Traveling back in time is an impossibility within the range of existing technology (as far as we know, at least), even though Einstein figured out that it's theoretically possible.
While actual time travel is, as far as we know, a virtual impossibility (sans flux capacitor, anyway), "Tulsarama" facilitators are finding that approximating the experience also has its difficulties. Indeed, it might even have been a little easier to send a plutonium-powered De Lorean back 50 years than to bring a Plymouth Belvedere Sport Coupe into the present from 1957, it turns out.
"When they buried this car, they never thought about what we'd have to do to get it unearthed," said Ron McMahan, director of building operations for Tulsa County and unearthing guru for Tulsarama, Inc.
For those who can find the 1.21 gigawatts needed to power the flux capacitor-of-the-mind for a trip back to June 15, 1957, they'll witness Tulsa's Golden Jubilee celebration in observance of Oklahoma's 50th year, which is when the car, hot off the factory floor, was lowered into suspended animation in front of the Tulsa County Courthouse on the corner of 6th and Denver.
The Belvedere was the choice slice of 1957 life because it was, in the words of event chairman Lewis Roberts Sr., "an advanced product of American industrial ingenuity with the kind of lasting appeal that will still be in style 50 years from now."
While the Belvedere was "radioactive" in its day (that's the word cool kids in the '50s used for "popular"), the PT Cruiser might be the closest relative the car will find to welcome it to 21st Century streets and gas prices.
(The droves of auto enthusiasts to descend upon Tulsa from all over the world for the unearthing, unveiling and car show to follow would probably agree with Roberts about the car's enduring cool factor, however. More on them later, though.)
Along with the car, several other articles were also entombed as relics of what life was like midway into the Baby Boom.
At the last minute before the burial, a few items from a woman's purse were deposited in the Belvedere's glove box for 21st Century excavation.
Bobby pins, cigarettes, a bottle of tranquilizers and an unpaid parking ticket are the items expected to be found when the car is exhumed.
Some things never go out of style . . . While smoking is only a fraction as cool as it used to be, a pack of Camel Lights, a bottle of Xanax and an unpaid ticket wouldn't be hard to find in any given purse today.
Some of the other items buried with the car were aerial photographs of the Tulsa area, statements from city officials, church leaders and educators, as well as historical data related to 50 years of education in Tulsa.
Copies of "School Life," an all-high school monthly periodical issued by Tulsa high schools, were also included.
All of Tulsa's mayors up to 1957 also left statements in the capsule, including their records of service and accomplishments.
If anyone does happen to have a time-traveling De Lorean, if you haven't already, you might want to go back to 1957 with the knowledge that the population of Tulsa will be 387,807 as of the last U.S. Census Bureau estimate.
(That was in 2003, but Tulsarama operatives will be traveling to Washington, D.C. on June 1 to get a more updated figure.)
If you do, your name and "guess" can be put with those of other citizens of Tulsa at the time, recorded on the microfilm that was also buried with the Belvedere.
The person with the closest guess wins the car after it's raised on June 15 (if you cheat, though--good luck explaining to them why you dress so goofy and talk so funny, and to us why you look so young).
With luck, and the best engineering 1957 had to offer, the Belvedere will be in such pristine condition when it's unearthed that the closest population-guesser will be proud to drive it home.
That isn't guaranteed, though.
"They put some of the smartest minds around on how to put this car in a vault," said McMahan.
The smartest minds around also built the Titanic, it bears pointing out.
And also, as McMahan previously stated, they didn't give quite as much thought to how it was going to come back out.
"I have said for 18 months that it was a lot easier for the l957 people to put this in the ground than it is for us in 2007 to unearth and untangle everything, and they didn't leave us any instructions," concurred Sharon King Davis, chair of Tulsarama.
Tut's Treasure, Curse
While McMahan and his fellow "archeologists" have a general idea of the process by which the package was prepared for our present-day enjoyment, it's not a very detailed picture.
"The records are sketchy at best--we have some film of the actual burial, but lowering the car was really kind of the smallest part of the whole thing," said McMahan.
What excavators have been able to piece together, though, is that the vault in which the gleaming, golden, ivory beauty was entombed is basically a swimming pool with a sealed lid.
The time capsule is 10 feet wide, 22 feet long and eight feet tall with walls about nine inches thick, made of steel rebar and gunnite (which is the basic composition of a swimming pool), and coated with another layer of gunnite.
On top is a three-sectioned concrete lid, about six inches thick and also coated with gunnite.
And it's buried under about three feet of dirt.
The car itself is supported by jack stands atop steel I-beams.
The vault is believed to be watertight and the enormous bag surrounding the 17-foot-long, six-and-a-half-feet-wide relic is likewise believed to be airtight, McMahan said.
Even though the Belvedere has been shielded from time in a tomb that would make any pharaoh jealous, McMahan is proceeding with caution.
