Vol. 8 No. 9                                                                                                                                            July 2010
Kalamazoo Antique Bottle Club News
Member Club F.O.H.B.C.

July Bottle Club Meeting 7/13/10

Here I am again!

         I know that this phrase isn't original to my dad, but he is the first one that I heard say, "What part of NO don't you understand?" Yes, I did try to resign as club newsletter guy, but it may take a while for that to take effect.

         Mark McNee took me seriously, so at the last meeting he gave me a thank-you gift for all my hard work and relentless toil on the newsletter! It is a beautiful receipt from the 1870's Otsego Chair Company. A.B. Stuart started manufacturing furniture in 1871 right on the banks of the Kalamazoo River. The chair factory operated until 1922. The factory employed up to 100 workers and they produced around 100 chairs each day.

         My friend, Ryan Wieber is the head district librarian in Otsego and he loves local history. Ryan got the current Otsego Museum started and it is very near the location of the Otsego chair factory. Right next to the old chair factory, was the old Otsego Island Park, which today is just a very small island surrounded by the fast current of the Kalamazoo River. Across the river, and a short way downstream, was a very early landfill. Back when Shorty McLeod had his old auto parts business and salvage yard, Ernie Lawson and Jack Short used to do some very productive bottle digging on that lot. Today, the City of Otsego has a municipal garage located at that spot and they will not allow digging.

        Every time I pass by that location I can almost hear the hundreds of rare bottles crying out for rescue! Perhaps the most productive way to dig that area would be to dig into the river bank on the north side of the river. The problem would be the deadly fast current, and if the Michigan D.N.R. got wind of your activities, they would stop you dead in your tracks. This location is not far from the old Otsego Mineral Springs and Bathhouse location. A nice Otsego Mineral Springs bottle could fetch a small fortune today!

        John Pastor owned an Otsego Mineral Springs bottle at one time, not so long ago. I would love to find one. I would have to dig it, I sure couldn't afford to buy it. It just seems like the devil takes interest in whatever I enjoy! I posted some pictures on my Facebook page, in an album that I called, "Holden Drag Racing Memories." I started drag racing in 1968 and at the time I was very competitive. Our car could run within a few thousandths of the National Record of the class that we were in. In those days all of our race cars were built in the old-school hot rodder style which meant scrounging the junk yards for cheap used parts.

        Our first race car model was carefully selected for its rated horse-power-to-weight ratio for that model. Fitting this formula just right made it the most competitive combination for its class. It was a 1957 Chevy with an engine and transmission combo that was available that year in the Corvette model. The engine was a 283 cubic inch, rated at 245 horse power with 2- four barrel carburetors and a four speed transmission. My point is this, do you have any idea what a car matching those specs would cost today?

         The name for our class- grouping, was called by the National Hot Rod Association (N.H.R.A.), "Junior Stock." A well preserved Chevy Junior Stocker from that era just sold for over $1,000,000 on a Barrett Jackson Auction! I can hardly afford to play that game anymore! Well, look what is happening to antique bottle collecting. At a couple of the latest auctions we heard about a guy who seemingly has little knowledge or real interest in antique bottles, who purchased a few flasks, and he paid record setting prices 'simply as investments!' The logic here escapes me! It really doesn't seem any smarter then investing in baseball cards! At least you can fumble a ball card and have it hit the cement floor without worry!

        I guess if you have a large collection already, the skyrocketing prices might be good news for you, but it will push the little-guy buyer / collector, right out of the hobby! I cannot help but think that these big dollar investors are playing with a poison snake that will someday-soon turn around and bite them!

        You can slobber over them, call them "High Rollers" if you want. I am not impressed. What we have left over is the old-fashioned bottle digger, and I can tell you that his enemy list is growing daily! What was once an affordable hobby, even if you wanted to collect a few premium pieces, is slowly slipping away from many folks--- I hate to see that. When you think about these big dollar investments, these guys are salting away their money away in somebody's old garbage! Wouldn't gold be safer?

Recent Digs

         I received a recent report from our president, Chuck Parker. If ever I hated what my battle with cancer has done to me, it was when I heard that these guys dug my step- sister's house! It is all OK, I couldn't have dug it. At one time, back in the 80's, I used to own the old house that backs up to Janet's property, on the west-side to her backyard. I guess you could say that we shared the same property line. Here is where I made a mistake in my thinking. My house, on Fair Street, was built about 1907 and for some reason I had her house in the same time-frame. That was a mistake!

         Out of that pit, Chuck and Scott found a couple nice Otsego and Allegan druggist bottles that I don't have in my collection! One is a VanEck M.D. bottle from Allegan and an Eaton's Druggist from Otsego. They also found some old buttons and clay pipes.

        There is something that I think is interesting about that part of Otsego. Not far from where Chuck and Scott dug, I dug with Mark Churchill several years back. Mark has dug so many pits that he may or may not even remember this. One of my best friends owns a house on the south side of Allegan Street (M-89) just a few doors down from Wilmott Street. We probed that back yard long-and-hard and I had confidence that Mark was the best prober anywhere! ( I still feel that way) But we could not find any of the pits at that house.

        Later I reported to my friend that we didn't dig his yard and I explained the whole process in detail. My friend's name is Dale and he owns his own plumbing business. Dale lived in this house for a year or two while they built a new home west of Otsego. Since they moved into the new house, they have used the old house as a rental home. One day they had a problem with the water or sewer line running out to the street. Being a plumber Dale took care of the work himself.

