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Sherlock & Segar: Unveiling of statue, time capsule burial all coming on Dec. 7

  • Chester's Mike McClure, the local authority on Sherlock Holmes, is excited about the upcoming events on Dec. 7.

    Chester's Mike McClure, the local authority on Sherlock Holmes, is excited about the upcoming events on Dec. 7.
    Jim Beers photo

By Jim Beers
Contributing writer
updated: 11/29/2019 12:19 PM

Imagine how eager you would be this coming Dec. 7, if you could peer inside a time capsule that had been buried in Chester 75 years ago.

On Dec. 7, 1944, World War II war was raging, and every family had or knew of at least one soldier or sailor in harm's way. The Chester basketball team was mired in a forgettable season, and a severe July storm had taken out sections of the Chester Bridge (it wouldn't reopen until 1946). Elzie Segar would have turned 50 on Dec. 7, 1944, had he not died six years before.

Wouldn't it be fascinating to get a glimpse into Chester's past through the mementos people left?

Alas, nobody buried a time capsule in 1944, but Chester is about to bury one now.

On Dec. 7, 2019, a time capsule will be buried here with instructions to open it on Dec. 7, 2094, the 200th anniversary of Segar's birth. Segar, of course, is the renowned creator of Popeye, and Chester's most famous native son.

Mike McClure and his son, Michael, are asking fellow Chester residents and former residents to contribute.

Children at Chester schools are making contributions to the time capsule.

"Many of the very young students might still be alive and living in the area when the time capsule is opened in 2094," McClure said. "How neat would that be if they could see their classroom creation being inspected at the opening of the capsule?"

Drop off your contributions until Dec. 4 at the Chester Public Library or directly with McClure, by calling him at (618) 826-5125. The box to be buried is 18 inches square, so contributions must be limited in size, photographed, or uploaded to a flash drive (fingers crossed that people in 2094 know what one is.)

"There are so many possibilities," Michael McClure said. "Summon your inner Segar and sketch a cartoon image to be enjoyed 75 years in the future. Write a one-page story to entertain tomorrow's children. Jot down a rendition of 'A Day in the Life' of someone living in 2019. Or, maybe predict what life will be like in 2094 as those people prepare to enter the 22nd Century."

Sculptures and other large objects can't be taken for the capsule, but photographs of the objects can, along with photos of high school mementos, and family histories. There is no cost to Chester citizens who want to contribute.

"We primarily just want to present a slice of culture from this era to show the people of 2094 what it was like to live in 2019," McClure said. "I would love to see some of our adults describe their views regarding the current political climate ... imagine the value of reading real voters' opinions that were living in our current era ... a snapshot of the past that few, if any, history books will be able to record accurately."

Sherlock & Segar

There is quite a bit of interest in this project from outside the U.S., McClure said, noting that contributions for the capsule have even come in from England, France, Japan and the Czech Republic. More than 80 years after his death, Elzie Segar's creation, Popeye, is still beloved the world over.

But there's another international connection to this event, too. The capsule will be buried alongside the newest addition to the Popeye Character Trail -- a sculpture of the master detective Sherlock Holmes, but with the countenance of Segar himself.

"Segar had a compelling interest in the master detective, Sherlock Holmes," said McClure, who is among this region's foremost Sherlockians and whose family founded Baskerville Productions. The statue is titled, "Sherlock & Segar."

Segar promoted the Sherlockian subculture in his Thimble Theatre cartoon series, which began in 1919 and is where he introduced Popeye to the world in 1929.

As the unveiling happens in the middle of Chester's festival, "Christmas on the River," there will be plenty of people about and McClure has interested TV networks and other media in the happening.

He points out that Dec. 7, 2094 is the date of another solar eclipse, one that Chester will be a prime viewing spot for.

"How's that for the stars being aligned in just the right time and place?" he says.

If you go

Where: 1415 Swanwick St., Chester. home of Mike and Susan McClure, aka Baskerville Hall.

When: 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7

What: Santa and Mrs. Claus; burial of the Thimble Theatre time capsule; unveiling and dedication of "Sherlock & Segar"; Illinois House proclamation read by state Rep. Nathan Reitz honoring Elzie Segar and commending the Popeye & Friends Character Trail; music from the CHS Band.