thomas Raggio, president of the commerce association, outlined major concerns of the community at that time: building a lakefront civic center and convention complex, consolidation of railroad bridges across the Calcasieu to develop a new waterfront industrial site, and the quest for city and parish revenues to fund raises for firemen, police and teachers.

Raggio also outlined the organization’s vision for Lake Charles today: “Our vision for Lake Charles in 2017 included a population of over 500,000 citizens, a consolidation of city-parish government administration, a massive urban renewal program between Broad Street and Interstate 10, a space-age industrial airport at former Chennault Air Force Base, and a port that leads all other gulf ports in annual volume.”

Roach noted that, although the city hasn’t fulfilled all the criteria yet, having a population of only about 76,000, it has made substantial progress in each area.

The capsule also contained a check for $10,000 to Sudduth’s re-election campaign, which drew a laugh from the crowd. Sudduth’s grandson, James Sudduth III, spoke at the event.

“Leave it to my grandfather to have $10,000 in his re-election campaign to 2017,” Sudduth said, with a laugh. “I know that my grandfather would be extremely proud of where the city sits on the verge of an unprecedented economic boom.”  

The Centennial Queen, Paula Guillory Hirsch, was also invited to speak. Hirsch was sponsored in 1967 by the South Lake Charles Optimist club, where her father Paul Hirsch served as president for many years.

“It has been an honor,” Hirsch told the crowd Friday. “I’m tickled to be standing here in front you. I went to school in Lake Charles, graduated from McNeese. We have a business here in Lake Charles. I was born here, raised here, love this city.”

Roach pulled out other miscellaneous items, like a Muller’s Department Store credit card; a parish bulletin from Our Lady Queen of Heaven; a centennial edition of the Lake Charles American Press; a McNeese State College yearbook; a roster of the Newcomer’s Club; a letter from the leaders of the city; a roster of The Enterprise Club; a prayer book from Temple Sinai; and a number of centennial souvenirs.

It also included a tape-recorded message from Gov. John McKeithen; Mayor Sudduth; Police Chief J.E. Pete Stout; state Reps. Mike Hogan, A.J. Lyons and Harry Hollins; and Sen. Jesse Knowles. The tape played at the intermission of Downtown at Sundown on Friday.

McKeithen voiced high hopes for the city in the recorded message: “Lake Charles is a growing city. We have a growing state, and I’m quite sure that whoever is governor will be the head of perhaps the greatest state in the entire nation.”

Sudduth’s message struck a light note: “Hello mister mayor of 2017. This is Jim Sudduth, and I had the honor and privilege of being mayor of Lake Charles when we celebrated our centennial in 1967. Everyone had a wonderful time, and I am sure you and your citizens of 2017 will enjoy going through all of the items included in this time capsule. Needless to say, I wish I could be with you.”

The recording also plays “Lady” by Jack Jones, the No. 1 song when the time capsule was buried.  

Roach emphasized the significance of the gesture made by city and state leaders back in 1967.

“They thought enough of us to send us a distinctive message and remind us that we are at our best, incredible, when we work together, support one another and look for opportunities to celebrate our history, our culture and most importantly our people,” he said.

“Lake Charles today can proudly claim to be a resilient community with a culture of food and arts and entertainment that make us a great place to live and a great place to visit.”

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