TORONTO - A time capsule unearthed during renovations at Toronto's famed Maple Leaf Gardens spilled its secrets Thursday, revealing hockey paraphernalia, news from the Dirty '30s and a tiny ivory elephant.
While some of the capsule's contents relate to the time it was buried — as Canadians struggled through the worst of the Great Depression — there was little to explain the mysterious elephant.
The ivory carving is small enough to hold in one hand and has no markings or inscriptions, although it does have a hook on top, suggesting it could be worn on a chain.
More informative were the four Toronto newspapers found inside the copper box that served as the capsule. The Toronto Daily Star, The Globe, The Mail and Empire and The Evening Telegram are all dated Sept. 21, 1931.
On that day, according to the papers, there were fears over Britain's monetary system and Canada's jobless, while tensions were growing between China and Japan.
The box, which measures 30 centimetres by 20 centimetres by 20 centimetres, has no external markings or writing although the date and some initials appear inside.
The box was buried beneath a stone at the front of Maple Leaf Gardens when it was built in 1931 by Conn Smythe, who owned the hockey team.
The historic arena at the corner of Church and Carlton Streets was home to the Leafs until 1999 when the team moved to a new building. It also played host to The Beatles, Elvis Presley and many other popular stars of the last century as well as top sporting events.
In 2009, work began to turn the Gardens into a combination Loblaws grocery store and an athletic centre for nearby Ryerson University.
The somewhat tarnished copper time capsule was found during the renovations.
Other items found inside included a four-page letter from the directors of Maple Leaf Gardens describing the design and construction details of the new arena, three official hockey rule books and a Toronto municipal handbook.
"Maple Leaf Gardens holds a lot of special memories for millions of Canadians and, it turns out, it also held a few surprises from 1931 that were just waiting to be found," Sheldon Levy, president of Ryerson University, said Thursday.
"I wonder if those that put the time capsule there in 1931 would have ever imagined that 80 years later there would be a great Loblaws store there and a complex for a university that didn't even exist," he added during a ceremony at Ryerson.
Levy set the scene for 1931, saying that besides being the year Maple Leaf Gardens opened, it was the year gangster Al Capone was sentenced. On opening night, he said, the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Leafs 2-1.
Loblaws and Ryerson are appealing to the public for any insights into what the tiny ivory pachyderm could mean. They are also looking for public input about what could go into a time capsule for the newly renovated building.
"We are curious to hear Canadians' ideas for the new time capsule," said Jane Marshall, vice-president of Loblaw Properties and Business Strategy.
The 1931 time capsule's contents are on public display at Ryerson University.