By Jan Siegel
This year, the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society is celebrating its 60th anniversary. In this town, it is amazing that as much as things change, they also stay the same.
“Remembering Our Past Insures Our Future” is not only the motto of the Historical Society but is the mission of the organization.
In the newsletter of August 1967, as the Society was celebrating its 25th year of service to the community, it stated that besides conducting tours of the museum, as well as school programs, “There is also the daily task of collecting, filing, categorizing, and protecting our historical library and collections of historical photos, newspaper clippings, and artifacts. We do need to raise funds because we have some vital projects that require considerable expenditures.”
In August 2016, a time capsule was opened 50 years after it was sealed, following the dedication of the Richard R. Dana statue at the harbor in Dana Point. The San Juan Capistrano Historical Society had raised money for the statue.
In 1966, when the capsule was placed at the base of the statue, San Juan Capistrano was a small town of 3,000 people. A letter from the Historical Society was placed in the capsule and revealed at the opening.
The letter shows that although we were then a town of 36,000, we still had the same feeling for our history and our town as people did 50 years before. The letter written on Aug. 29, 1966 reads as follows:
“To our Friends in the Year 2016: As you open this time capsule, we pray that the orderly progress and development of this area for which we have all worked will have been achieved. We hope, however, that in the years that have passed, the treasure of the history of this area has not been overlooked.
“You are standing on ground rich in the history and tradition of California. Our society, in this Year of Our Lord 1966, is dedicated to the preservation of that history and tradition. How tragic it would be that in the 50 ensuing years, succeeding generations would neglect their forefathers and cast into oblivion the trials and tribulations, the culture and romance of those people with the musical sounding name of Olivares, Yorba, Valenzuela, Rios, Avila and Aguilar, who brought this area through from wilderness to modern civilization.
“You must remember, too, the pioneers of the 19th century whose names are interwoven with our Spanish forbearers, the Forsters, the Rosenbaums, the Buchheims, and the O’Neills.
“Let the groundwork we lay lead succeeding generations to fruition of the plans we make.
Signed, Gerald T. Gaffney, Captain, U. S. Marine Corps (Retired), President.
“Vice President Mr. Fred G. Hunn, Secretary Mrs. Ronald E. (Doris) Drumond, Treasurer Mrs. Rita Donner, Board of Directors Mrs. Don Dunford, Mrs. Marco F. (Betty) Forster, Mrs. Lucana Isch, Mrs. Ethel Pesse, Mr. Don J. Rios.”
Please note the pride that Gaffney held for his time in the military. And note that most of these families are still in San Juan Capistrano today.
You can spend a “Moment in Time” and help remember our past by visiting the Historical Society on Los Rios Street, taking the historical tours, and becoming a member of this organization, which continues to preserve the past and keep the traditions of San Juan Capistrano alive.
Jan Siegel was a 33-year resident of San Juan Capistrano and now resides in the neighboring town of Rancho Mission Viejo. She served on the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission for 13 years, has been a volunteer guide for the San Juan Capistrano Friends of the Library’s architectural walking tour for 26 years and is currently the museum curator for the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society. She was named Woman of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce in 2005, Volunteer of the Year in 2011 and was inducted into the city’s Wall of Recognition in 2007.