CORONA — The highlight of the Corona Centennial Committee's Labor Day party was to be the opening of time capsules buried beneath the entrance of City Hall.
But something was missing: the time capsules.
The collections of memorabilia, reportedly buried at the entrance of the building by various Corona High School senior classes between the 1930s and 1960, were nowhere to be seen when the Centennial Committee tore up the concrete walk.
The amateur archaeologists did find--and on Monday displayed--17 marble tablets, engraved with class years between 1938 and 1960. "But it was hollow, it was just empty underneath," lamented Jim Deegan, a Centennial Committee member.
But news that the estimated 10 to 17 time capsules were missing did not stop the party, which attracted about 200 people to kick off Corona's yearlong centennial celebration Monday.
Local musical and dance groups performed on the lawn in front of City Hall while residents ate hot dogs and sipped lemonade, took rides on an antique fire engine and in a hot-air balloon, and previewed the Centennial Committee's "museum," a collection that will be displayed in rotation next year in the City Hall lobby.
Featured were fruit labels from the area's citrus industry, photographs and newspaper accounts of automobile races around the three-mile Grand Boulevard circle, the works of local painters, and a display of artifacts from the Serrano Adobe, believed to be the first home in Riverside County.
The exhibits, entertainment and 25-cent hot dogs were not quite enough to take everyone's minds off the missing time capsules, however.
The capsules, Deegan speculated, probably "were dug up when the city took over (the building) from the school district" in 1961.
But other Coronans suggested that the committee simply had poor aim.
"I don't think they were digging in the right place," said Pam Shilling, a member of Corona's Class of 1961, which split its senior year between the old building and the new high school on 10th Street.
Some old timers theorized that the capsules are buried beneath a column to one side of the front doorway, while others suggested they already had been opened, or at least moved to the new campus.
"About five steps used to be there," Shilling said, pointing to a graded section of the front walk, just in front of the site of the dig. "That's where I'd say they would be. . . . They were buried under the first step." Deegan on Monday announced a $100 reward "for information leading to the capture and possession of said time capsules," promising amnesty to anyone who may have taken them.
"I was disappointed that they weren't there," said Bonnie Konick, a Corona resident and city employee who brought her family to witness the opening.
"It would have been a lot better if they had found the capsules," Konick added. "It has been a good day, though."