RUTLAND — Many Rutland residents remember the town’s 250th anniversary celebration in 1972 and share stories of goofs, long beards and burying a 6-foot-tall razor with a time capsule downtown, in front of the library. The time capsule’s grave was marked with a tombstone that read “Here lies O. Razer, may he rust in peace.”
The marker refers to a sillier time when men refused to shave for the year, only to bury their razors and other artifacts in a time capsule in the common area. Others recall stories of outbuildings appearing on lawns, cars parked on doorsteps and lots and lots of parties.
On June 11, 2022, a hundred or more people gathered as the Brothers of the Brush, organized by the Rutland Fire Brigade and led by Darren Ross, planned to unearth the 50-year-old time capsule. The Rutland Cable Channel and a reporter from the Worcester Spectrum News were filming, anxiously awaiting what would come out.
Many in attendance speculated what might be lurking beneath. Those who were there in ’72 boasted about what they remembered being placed there and where the capsule or capsules were supposed to be located. Of the dozen or so accounts of the common’s content, no two are the same.
“How they buried him, I don’t remember much about it,” said Eric Helle, dressed in his Brothers of the Brush gear. “Time capsule, I’m not too sure. But I know there was something here.”
Dan Suchoki of Rutland summed it up.
“Knowing these guys, they might have put something in here with a note saying the real thing is somewhere else,” he said, referring to various Rutland capers that involved stealing artifacts from other brush groups and even others cities celebrating their own centenaries.
The dig crew consisted of local contractor Mark Sinkiewicz and his backhoe, as well as shovel-ready Randy Jordan and Darren Ross. As the crowd gathered, many had to be turned back as the excavator dug into the city’s soil, starting in front of O. Razor’s tombstone.
The first spoonfuls of soil began to appear on the surface of plastic flower pedals and other plastic ornaments, probably thrown into a hole before being covered, perhaps during a ceremony.
Then the team started digging. And dig. They found a live water line and one from last year.
With a clang, the excavators announced that they had hit a concrete slab. Apparently, this is the tomb of the 50-year-old capsule. With some digging and a bit of chain work, the team was able to surface a 4-by-2-foot concrete table, lifting it out of the depression and placing it on the grass in the common area for all to ponder.
Onlookers, including the 1972 witnesses as well as some original brush brothers, squinted in confusion. No one recognized or could explain the block. It was smooth on all sides, except for one corner where a Budweiser beer can partially protruded from the concrete.
Many Brush brothers remembered the special funeral procession from Maple Avenue to Main Street, where they said a 6-foot oak knife was laid. Neither the razor nor its oak remains were found in the excavation.
Further digging at the side of the hole yielded no capsule.
Believing the concrete slab contained a hollow compartment, Sinkiewicz called for a return hammer. When it arrived, curiosity was piqued. The test hammer cut the table into halves and then into halves. Heads were scratched as no hollow compartment appeared.
The block was solid concrete, except for the single beer can, no doubt empty and tested before. Geraldo Rivera’s televised performance opening Al Capone’s empty vault was mentioned more than once.
After much effort and debate over how much of the city’s commons should be disturbed, event organizer Darren Ross called it quits.
“If any of the older folks in town come forward with a leak, we might come over and do some digging and see what we can find,” Ross announced.
Member for Brush’s brother Ken Lowe said he was baffled. He didn’t recognize the mysterious concrete vault.
“We had it, it was here, as far as I know, it went in that hole,” Lowe said.
Conspiracy theories abound
As the crowd slowly dispersed, those who remained reminisced about the antics of 50 years ago, and many theories swirled about what happened to Rutland’s time capsule. Some laughed, thinking that the answer to what lay in O. Razor’s grave went to the graves of those actually involved.
The most common theory about the capsule’s “missingness” is that O. Razor’s tombstone was not actually installed in the common area until two years after the time capsule was buried, around 1974. It is possible that the digging team was absent by 10 or 20 feet.
Sinkewich provided a metal detector wand to the contractor. He immediately alerted to an area 5 feet from the O. Razor marker. More digging. Geodesic spike found. Below it was the city’s waterworks. Nothing more.
Debris field identified
The following Friday, Rutland-born Peter Hitchcock returned to society with an advanced metal detector. A “debris field” was discovered in the area of the earlier excavation.
Debris includes a mass of aluminum foil. Some of the ’72 elders remember that the original time capsule was wrapped in aluminum foil. Could this be the outer shell of what once contained the Brush Brothers’ infamous time capsule? Or maybe it was the work crew lunch packs for construction projects back in the day.
Calling the experts
Historical Commission members Mark Foto and Jeff Stillings decided to call for backup. The commission has worked with the Massachusetts Historical Commission on other city projects and has contacted them and private entities seeking use of their ground-based radar equipment, which is used to locate graves.
A gentleman who had previously been contracted to find and mark graves at the old prison camp cemetery agreed to return to Rutland with his equipment to identify any cavities in the soil that might possibly contain a capsule.
During the city’s Tercentennial Proclamation ceremony on June 18, emcee and Tricentennial member Jeff Stillings showed the crowd a parchment scroll containing the city’s proclamation to begin the city’s 300th birthday celebration.
“This will be placed in the fall time capsule,” Stillings stated.
“What time capsule?” one viewer scoffed.
Stillings replied that this time they would put a GPS tracker in the capsule.