"Nobody knows what kind of shape the car's in," he said.
"If it's sitting in three feet of water, we may have a problem," he added.
Also, McMahan said he and other excavators have concerns about whether the steel platform on which the car rests has been spared the ravages of time as intended and maintained its structural integrity.
If not, it might not be able to support the vehicle's 3,400 pounds when it's lifted by the crane.
So, a crucial step in the process is to inspect the platform as soon as the vault is opened to determine how best to proceed.
"We'll take that thing out no matter what shape the platform's in--it's just a question of the degree of difficulty involved," said McMahan.
"All in all, I don't anticipate any problems," he added.
After that, at noon on the Big Day, as one of the many Centennial observances planned in Oklahoma, McMahan said the car will be ceremoniously hoisted out of that small pocket of 1957, and its first contact with 2007 will be when it's placed on a trailer--with Mayor Kathy Taylor, County Commissioners and other dignitaries looking on.
Meanwhile, for those who overflow the 450-person capacity bleacher seats on Denver and so can't witness the unearthing in person, or who just don't want to sit in the noon heat, the event will be simulcast at the Maxwell Convention Center, free to the public.
At 6:30 that night, the center will also be the site of the Belvedere's unveiling, as well as the opening of the time capsule. Tickets are $5, $10 and $25.
At the time of this writing, Davis said she and fellow Tulsaramans are finalizing the details for a simulcast on a local television station from 7-8pm.
The fun doesn't end with the unveiling, though.
An invitational car show will ensue from 3pm to 10pm that day, featuring "fabulous collectibles, classic autos and exhibits," according to Tulsarama's description.
The show will continue from 10 am to 8 pm Saturday and from 10 to 3 on Sunday, at which times the Belvedere will be on display.
There is also the Tulsarama Open Car Show planned for Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 3pm, which will be held on 6th St, Houston St. and in the State Office Building parking lot, all of which surround the Convention Center.
McMahan and Davis said an enormous worldwide turnout is expected for the events.
Boyd Coddington from TLC's American Hot Rod is planning on coming, Davis said, as well as Bill Geist from CBS's Sunday Morning, along with approximately 200 other members of the media from 63 media outlets and 11 countries.
In addition, Davis said, "Tor Gylterud, who is from Norway, will be shipping his 1957 Plymouth Belvedere to Chicago to drive Route 66 to Tulsa in time for the event. We've been contacted by an Australian who is shipping his car here for the event, a gentleman from the UK who is flying here and then buying a car to drive to the event," Davis also said.
"People are flying and driving in from all over the country and all over the world to be here in Tulsa and see 'Ms. Belvedere,'" she added.
"We have had radio interviews, articles and covers in publications worldwide, (been) named one of the 'Top 20 places to be' in 2007 by Esquire magazine, and it goes on and on," Davis also said.
The Plymouth Belvedere and accompanying time capsule items aren't the only samples of 1957 to be featured that weekend. A '50s-themed Sock Hop is also planned for Saturday from 7:30 to 11pm, which will be held in Exhibit Hall A of the Convention Center.
Tickets for the Sock Hop are $3.50 at the door, or online for $5.
"We are able to keep prices so low because of a very generous donation from Mayor Kathy Taylor--Taylor Lobeck Foundation, which will help significantly with costs," said Davis.
The budget for the entire range of events is $294,000, Davis said, which was funded through a combination of private and public contributions.
"While this is an officially sanctioned Centennial event, it is not funded by the Centennial Commission. This is a completely Tulsa treasure," she explained.
"We started with zero dollars and budgeted for all expenses and were so pleased to see Tulsans coming forward with donations--in kind donations and offers of assistance," Davis also said.
Tulsa County is providing law enforcement services and funds for public safety, while other sponsors are Metro Tulsa Auto Dealers, City of Tulsa (by waiving some fees), Alamo Car Rental, Bank of Oklahoma, Chrysler Corporation, Quik Trip, and PSO "have stepped forward to make this a first class event for Tulsa and our worldwide visitors," said Davis.
Couch Construction, Taylor Crane and Flintco are donating their services for the excavation and unearthing, she said.
"Most of the costs being incurred are to bring this event to the public. We have decided to waive the entrance fee for the invitational car show now that the City of Tulsa, Tulsa County, and other sponsors have stepped up and made that possible. Our goal has always been to be as inclusive and open as possible," Davis added.
After all the festivities are over, "then Tulsa County has the dilemma of figuring out what to do with this big vault in their front yard," said McMahan.
Bury another car and time capsule in it, perhaps?
Doubtful, according to McMahan.
"It's history after this," he said.
And that doesn't mean it'll be dug up and put in a museum.
While nothing has been decided, McMahan said, in all probability, the vault will be filled in and something built on the site.
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