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Almost 30 years later, his grandfather’s time capsule letter opens another mystery


Almost 30 years ago, Mitch Brogan, then 11, answered a series of questions about what his future life would be like on Jan. 1, 2020. His life took a dramatic turn that Brogan the boy couldn't have foreseen.

Mitch Brogan, 39, shows the envelope and $1 bill it contained when he sealed it up back in August 1991, part of a time capsule project he did with his grandfather. Brogan opened the envelope, bringing back a flood of memories.(Andrew Lupton/CBC)

It was a fun project, one designed to ignite the imagination of an 11-year-old boy as he looked ahead to his future life.

It was also the kind of thing Mitch Brogan, now 39, remembers his grandfather Charles Brogan doing with him during frequent summer trips to visit him in Laval, Que.

It was August 1991 and the idea was simple: Brogan and his cousin Nancy would answer a list of 11 questions speculating about what their lives would be like almost 30 years in the future, specifically today: Jan. 1, 2020. It was part of a time capsule project, one his grandfather came up with.

Charles Brogan wrote out a list of 11 questions, which the grandchildren each answered on separate sheets of paper. Those papers were then folded into two sealed envelopes to be re-opened almost three decades later. The list of questions was kept with the envelopes, but not sealed inside.

This is the list of questions Mitch Brogan's grandfather wrote out with him back in 1991, when Mitch was 11. The questions asked Mitch and his cousin to guess what their lives would be like in the future. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

The questions focused on what Mitch Brogan and Nancy thought their lives — and the world they would live in — would be like in 2020.

The questions included:

  • Will I be married?
  • How many children will I have?
  • Will I own a house?
  • How much will I be earning?
  • Will man be living on other planets?
  • Will the rivers and lakes be clean?

Mitch's Brogan's letter, which answered questions about his future life, was sealed inside this envelope in August 1991. The "Do not open" message is written in Mitch's hand, and the logo is from his grandfather's commercial diving business. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

The sealed envelopes containing each letter stayed with Charles Brogan until his death in 2006. A relative going through his things found the still-sealed envelopes — and the grandkids' list of questions — folded inside a book.

Mitch Brogan received his envelope shortly after his grandfather's death and though he was tempted, he refused to open it early. Instead, he kept it sealed for 14 years, waiting to open it on this day, New Year's Day, Jan. 1, 2020.

Before he broke the seal, Brogan said he couldn't remember much about how he answered those questions. He did have vague memories of a "crisp" $2 bill his grandfather slipped inside each envelope.

Opening day reveals new mystery

CBC News was with Brogan when he opened his grandfather's envelope, which still bears the logo and address of his grandfather's commercial diving company.

The first item he pulled out was not the $2 bill he remembered, but a $1 bill dating from the mid 1950s. It would have been old even back in 1991.

This is the $1 bill Mitchell Brogan's grandfather included in the envelope. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

The letter also contained Brogan's hand-written responses to the questions.

The highlights are:

  • He thought he would live in Toronto (he lives in London, Ont.).
  • He thought he would be a writer and a "lawer" (he developed a mobile app yuser.co, but does enjoy writing). He's also an entrepreneur (more on that below).
  • He thought he would be married and have two children (he did neither).
  • He thought human beings would "infest" other planets (still waiting).

This is the letter Mitch Brogan wrote and sealed in an envelope back in 1991. It contains his responses to a list of questions his grandfather put to him about how he thought his life, and the world, would be on Jan. 1, 2020. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

But the most remarkable aspect of the letter was not young Mitchell's response to the questions, but a crude map he drew to document the location of two time capsules he and Nancy buried in his grandfather's backyard at the time.

The maps show the location of a backyard workshop and a boathouse on the property, and pinpoint the location of where the capsules are buried. An "X" even marks the spot (or, spots in this case).

"Just to see that, it makes me really fascinated to think about what's buried in that yard," he said.

"I believe I've stayed alive this long to see this."

This section of the letter shows where Mitch Brogan drew a map that pinpoints the location of a time capsule he buried in his grandfather's back yard back in 1991. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

If that last comment seems fatalistic, it's because there's another wrinkle to this story. Something that partly explains why Brogan's life turned out so differently than the one he envisioned when he answered those look-ahead questions as a boy.

In September 2006 Mitchell was riding his bike along Dundas Street near Oakland Avenue in London, Ont. He was struck by a drunk driver and badly injured. It happened shortly after his grandfather's death and rendered him a quadriplegic.

It was a life-altering event but one that propelled Brogan to devote much of his work as an entrepreneur to help others in wheelchairs learn to walk again.

Brogan appeared on Dragon's Den four years ago to raise money for Able Bionics, a non-profit organization which trains wheelchair users to walk using exoskeleton technology.

"I wonder how much of these things would have changed if I hadn't been in the accident," he said. "But things are what they are. I'm here today to see this unfold and for me, that's huge.

Opening the envelope his grandfather kept has left Brogan with a mix of emotions. He does plan to venture to Laval and see if, with the permission of the house's current owners, he can dig them up.

Mitchell plans to go to Laval and politely ask the current owners of his grandfather's former house if he can, with the help of the map he drew all those years ago, dig up those time capsules.

He said it will help complete fond memories of summers spent with a grandfather he loved at a time when his adult life was yet to come.

"I feel uplifted," he said. "I feel a chronicle of my life has been opened and hopefully it can be closed too."

Mitch Brogan became quadriplegic in 2006, when he was struck by a drunk driver while riding his bike on Dundas Street in London, Ont. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

About the Author

Andrew Lupton is a B.C.-born journalist, father of two and a north London resident with a passion for politics, photography and baseball.

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca


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