BEVERLY — One person described it as a walk down memory lane. Another saw it as closure.
No matter how they described it, nobody was disappointed at getting a final chance to say goodbye to McKay School.
As many as 150 former students and teachers gathered at McKay School for a time capsule opening Saturday afternoon, Mayor Mike Cahill said.
The building, which closed as a school in 1998, was recently sold to Windover Construction. The company plans to turn the property into 32 apartments.
The capsule was sealed in 1982 as the school celebrated its 75th anniversary. After hearing the building was sold, students who made the capsule called for city officials to recover it.
Jenifer Murray Badershall, who placed the time capsule in the wall as a student, said the event was “overwhelming.”
“I remember the Rubik’s Cube going in, the jelly bean from President Reagan,” Badershall said.
The capsule included a couple dozen items, including newspaper clips, a pair of sunglasses, a bar of Ivory soap, a 1982 summer course catalog from North Shore Community College and a “Master Charge” card bearing the resemblance of the company it later became: MasterCard.
Two cassette tapes with music from the period were also included. The tapes had tracks from Alice Cooper, Van Halen, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Elvis Costello and Pink Floyd.
One item that stood out to Cahill was a business card that advertised contact lenses.
“I’ve never worn glasses. Were contact lenses around in 1982?” Cahill said. “I don’t know.”
The items will be on display at Beverly Historical Society, 117 Cabot St., for the next two weeks, Badershall said.
Carol Grayson, a Peabody resident who graduated from McKay in 1947, wasn’t as interested in the capsule as others were. She cherished the chance to walk through the school again.
Grayson was concerned that the wet weather would cause the event to be canceled. But the ceremony moved to the gym, leading to her first time back since graduating from McKay more than 65 years ago, she said.
“I was just about the oldest member of the school that showed up,” she said. “I was glad to get there today, just to step into the school, to be there.”
But while there was energy from discovering what was in the capsule, walking through the school gave some a sense of sadness.
The school’s vacant rooms and hallways elicited the emotion. Suzanne Harlow, the school’s last principal, said she felt it.
“All the walls were bare. The clocks were all gone. The coat hooks were gone. It just wasn’t the same school,” Harlow said. “I remembered how alive it had been.”
Badershall also felt moved by the impending turnover of the building.
“It’s no longer what we knew as the elementary school,” she said. “That era has passed, and we’re moving on.”
That isn’t to say those sad about the building’s past were upset at the event, however.
“People were very thankful we had the ceremony today, and I’m very pleased they were able to attend,” Badershall said. “It’s closure.”
At the same time, the school is going to remain.
“I understand that sense of closure,” Cahill said. “What I feel good about is that we’re preserving the school building.”
It won’t be the same — there will be beds and dressers in place of the desks and chalkboards — but the school building will remain standing to those who drive by it, Cahill said.
“Not every older building gets preserved,” he said. “Here’s a case where we’re able to preserve it.
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McKAY CONSTRUCTION TIMELINE
The building hasn’t formally been sold yet, Cahill said. While its future is close to concrete, the sale is contingent on as-yet unfinished work.
“The city and Windover have a purchase and sales agreement,” Cahill said. “Windover needs to get their permitting done and, when they get the permits, we can close and they can start construction.”
The closing is expected to take place by late spring, assuming all permits for construction fall into place, Cahill said.
Plans for the building’s future include knocking down the gym expansion while leaving the original portion of the school intact, he said. That portion was built in 1907.
A second building is being planned in place of the gymnasium.
The next step after the property is closed on would be construction, which would likely start in the summer, Cahill said.