        What surprised Dale was what he found nearly four feet beneath the sidewalk--- it was another sidewalk! He went on to tell me that the house has over 8 foot high ceilings in the basement! This house, and very likely the houses nearby, were in a low spot and they were all raised up to level them and the road! Somebody had to haul a lot of fill dirt in to bring the yards up to level! If we probed into the pits at all, we just touched the top of them!

        On the property where my friend built his new house, is the foundation site of a very early home that may date back to the Pine Creek Settlement days of the very early 1800's. On this property there is a very old artesian well that just keeps everything like a marsh. We have not given up on the hope of finding the old privy but it would be best to wait for a dry spell. This track along the Kalamazoo River is also known to be the route of the Civil War era Underground Railway! Lots of cool history there!

        Scott and Ed Nickerson got together to do some digging. Chuck didn't give me many details about this one, other than they found some Grand Rapids beer bottles and an old splitting maul. I have a story related to a splitting maul! They can be very collectable!

       I had a metal detector customer who was deep into the study of early American history. This guy was just as nice a person that you could ever find, and very interesting to talk to. He dedicated himself to the search for ancient hammered-copper tools and he knew where to look. Unfortunately, today, this stuff is considered Native American and it is super-rare and very illegal to deal in. One day he was driving in the Grand Rapids area when an oncoming car crossed over into his lane! There was nothing he could do to avoid a head- on collision. The vehicle that he hit was a full sized van which was much heavier than his car.

       It wasn't over yet! The impact started to set his car spinning and another oncoming car hit him again! My friend Jack was severely injured and unconscious when his car came to a stop, then erupted in flames! A guy at the scene pulled him from the burning car before it was too late. I didn't know anything about this until almost two years after the fact. Jack came into my store walking with a cane and he shared his story. He also came in to replace his metal detector and digging tools that were all lost in the wreck. Jack was not expected to live after the wreck, but he did! It took over a year of rehab just to walk again.

         A short time after he brought a new detector and had told me his amazing story, Jack had a blood clot come loose from one of his injuries and it took his life! Jack was in his 30's and his parents really took his death real hard. I sold his detector and some other gear for the family and I thought that this was the end of the story. Another year went by and Jack's father brought in several of Jack's books to give to me. I insisted on paying him something for them, but many were date-sensitive books, like coin value guides.

         I didn't have time to sort through them at the time so I just put them in a pile off to one side in my store. One day my step father came in to talk with me but I was busy with another customer, so while he waited he picked up one of the books and was looking through it.

         When I finished with my customer, I looked at Howard and he said, "I didn't know that you stocked books by Eric Sloane?"

         He was looking at one of Jack's books and he seemed really impressed with it! I told him that he could have the book if he wanted it. As it turns out Howard has all of Eric Sloane's books and he told me how much he likes them.

         Mr. Sloan is not only a good writer but he is also a great artist! The book that I have is a paperback called "A Museum of Early American Tools."

         Mr. Sloane says in his book, "Very old men, too feeble to swing an axe, were given the chore of splitting kindling from logs."

Another interesting fact is: "The saw was almost never used for cutting with the grain or lengthwise: splitting a length of wood was so much easier. A craftsman could split inch-square lengths from a large piece of wood in a fraction of the time that it would take him to saw them."

This is just part of the titles by Eric Sloane listed on Amazon.com:

A Reverence for Wood
Eric Sloane's Weather Book
Once Upon a Time: The Way America Was
Look at the Sky and Tell the Weather
The Seasons of America Past
Do's and Don'ts of Yesteryear
A Treasury of Early American Folk Wisdom
Eric Sloane's America: Paintings in Oil
 American Yesterday
Diary of an Early American Boy 1805
Eric Sloane's AbCs of Early Americana
The Cracker Barrel.

They all sound like good books to me!

          Chuck also wanted to mention that he has not recieved a report yet on the show display covering and banner from Scott and Tim. Also, all club bills are paid, including a one year club membership in the F.O.H.B.C.

         Chuck has also made a down payment on the rooms at the Kalamazoo Fair Grounds for next year's show! In fact, I can already tell you that the show will be April 9th, 2011! The show will go on even if we are all in the Poor House by then!

Meeting Theme

          YES! We do have a meeting theme! We want to see your non-glass items! You know, the neat stuff you find in the pursuit of old bottles! This would include: stoneware bottles, jars, and crocks, clay pipes, bone- handles, buttons, feminine hygiene items (forget that last one-- we do find that stuff) You get the idea!

         I just wanted to say that the part where I complained about the price of premium bottles skyrocketing is just my personal opinion and not worth much.

        Also, I am going to try to mail this on July 7th which is my 59th birthday. I mention this because I know that I am still around by God's grace. I have lost friends to cancer and sometimes that is God's will. However, had I been around in the era from whence our old bottles come from, or even just 20 years ago, I would be gone from this life. Thanks to all of you for your friendship and your prayers.
         Let us not forget that we look back to our forefathers and thank them for our liberty and freedoms. But they looked to God for our liberty and freedom. If America is going to continue to be blessed, we need to turn back to God and stop trashing Him! God Bless America in the name of Jesus! There is no shame in believing that. Perhaps the bravest guy of his time was the Apostle Paul. He stood before a Roman system that would one day soon feed Christians to lions for entertainment. He said, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." Romans 1:16
A man with a backbone!





Newsletter by:  Al Holden
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