West Allis — Both excitement and suspense grabbed spectators last week as quarter-of-a-century old messages from little kids and the principal of Hoover Elementary School were revealed one by one.
They were kept inside the beloved Spike the Dragon sculpture that joined the Hoover family in 1989. Putting a time capsule of messages and memorabilia from the students and others into Spike's interior was part of his welcome to the school.
The messages were inside plastic milk jugs, the kind found at any grocery store.
Kindergarten teacher Kyle Koch recalled the excitement when he was 10 years old and in fourth grade at Hoover when putting messages and memorabilia into their new mascot.
"What a huge deal it was," he said with the kids wondering: "What would somebody in 25 years want to see in a time capsule."
"It was funny what the kids chose," he added.
"Pencils, pens, suckers, paper clips — things that maybe would not be around in 25 years."
But the kids also wrote letters.
"It was neat to read how they loved the idea of Spike coming," Koch said. "We used to be the Hoover Owls, and people didn't think that was tough enough."
So, Spike, the big concrete dragon joined the Hoover family and now sits in front of the school where kids climb him, sit on him, read books on him, draw him and meet their friends under his dragon gaze.
The kids back in 1989 voted that Spike would be the best name for their new mascot. Before Spike was finished, the time capsule was filled with descriptions of everyday life at Hoover and with the students' dreams about the future.
The 1989 time capsule was such a big moment in the lives of the young Hoover students that about 70 of them returned for last week's capsule opening.
"It was so neat to see people come back to Hoover in their mid-30s and how emotional they were and the friendships they had developed," said Principal Ali Hatab.
They connected with each other and with their younger selves at the capsule opening, sometimes hilariously.
"There was a lot of, 'Oh my gosh, I can't believe I wrote this,'" Hatab said with a chuckle.
Even though they were just children in 1989, some wondered if their kids would come and play on Spike and what they would be, if they would be a mom or a dad and even if they would still live there or in a different state or different country.
"I know I didn't think I'd be at Hoover and here I am," Koch said.
He never found his letter. A few of the jugs couldn't be fished out of Spike even with the use of poles.
"It was very hard, sometimes," Hatab said.
And a few had water damage.
But Koch said, "I imagine I wrote about sports. I probably thought I'd be a basketball player."
He also put in a baseball card and indeed a card featuring a San Diego Padres pitcher was pulled out of a fourth grade jug. Koch said it might have been the one he put in there.
Some of the kids or their teachers tossed in a school lunch menu that caused quite a stir 25 years later because desserts were served back then.
More than one alum exclaimed, "Where's dessert?" Hatab said.
Among the time capsule memorabilia was a letter from then-principal David Vogel talking to students of 2014.
The letter spoke of how Spike's coming involved the whole Hoover family and how the project came about. And it said how the project showed that with teamwork and collaboration, anything can be accomplished.
That also was a theme of the letter Hatab wrote that was packed into Spike's time capsule for students and teachers to reveal 25 years from now. He spoke of how students should aspire to excellence because they will be the nation's leaders one day. He emphasized that each student is special and that they must live up to their potential.
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