More than 120 people gathered Tuesday in the beautifully restored Rustic Canyon Recreation Center Library for the unveiling of a time capsule placed in the building’s cornerstone exactly 100 years ago by the Uplifters Club.
Local historian and long-time Rustic Canyon resident Randy Young said before the event that “there’s a description of what’s in the box, but there’s also a surprise.”
When pressed about the surprise, he joked, “We’re betting it’s some evil virus that will come out and kill us all.”
To open the ceremony in front of the historic park building, Rustic Recreation Center Director Paige Barnes sang the National Anthem and displayed an exceptional voice.
During the program, past newspaper clips and photos ran on a screen in the library.
English film and television director Jon Amiel, who lives in the canyon, served as the emcee. He joked, “They hoped my accent would bring some class to this event.”
Amiel said that 100 years ago when the time capsule was placed in the building, “Frederick Warde, beloved Uplifter and dean of the American stage, delivered the commemorative address and it was sweetly and brilliantly spoken, with all the feeling and manly emotion remembered in the charming fellow – in the heyday the greatest of Shakespearean actors. His elucidation of the Uplifter creed will stand as one of the finest tributes ever paid to the organization.”
Amiel then read the creed, written by L.Frank Baum, an Uplifter and the author of “The Wizard of Oz,” using the style of several famous Shakespearean actors.
He added that back in 1923, Harry Haldeman, who was an Uplifter and the club’s historian, had placed a copy of the club’s history in the capsule. In addition, Charles Wakefield Cadman wrote a song for the dedication ceremony, titled “The Builder.”
On Tuesday, lifelong Rustic resident and film music composer Thomas Newman (14 Oscar nominations) introduced Ben Lusher, who played the piano and sang the original song.
Young said that when his family moved to a house on Latimer in 1954, the Uplifters club “had fallen on hard times.” He and his childhood friends had a great time exploring the creaky building, which was unlocked. “There were hidden rooms all through the place.”
“This building–you can feel the magic,” Young told the audience. “I’m glad you’re here today.”
Veslemoey Zwart, who serves on the Rustic Canyon Park Advisory Board, has organized the Rustic Nights event for 10 years to raise funds for renovations and upgrades at the park. She said, “We thought that this centennial could not be passed up without making a splash about it—and we look forward to having the building for another 100 years,” said Zwart, who is originally from Norway.
“We have a word: ‘dugnad,’” she said. The word roughly means community service. “You participate. You show up with tools and gloves, because nothing is more important. Instead of paying for expensive gyms and personal trainers, come get your exercise here. Come out and help.”
Zwart said she wanted to thank her mentors, George Wolfberg and Randy Young. She held up a large, framed photo of them that will be placed on a wall in the building because “It will remind us what good public servants look like.”
Then it was the main event: the opening of the 100-year-old time capsule, a tiny box.
An earlier Uplifter list noted that it contained a song book used by the club, a list of Uplifter members, a copy of the club’s history and other souvenirs.
Young lifted the lid to the box and said, “It’s dust.”
The bottom of the box was filled with dust and something that appeared to be glommed together in a weird rock-like piece that seemed to have coins or other things stuck together.
Young promised that that “rock” would be investigated and the results made public during this year’s Rustic Nights on September 30.
After the ceremony, all were invited into the multi-purpose room for a “high tea,” which featured China cups and saucers, tablecloths, fancy napkins and tea-party silverware.
At one table, guests tried to determine the best sandwich: the cucumber with herbed cream cheese, the Mission Fig, Brie and arugula with nut-free pesto, the turkey cheese pesto with arugula or the mascarpone Chantilly fruit salad.
Others discussed their favorite scones (traditional English, Earl Gray, Apricot and Ginger, and Rosemary & Fig), with clotted cream and jam, and sweets, such as the chocolate & coffee “Opera Cake,” the raspberry “Macaron Aux Framboise” or the carmel & chocolate cake.
All pronounced the food absolutely delicious.
After the event, one resident asked Young why he had said that the building was spooky when he was a kid. He took the visitor to the back wall of the gym, where there were vents, and noted that there once was a room there, a “choir” loft. He and his friends ventured into the room one day and discovered Nazi banners and literature.
Young said that the infamous Murphy Ranch director was a member of the Uplifters Club and that the Nazi material had possibly been stored there by him.
But today Tuesday, the warmth of the residents who had gathered, the residents who have worked to renovate the building and the park grounds, and the optimism about placing a new time capsule—one that would preserve 2023 for the next 100 years–was a unifying factor and a celebration of community at its best.
(Editor’s note: All photographs are property of the Pacific Palisades Historical Society and are printed with permission.)