Tulsa, Okla., has never been an ordinary city. Residents might say that its charm lies in its Southern hospitality; its wild-West, open-range setting; or Eastern influence brought by those seeking their fortunes in the early 20th century. So, when the story resurfaced of a time capsule in the form of a buried car at 6th Street and Denver Avenue, the location of the city's courthouse, some say that it was only fitting for a community that often thinks “outside of the box.” In June, in celebration of Oklahoma's centennial, Tulsa unearthed its time capsule to revisit the past while preparing for the future.
Tulsa, located in the northeastern part of the state, began as the destination of the Trail of Tears and the home of a large oil pool that attracted Easterners in search of wealth. “The Tulsa spirit, in my mind, is a great, entrepreneurial, ‘Let's go for it’ kind of spirit,” says Sharon King Davis, chair of Tulsa's centennial events. “We are very competitive in what we want to do, and I think that is [reflected in] this time capsule that we buried in 1957.”
On June 15, 1957, Tulsa residents filled theto view the burial of a gold and white Plymouth Belvedere, the city's unique time capsule. Chosen for its numerous state-of-the-art features, including a push-button transmission and large tailfins, the car was the center of Tulsa's Golden Jubilee Week, a 10-day event to celebrate Oklahoma's 50th anniversary. Chrysler donated the car to gain publicity for the newly redesigned automobile.
Maps, aerial photographs and a prayer that blessed the city for the upcoming 50 years were included in the time capsule. Flags, statements from the current and former mayors, the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Education also were placed in the car. A woman donated items from her purse, including bobby pins, cigarettes and an unpaid parking ticket, to store in the glove compartment. In case they did not exist in the future, oil and gasoline also were added.
Residents also guessed what the population of Tulsa would be in 2007 — which currently stands at 382,457 — and placed their bids in a steel container that was lowered into the ground with the Belvedere. The person who came closest to the correct population would win “Miss Belvedere” during the 2007 unearthing. “We don't just put some letters in a time capsule and put it in the ground,” Davis says. “We go for it around here in Tulsa.”
On June 15, 2007, nearly 20,000 people witnessed “Miss Belvedere” emerge from the ground, shrouded in a soiled white cloth. Noticeable gasps were heard from the 7,100 residents that viewed the unveiling at the city's convention center as they saw that the gold and white finish of the once-cutting-edge vehicle had been eaten away, leaving behind only rust. The event, billed as “Tulsarama,” was broadcast on a local news station, capturing nearly 45 percent of the viewing audience.
With a guess of 384,743, R.E. Humberton, a Virginia resident, was declared the winner of the Belvedere. However, organizers learned that the Maryland-born Humberton is deceased. The fate of the car, which has been estimated to be worth $100,000 or more, is now unknown.
Davis says that since the unveiling, news of “Miss Belvedere” has reached countries around the world, including Australia, Norway, Canada and across Europe. “I hope it doesn't just showcase us just as a place of a rusty, old car,” Davis says. “I hope [the event] showcases Tulsa as [a city] that had visionaries in 1957 and visionaries for the future; that we are a wonderful, exciting city [and] that we do things [differently].”