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2001: A Time Odyssey

John Rico

TO the people of the year 2001, greetings. We the people of 1971 salute you.

Thirty years ago today this column, this newspaper, was placed in a time capsule, set in a cornerstone at the Vacaville branch of Central California Savings and Loan. It’s a little like writing one’s own obituary, not knowing what might take place during the unknown of tomorrow and of all the tomorrows that have gone into the past 30 years — from 1971 to 2001.

Few time capsules are ever exhumed, but this one, obviously, has been one of the exceptions. I was asked to verbally hold up a mirror to Vacaville, 1971, for the edification of you — and those of us who are still here — in the year following the turn of the century.

It’s a tall order, not because it is difficult to reflect on all I see about me now, but boggling to imagine in my mind’s eye who the people are — what kind of people they are — in this year of ‘01.

I can not comprehend how it will be 30 years from now. I wonder if we have progressed, if we have gained knowledge about mankind and the universe which we have just started to explore. I wonder if disease and hunger and pestilence has been stopped and if mankind has finally reached the next plateau in his evolutionary development so that we have grown to finally realize that war and violence is not the way to settle war and violence. I wonder if the seas have been turned to fresh water, if California has had its catastrophic earthquake and if the state really did break off like a cookie and set out to sea. I wonder if we have solved the problems of filthy air or if the cartoon prognosticators were right and we are now really wearing masks just to breathe. I wonder about too many people on this planet and if anything has been developed to replace the aluminum beer can — or beer for that matter — and if the three day workweek became a reality. I wonder if people work at all anymore and if not, is a lifetime vacation all it’s cracked up to be?

There was a movie made several years ago about your year, your time. It was called “2001-A Space Odyssey”. Obviously fiction, it was nevertheless based on mankind’s direction back in ‘71 and that, if technology were allowed to flourish without being held back by more world or even universal wars, how it might be for all of us still here after the turn of the century. In this movie, mankind could be seen traveling commercially to the moon. For whatever for we still haven’t been able to determine because only recently have we first set foot on the lunar surface. But from all the doomsday predictions about our predicament due to over. population, it could only mean that to save mankind and the species we had to find other planets, other universal homes, other earths on which to live.

It’s all a grim and remote thought back in 1971 because as I sit here summer is coming to another dose. The cooling breezes blow in from the Pacific Ocean in the evening, bringing high clouds that turn an irridescent pink at sundown. The heat of summer has again turned our hills golden and kids are getting ready to trek back to school in the annual educational ritual.

There are 23,000 of us now and to those of us who can remember Vacaville in pre-war days (known as World War II) when we had little more than 1500 total souls here, the growth has been awesome. No doubt a laughable thought to you of 2001.1 can not imagine how many of us —or of you —there are today. 60,000? 140,000? Have Fairfield and Vacaville merged and joined up with Sacramento? Are we still a part of a city, or just a fractional part of a megalopolis? Do we still worry about city taxes and swimming pools and community centers and drugs among our youth (topics of concern in the ‘70s)? Have we finally given up the idea of the gas-combustion auto engine and do we commute everywhere by nuclear monorail? A laughable thought to us in ‘71.

Vacaville, like most small communities trying to make their economical mark, has struggled to grow. We have competed for industry and for commercial development, and for people. But all at once we are taking a long, hard look at all this frenetic struggling for growth and putting it on a sort of conscientious scale to determine if there can be a balance between “progress” and maintaining Vacaville as the quiet, relaxed home-style city we would like it to be. For there is a new awareness today — an awareness of the needs for personal and family happiness; a kind of happiness that comes only with the tranquility of inner self. A peace of mind, a satisfaction in knowing that you can live life to its fullest by preserving and enjoying all that we hold dear: nature, the wilderness, the resources. The celebration of Life.

This is called the Age of Aquarius wherein there is a liberation of the sexes, of races, of the soul. Who knows what direction this has all taken during the past 30 years. You know. You decide.

Life in Vacaville is like life in other cities in other parts of the world in 1971. It is pleasant and even rewarding for some. It is filled with grief and suffering for too many others.

And Vacaville itself, the place which we lovingly call home, has been woven into a cocoon, laced with silken strands of natural beauty, of people, of the peopled things they have brought to this land up to today. And now we are waiting to see if it will emerge as a grey moth, or a Monarch butterfly.

Sad it would be if we were to wake up 30 years from today and find ourselves in an even more complex world. And naive we would be to think that time could erase all the problems of mankind. But worse still is the haunting thought that in the year 2001 there will be no people left to solve them. And no one here to open this capsule.