Most of the students hurrying in and out of the Michigan
Union’s side doors are probably unaware that a piece of
University history lies hidden away in the cold gray limestone of
one of the Union’s north entrance columns.
A time capsule, placed inside the column in 1954, contains
memorabilia telling the story of the Union’s past life.
In commemoration of the Union’s 100th anniversary, the
Michigan Union Board of Representatives is planning to open the
capsule on October 29 as the kickoff to a weekend of events
celebrating the building’s centennial. Current MUBR Chair
Benjamin Moerman and other members will put together a 2004 time
capsule to replace the old one in the Union’s column.
Last Wednesday, University Foreman Rockey Bennett and his team
of workers from the University’s Construction Services began
chiseling away at the column, leaving a façade ripped apart
with holes peeking into the inner depths of the support
They were searching for the small 12-inch-long,
four-inch-diameter steel canister.
After a few trial and error repeats, the University may call in
Ground Penetration Radar Systems, and Co. to locate the
“The time capsule will be a fantastic kickoff to celebrate
the anniversary of the Union,” Moerman said.
Student suggestions of what to put to put into the capsule will
be accepted during early fall semester events such as Festifall and
the Union Anniversary Carnival on Sept. 6.
Some students already have an idea of what they would like to
see in it.
Tyler Liederman, a recent LSA graduate, said he thinks that
“a bong and some Boone’s Farm” would be a good
sign of the times.
Business school grad Brett Kifferstein said he would like to see
one of today’s computers put in the time capsule.
“It’d be interesting to open it up in 50 years and
see how different the technology used to be,” he said.
Richard Pinkerton, who was the executive secretary of the MUBR
from 1954 to 1955, will pass on the legacy to a new generation of
board members, as the original founders of the Union did to
“It was thrilling to shake hands with the Union’s
founding president and original planners and builders,”
Pinkerton said. “Now, we’ll embrace you folks and pass
on the torch.”
Pinkerton and other members of the former board said they
decided to capture the essence of the Union and freeze it in time
for future generations.
The idea came as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the
Union’s conception in 1954.
Pinkerton, now 71, said he recalls the time capsule’s
contents as finely crafted jewelry – such as buttons donned
with the Union’s insignia – as well as sterling silver
and 14 karat gold keys for service on Union committees, coins
minted in 1954, photographs of the Union and Pinkerton’s own
account of 50 years of Michigan Union history, a pamphlet titled,
“A Story Without End.”
He spoke of the Union’s heyday as something more of a
men’s athletic club rather than the busy hub of productivity
students now know it as.
In the 1950s, Pinkerton said it was a retreat from schoolwork,
complete with a swimming pool and adjoining steam room where the
Michigan Union Bookstore now stands, a barbershop where male
students could get a haircut and shave, sleeping rooms for napping,
restaurants and the existing billiards room. For this reason,
Pinkerton calls the Union, “a real symbol” of the
“When you think of U of M, the Union flashes through your
mind,” he added.