ANTIQUE BOTTLE CLUB NEWS
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, 2017!
Pizza Party This Month!
Written by Allan C. Holden
Hello friends! First I want to update you with my store move. I am moving my shop from one building to another, on the same property. Sounds easy doesn't it?
Well, I had no idea what I was getting into! I have been working on this for about 3- months. I have had lots of help, and the fellows taking over my old shop have been politely helping me, yet they are very anxious to get moved in.
It has been overwhelming to say the least. I hope you will bear with me with this newsletter as I ramble on. I sat down to write this month in a burned out condition and without even a tiny spark of creativity. Frankly, I have been waist deep in antique bottles so I need a distraction. . . sorry!
The problem with moving goes far beyond the obvious things which come to mind, and I have had one setback after another. I actually stood in the new location, while it was empty, with no vision of what I wanted "ZERO!" When things started to take shape, I figured out ways it could be better, so than I had to tear things down and start over. Plus, you can't just start moving your store without having some idea where things will go.
The story starts back in 1988 shortly after my father had a heart attack. Where was he, and what was he doing, when this life changing event took place? Where would you want to be if you could plan a heart attack? If you said, "In the waiting room at the Mayo Clinic" we are on the same page!
My folks went over to Rochester MN for a routine check-up. They were nearly finished with only an hour away from traveling back towards home. As they waited for their final paperwork, my father started having all the warning signs: sweating, labored breathing, and heavy chest pain!
Fortunately for all of us, he was in excellent hands! And talking about cutting edge, the clinic was testing a new clot busting drug called TPA. This new drug was responsible for a quick recovery and very limited heart damage. However, they changed Dad's lifestyle, especially his eating habits! Having a bowl of ice cream with chocolate syrup every night was to abruptly end!
I'll never forget; Dad and I were attending a RV show dealer's planning meeting, at the Great Lakes Steak Company. When the waiter came to take our order I went for the thick-cut prime rib (Dad's favorite) and he ordered a piece of broiled fish!
Man did I feel bad! He was quick to pick up on how I felt, and he explained how thankful he was to be around to enjoy my company even over a piece of broiled fish and green beans without butter or salt! Honestly, I made a decision then-and-there to be more sensitive to his situation.
A short time after this life changing event, and what seemed to be "out-of-the-blue" dad was approached by someone with an offer to buy his business. I wasn't aware of this offer at the time. Privately, after work, Dad asked me if I wanted to take over and run the business if he was to retire. . . he had just turned 59.
I had been involved in the business almost from the very start. My first jobs were what my dad referred to as "general cleanup." Everything from sweeping floors, washing RV's, and cutting grass. I was still in school, but I still managed to get in a few hours each day, and well over 50 hours per week in the summer.
I worked with my best friends, Tim Thompson and Dale Towne. We worked out in the big service building with the crew. Yes, we spent more time than I care to admit goofing off. But it wasn't all fun-and games! When sales were brisk, we always worked hard and got the job done.
After high school I went to Kalamazoo Valley Community College, as I continued work for Dad. Eventually I was moved into sales and marketing which I really loved. My father was a really good saleman and the dealership had grown to one of the highest volume dealerships in the State. I didn't realize it at the time, but we had the best brand-named products in the business. For some reason I figured we were up against products that were equal to our product lines if not better! They weren't I learned later.
We not only were selling the top brands in the nation, at that time, we were the number one dealership for these top makes in the entire country! I still have the awards to prove it!
We started out selling the Fleetwood line in the 70's with the popular Terry travel trailers. Later we dropped the Terry line and switched to the more affordable Wilderness trailers.
We dropped the Terry line because we were also a long-time Yellowstone dealer and that product was clearly a better product, yet within the same price break. For our flagship RV, we sold the premier Avion Coach products. Eventually Fleetwood did buy them out, but they continued to make them in Benton Harbor MI.
I could go on and on about the products we sold and the amazing time I had working in that field. But here was my father ready to make a change and he is asking me if I want to step into the top job. But, there was never any doubt in my mind, there was no way I could fill his shoes.
We had also been through some rough times with the many challenges which always come with owning a large business. I could write an entire book about defending a small business in a world filled of starving lawyers. . . no, dad was ready to step away and so was I. I gave Dad my blessings to continue on with the sale.
After he heard my decision, I learned that he had been praying about it, and considering his every possible option. Dad said, "You have faithfully worked for me all these years, and I have a plan; tell me if it sounds good to you. With my plan, I will go to work for you . . . part time of course."
The terms involved with
the sale of the RV business shaped
some of our final plans.
