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Bermingham School time capsule’s artifacts open up memories

Richard Siegelman of Plainview, a retiree who used

Richard Siegelman of Plainview, a retiree who used to teach at the departed John F. Bermingham Elementary School in Oyster Bay, looks at some of the items that were placed in a time capsule in 1963. Credit: Randee Daddona

In the past few weeks since a story about Richard Siegelman’s quest to find contributors to the Bermingham School’s time capsule of 1963 was published Feb. 14 in Act 2, he’s been contacted by about three dozen former students looking to retrieve their childhood relics.

Siegelman, a retired teacher in the Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District, has kept the collection of essays, drawings and other memorabilia since the capsule was opened in January 2001. Convinced the elementary school students — now in their 50s and 60s — would enjoy being reunited with their school projects, Siegelman had stored the dated treasures at home in Plainview and searched for owners, with minimal success.

After the story appeared on newsday.com/act2 and in Newsday, former students connected with him, delighted with the memories that resurfaced through the work they did as youngsters. Siegelman, a teacher in the district for 37 years, also heard from students who remembered with fondness being in his classes.

Several whose works were included in the capsule have died. But their relatives asked Siegelman for the keepsakes their loved ones created. “The most gratifying aspect of this experience has been being able to give a long-lost ‘piece’ of the childhood of eight now-deceased Time Capsule ‘kids’ to their [relatives],” Siegelman, 72, wrote in an email. He’s also pleased they’re as excited about the childhood heirlooms as he predicted they would be.

Here are excerpts from some of Siegelman’s mail:

Schoolmates-in-law

I just learned of your “ownership” of the Bermingham Time Capsule and was thrilled to scroll through the contents online. What a treasure! I’ve lived in the Boston area for 39 years, but whenever I go back to Long Island, I try to visit my old East Norwich neighborhood. I was so devastated to see the development that replaced our beloved school, but I guess that’s life.

I saw my name on your list of contributors, but I didn’t recognize anything done by me. Perhaps it was a picture with my name on the back? I would be so grateful to have my “artifact” returned to me and so appreciate your efforts in reuniting people with their pasts! By the way, Barbara Dalton, also on your list, is now my sister-in-law!

Jacki Fishman Santoro,

Winchester, Massachusetts

Dad worked there

I did not see anything that would belong to me other than a picture of my father (Bob Doran) who was a custodian at the school. (He passed away 27 years ago.) My mom is 92 and would love that picture.

Verna Doran Maidel,

Commack

Five of a kind

John Henry Joyce is my youngest sibling; there were five of us! Ginny (the oldest) passed away from cancer seven-plus years ago, but she has three grown children who would love to see anything their mother did in her early life! I was next, and then there is Brenda and Tommy. I do believe that Ginny’s photo shows her in a communion dress. I still live in East Norwich, and I have a 6-year-old daughter who attends Teddy Roosevelt Elementary School!

Robert (Bobby) Joyce,

East Norwich

Rocket remembered

My brother, Jake Ball, and I were among the first students there in 1963. He was a kindergarten student in Mrs. Keene’s class, and I was in Mrs. Purcell’s class. I found a picture he had drawn with a rocket ship and words, and a photo of myself with words. My brother and I have just lost our father and the memories that these items you have protected and made available will cheer us so much.

Helen Kemp,

New Windsor, Maryland

Recording request

Someone said you had a recording from a time capsule at Birmingham, and my sister Ange (Vickers) may be on it. I would love to have a copy to share it with my sister Pam, and brother Jeff. Sad to say, Ange passed away last year. I’m sure her kids and grandchild would love to hear it as well.

Debora Vickers-Mawji,

Sunset Beach, North Carolina

Teacher, too

We will be celebrating one of my dad’s brothers’ birthday; he will be turning 93. All my brothers and sisters will be there — Curt, Pam, Jill and Jody. Between us all, my dad has nine grandchildren. I know my dad enjoyed working with you all. Following in his footsteps, I have been a teacher now for nearly 30 years as well.

Scott Reichert,

Sparrowbush, New York

Capsule kept in mind

I was in Mrs. Kitt’s sixth-grade class in ’63. I had always hoped the capsule would be found, especially when they took down the school to build homes.

Paula Fletcher Genovese,

Charleston, South Carolina

Name not the same

I was in your fourth-grade class at Bermingham in ’73-’74, called by my middle name then, Timmy. In my early 20s I started using my given first name, Michael. I have very fond memories of your class.

In no particular order [I remember]: The Encyclopedia Brown books; classmate David Dunn asking if he could include a character named “Siegelpuss” in a story, and you getting very angry; taking a 100-word spelling test on which I scored a perfect score, despite spelling the past-tense version of “read” as “red” and feeling guilty about it; one spring day (field day?), before going outside, you taking off your brown slacks to reveal shorts, eliciting shocked laughter. Who knew teachers had bare legs? And hairy ones?

Perusing your Facebook page and seeing how many kids you’ve taught, I hope it’s gratifying to know that you affected hopefully the majority in a positive way, and I’m grateful that all these years later I can tell you I was one of them, and thank you.

I graduated with a BA in film from what was then SUNY Binghamton, worked as a production assistant, made little money, and at my parents’ suggestion went into their profession of court reporting. I was married in 1990; moved into Manhattan. We had boy/girl twins in ’95, who are now juniors in college: my son at Stony Brook and my daughter in Binghamton, which pleases me no end. Last summer, I had a “now or never” moment and retired to devote my time to writing and filmmaking. I’m lucky I have a supportive and encouraging wife.

At age 51, midlife crisis in full force, but no real complaints. My mom still lives in East Norwich, so I’m out there often. That old video you posted on FB is priceless.

I hope you’re well, Mr. Siegelman, happy and healthy. And thanks again.

Tim Rehfield,

Manhattan

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