PYA Class of 1956 opens their time capsule at 'the Old School'

John Christensen
The Chronicle Express
The gathered members of the Penn Yan Academy Class of 1956.

PENN YAN – With fond memories of their days in Penn Yan Academy's "Old School," members of the class of 1956 returned to the scene of those adventures on Main Street to dig them up – literally.

The time capsule was buried behind the monument when the class of '56 donated it 20 years ago.

When the class donated the black granite monument with a photographic etching of the Old School on it, placed 20 years ago, behind it they buried a sizable time capsule with the intent to return 25 years later and reminisce together. But with the events of the past year and the number of classmates they have already lost, the surviving members thought is would be a good idea to step up the schedule by five years.

The monument in memory of the old Penn Yan Academy at the site on Main Street.

Class committee dynamo Diane (Putnam) Griffin and a committee of four got the ball rolling, setting up a date and organizing the excavation of the capsule, followed by a luncheon at the Moose Lodge. "Our class members, Bob Dinehart, Shelba Kirsch, Hilda Irwin, and Barbara  Wilson, were very instrumental in getting this organized. I really couldn't have done this without them," said Dianne. With the monument is a matching granite bench, generously donated by classmate Ralph Christiansen, now a resident of California. That bench provided a great vantage point for Diane to oversee the dig.

Speaking to her classmates and their family members on that bright Saturday morning, Diane said, "Twenty years ago our graduating class of 1956 placed this monument and time capsule on this spot to commemorate a building which we and those who came before us as far back as 1905, have remembered with fond memories and many mischievous but funny stories. Our Academy, during our time was not an austere, modern building. Our Academy was mellow, soft, and creaky. A safe place where we spent many hours of our days. Our Academy was our teachers, our friends, and at times our Moms and Dads. We were saddened by the news it was to be torn down but she had become withered, broken, beyond repair ... she could not be saved.

"Today we have four seniors from the "New School" (my terminology) Mason Jensen, Owen Bishop, Meredith Hanley, and Tyler Bouchard to observe the opening of the time capsule and to join us at the luncheon. I hope they will take the opportunity to talk with us and hear some of our stories and our journey since leaving our Academy. And believe me, some of us have stories!"

Owen Bishop was given the honor of opening the time capsule for the class of '56.

With the junior seniors helping the senior seniors to dig up and open the capsule, memories came flooding back quickly as the perfectly preserved artifacts saw the light of day for the first time in two decades; the class ring of a departed classmate, Coach Pond's favorite whistle, and a bright orange scrapbook adorned with a PYA varsity letter and cheerleader's megaphone patch. The mementos were returned to the donors, but the memories were shared all around as stories flowed one into another on Main Street's now empty playing field where once stood "the Old School."

The Old School in its prime.
The new PYA seniors helped the old PYA seniors with the digging.
The younger arms helped lever the capped PVC tube out of the ground.
Diane Putnam Griffin with the class ring of one of their departed classmates.
The scrapbook was taken to the luncheon where it brought back many more memories of the "good old days" in the Old Academy.