One item the buyer had no interest in, was the metal detector sales, plus dad was to keep a large used RV inventory. All of the property was sold except for the south-east corner where we built the pole barn that I have been doing business in for the last 27 years.
The plan was to build a large enough building to house two businesses. The whole idea was that the rent coming from the one side would be bringing in enough income to pay for our side. Dad had found a young man with a muffler franchise who was very interested with the whole idea.
Dad and I really loved tinkering with cars. When I was about 13 an older couple gave me a 1947 Dodge that was headed for the scrap yard. I tore the non-running engine apart, but I never did get it running . . . but it sure was a learning experience! I did figure out the reason the car stopped running over a decade earlier. The timing gear had broken.
Because of the center-hinged hood, and the recessed spark plug holes, water had leaked in and pooled around the plugs, In time the washers rusted away and water found its way into the cylinders causing the engine to freeze up SOLID!
I tried the trick of pouring oil into the cylinders and pulling the car in low gear but it wouldn't free the engine up. However, I fixed up dozens of old cars after that and sold them for a very profitable hobby.
My brother and I would tag along with my father down to Louisville to attend a giant RV show each year. This week-long show was intended to bringing dealers and manufactures together. After the dealers left town, the show was open to the public. What a wonderful experience this was! It was held in the giant Kentucky Fairgrounds and it was huge!
In the evening, the manufactures had special events scheduled to reward, or, 'wine and dine' the dealers. I especially enjoyed the special dinner that the Yellowstone RV Company put on! It was always held in the beautiful rotating dining room located on the 25th floor of the Galt House overlooking the Ohio River. The entire rotating room has glass walls with a rotating view of Louisville. At night it was stunning!
Just to give you some idea what Yellowstone did to keep their best dealers happy, we spent a week in Hawaii and they picked up the tab for everything! The part that really boggled my mind, was, that I had to sign those tabs, and I saw the dollar amount! We stayed at the Turtle Bay Hilton and the breakfast alone was a $40.00 fruit cup! This was 40, 1985 dollars! About equal to $200.00 today!
Another traditional stop, when at the Louisville show, was an evening at the Lincoln Jamboree located just outside of Hodgenville KY, The birthplace of President Lincoln.
My father was a big fan of old-style country music. My folks went to the Grand Ol' Opera several times, but as the country music started to evolve into a rock-a-billy style, my father claimed the Lincoln Jamboree was much better because they kept with the original blue-grass music style. He especially loved Blue Grass Gospel!
While we were down to the show in Kentucky, we would search the local papers and bargain car lots for solid rust free cars to bring back to Michigan.
A good example; we found a back-water used car lot with one of those string of clear light bulbs boarding the lot. The sales office was an old converted trailer, and the salesman was wearing a sport coat and red vest with shiny black & white wing-tip shoes and chewing a cigar. At that lot I found a solid 1964 Chevy Malibu Super Sport.
When I think about it, it is pretty funny! I spun the wing-nut and lifted off the air cleaner cover, I didn't say anything, but I noticed the oldest trick in the books, the air filter was drilled full of holes. When an engine has a million miles on it and the compression is 'gone' two things happen, the engine doesn't breath well, and they smoke! With people you can reverse that. . .first they smoke!
One thing that is hard to hide was that cloud of gray smoke when I started it up. He didn't actually understand why I wanted the car, so he did his best to distract my attention from those little problems! This was the little old ladies car!
The car had been repainted many years before, and the upholstery had been replaced with a white tuck-in-roll. The drivers seat showed some wear but otherwise wasn't too bad. But it was a straight rust free car! When I think about it, I cannot believe I made it back to Michigan. I payed about $700.00 including tax, tossed a couple cases of cheap oil in the trunk, and headed north!
Every time I stopped for gas she took about 3 quarts of oil! I planned on taking out every ding, doing a standard rebuild on the 283 V-8, a nice straight paint job, then tripling my money. I was back in town with the car for less than 24 hours, and I quadrupled my total investment without doing a thing.
The big difference was the new owner knew exactly what he was getting. First he came on with an offer, but I turned it down. I told him that I was going to fix it up with a much bigger profit in mind. Also, part of the fun was going to be driving it for a while! His offer kept climbing! My dad finally took me aside and said, "I would take his money and let him do the work!"
We were intending to build a fifth wheel car trailer and bring southern cars back and "Flip them for fun and profit."
On the day we were given the all clear to move into the building, and on my father's first day of retirement, he was helping me in the new building when the ladder slipped and he fell. He passed away later that day. That was the very start of a long string of heart aches for me.
My new store location is in the original roadside building. It was a private residence when my father purchased it. When the property came up for sale back in the 60's, the plan was to move it away from the road and back to the Kalamazoo River on the north end of the property, where we would continue to rent it as a residence. But we ran into an unexpected snag, the building is made from concrete!
More recently the building had been vacant for a couple years. I did have some interest from an Insurance agent who wanted us to make a new building out of it! I also got calls from someone looking to use it for a discount tobacco shop, tattoo shop, and a medicinal marijuana shop. If they all took up a room we could have striped the parking lot for Harley parking.
As for relocating my antique bottle collection, I had no idea how many bottles I had collected! And 85% were on the walls, which were 14 feet high! This building has a 7 foot ceiling! I am going to have to limit my display to the better bottles, based mainly on color. It will take a long time before I am that far along. I can't believe that I waited until I turned 65 to do this!
Here is the list of names from our sign-up sheet: Vincent Grossi, John Winker, Ron Smith, Tim Hayes, Eddie Nickerson, Mary Hamilton, Rob Knolle, Kevin Seigfried, Scott Hendrichsen, Chuck Parker and Al Holden.
We also welcomed two guests Larry & Colleen Cook. Colleen called me with a bottle question in the past. When I mentioned I own a metal detector shop she said " Hey! You are the guy who helped me!"
We saw a ton of neat stuff at the meeting! John Winkler showed off a Wolverine Soda bottle. That was a product bottled by the Coca Cola Company! Another neat crown-cap embossed soda bottle was from Battle Creek, a Purity Candy Company bottle. As my old buddy Jerry Arnold would say "Sweet!"
Rob Knolle brought in some more of his neat bottle-grubbing dive finds. I am not sure if that is what Rob calls it, but that is what some of my old diving friends always called it. This fascinates me! I think the underwater bottle recovery is the great untapped antique bottle source! When I look out over the water around Mackinaw Island I cannot help but think about all the rare discarded treasures out there!
There was a time when the authorities on the Island were sensitive about any form of treasure hunting both on or around the island. I have photos of giant side-wheel steamers at the Island docks loaded with excited tourists from Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago! You just know the squat sodas in amber and cobalt have to be down there! The water is so clear you can see the bottom from the dock where it is 20 feet deep!
One of my customers gave me a nice, early straight-sided Coke bottle he found while diving around the dock. It fact, he was the Doc! He was the Island Doctor! Back then you had to volunteer your service to be the Island Doctor. I believe the Island stocks the clinic, provides a nice place to stay and even feeds you. Wouldn't that be fun! I remember one of my relatives got a summer job working as busboy at the Grand Hotel! Now that I am thinking about this, Deb's grandfather worked running the Grand Hotel stables!
Boy you guys get me sidetracked and see what happens! Rob also found some cool local soda bottles! One bottle was an Amber Diamond Lake bottle from Cassopolis, and a Old Colony Beverage bottle from Benton Harbor.
Kevin Seigfried displayed a neat collection of Kalamazoo bottle openers and other advertising. One neat item was an advertising brass spatula from Marion Studio & Camera Shop! Something I had not seen before was a tin pin-on button that says "Member Kalamazoo Antique Bottle Club" I would bet it is somehow linked to an early bottle show!
Ron Smith brought in a giant
wood mallet! He told us it was for
pounding tent stakes, but frankly, I
don't think it would last very long
even if they were wood stakes. I
want to venture a guess, but first I
thought I would do a quick Internet
search but I really didn't find
anything. I think it was a sounding
hammer from a paper mill. I
worked for a company called
Wheeler Roll and part of our work
was refilling paper mill finishing
calender rolls. The paper would
wind through the stack and
generate lots of heat and
eventually the hard pressed paper-
fill would burn out from the inside.
A roll that was burning out would
sound hollow. The large wooden
mallet would check the roll
without scaring it. I thought I
would find proof . . . but no such
luck. . . trust me!
Our theme this month will be PIZZA! Our meeting will be little more than a roll-call, treasurer's report, then we will be making a B-line to Bimbo's Pizza for a Member's Only Christmas Party! If you are not a member, Chuck will sign you up before we go over to Bimbos! Hey for $10.00 where can you eat great Pizza for less?
SEE YOU AT THE MEETING!
The Kalamazoo Antique Bottle Club meets at the main downtown
315 South Rose Street.
We meet on the third floor in the conference room. This meeting is Tuesday, December 13th.
Meeting starts 7:00 pm.
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