Vol. 9 No. 7                                                                                                                                 July 2011
Kalamazoo Antique Bottle Club News
Member Club F.O.H.B.C.

Mid-Summer Kazoo Club News

Last Meeting

    As usual I am sitting down to do the newsletter with a blank mind! God has his reasons for allowing things to happen, as well as causing things to happen. Why He made me with a basically blank mind remains a mystery to me after 60 years! Where did the time go?

    It seems like just yesterday when I first noticed Mark McNee was wearing paisley pants! How many of you remember those good-old-days? I thought they were pretty cool, Mark! It looked like he just stepped off the set with the Lovin' Spoonful! I guess I just had "Summer In The City" on my mind! "All around people looking half dead, walking on the sidewalk hotter than a match head!"

    Another one of my favorites was "Do You Believe In Magic?" I am showing my age!

    At our last meeting we saw: Dee Cole, Scott Hendrichsen, Mary Hamilton, Chuck Parker, Bill Drake, Ed Nickerson, and Al Holden.

    It is a little too hot to do much digging! At least it is too hot for me! For some reason the meeting attendance has been way down. When I first joined the club, several years ago, there were no summer meetings.

    Compared to the metal detecting club that I belong to, the bottle club has always been much smaller. I used to figure that, by not having meetings year-around, it was having an effect on faithful attendance. Another observation I made was the difference between the Grand Rapids Metal Detecting club and the one we have in Plainwell. The G.R. club membership has always been around 20 people and the Plainwell club around 200. Why the big difference? I thought I had it figured out. The Grand Rapids club meets at different locations during the summer. By doing that, the better part of their meetings are spent metal detecting and enjoying the great outdoors together.

    Our club did that for a number of years but we eventually outgrew that option. When 80+ people show up somewhere to metal detect, it can really overwhelm any location! So we meet inside at the same location month-after- month and year-after-year. I had long figured that was a key to the club's success! It is a lot easier to find a group if they are not moving around every month. That makes the job of recruiting new members a whole bunch easier!

    Yep, I thought I had it all figured out! So, when we started having year around meetings with the bottle club, I figured the club would surely grow. Well, it isn't happening and there has been a lot of discouragement. So, maybe I was wrong. Perhaps we need to go back to cutting out the summer meetings--- maybe there was some wisdom in that after all.

    That is one of the issues we are faced with. We really need to make some decisions regarding the future of the club. We have seen visitors wander into our meetings this summer, and everyone of them has shown a real interest in antique bottles. But they don't seem to be interested enough to join. With our meetings down to about 5 or 6 people and membership at an all time low . . . well, what to do?

    The Library has raised the price of our room rental to $25.00 per month. So it was suggested that we have our meetings at the the 'Denny's' on Sprinkle Road. The only cost would be that they would like everyone to at least order a beverage. For most of us, that is on the far side of town and we have one member who rides the bus to meetings. In the winter months traveling to that location may be far more challenging!

    Regarding the higher library fee, it was pointed out that, besides paying our usual meeting room rate, we have made regular donations to the Library of about $150.00 annually, which will need to end. I don't think the Library will even care about that, but it is one of the options that we have to consider whether we stay there or not. We already had to cut out our $20.00 bottle raffle because it was costing the club too much. Some felt the bottles added to the free raffle were usually a grouping of $3.00 bottles. The winner always did end up with $20.00 worth of bottles, but unless they were just starting a collection, there didn't seem to be the interest. (Nobody is saying that anyone was short-changed, mind you.)

    I told the group that I would try to put up a Face Book page for the bottle club and I am hoping to get to work on that soon. That will be extra work I am afraid, because any social forum will take some "moderating." If we don't have club members who will use the Face Book page and answer questions as they come in, the interest in the page will fade quickly!

    I guess the question that we have been asking is, how do we get new people interested in the club, or bottle collecting in general? Man! I have struggled with that question! I guess we need to go back to the very beginning of the club to see what interested most of us to start with.

    I was aware of the club from the very start because I knew Ernie Lawson and Jack Short. Ernie and Jack talked about bottle digging all the time and I just couldn't understand the fascination. Then I met Jerry and Mark Churchill and I was even more exposed to the bottle digging excitement.

    Finally the whole thing started to make sense to me . . . it was another form of treasure hunting! These guys were all finding treasure that they simply had to dig for! Apart from the labor involved, they were finding valuables for free! The word spread about these free antique treasures and soon more and more people entered the act! It didn't matter if you sold your treasure or not! Just knowing that old bottle with the kidney-shaped panel was a Doctor Killer's Swamp Root bottle, and it was just as good as a $5.00 bill, and you paid nothing for it! Wow!

    Pretty soon the excitement led to a newspaper article! As a result, Jack and Ernie received a phone call from a guy in Gobles who had located a bottle that was worth several hundred dollars . . . word started spreading like wildfire! It is all about finding something that has value for nothing! How can we respark that interest in people? If people could find bottles like they did in the good-old-days, the interest may rekindle.

    Frankly, I feel that Doctor Kilmer and Lydia Pinkham and Bitterquelle bottles have found their way back into collector's hands in far too great numbers! The hobby is awash in the more common antique bottles and the bottles that have real value are not something the average guy is going to stumble upon. The accessability of many bottles has become so easy because of online sites like e-Bay. Most people feel like back-breaking digging is foolish.

    I have nothing against old fashioned privy digging--- that is one of the best grab-bag treasure hunts there is! But it is a lot like gardening. By the time the critters eat up all the seeds that you planted, then you give up and pay for potted plants, roto-till the soil, water and weed, water and weed --- well, it is a lot cheaper to buy those homegrown tomatoes, cukes and squash at a roadside stand!

    So, we have a lot to talk about. Maybe everyone is afraid to say, or even think it, but does the club even have a future at all? Even if we do find another meeting place, frankly, the club couldn't support the newsletter if it were called on to do so. I'm not asking for support. I'm just trying to make a point. We need to hear from you. We are interested in your thoughts!

Garden Cost

I have a little patch where I put in a small garden each year. I have to go with potted plants because something in my backyard will dig up every single seed I plant without fail. This year I thought I would remove him (chipmunk?) from the picture by using pre-potted plants. I was surprised to find everything I was looking for in potted plants at the local garden center, including sweet corn! We live near Kalamazoo Central High School in a very busy neighbor- hood. So now, my little seed eater hasn't been a threat, but we have a new neighbor who likes corn plants . . . a deer!

I was nearly killed this year because of my garden. Last year my mother gave me her old rear-tine roto-tiller. She is a first class gardener! She has some small trees she likes to till around for flower beds and she accidentally dented up the air cleaner housing. She didn't realize the damage that was done and the air cleaning qualities were lost! The carburetor was sucking in dust and grit like a vacuum cleaner! So when I got the tiller it needed a motor. It just so happened I had a new motor on hand that I had purchased for a mini bike project. It was a little more powerful then what I needed, but it was a bolt-on fit.

It did a pretty good job the first time that I used it. Every now and then it would hit a buried stone and that would cause it to shoot off like a rocket! It came back down to earth after hitting each stone! I pretty well got all the rocks out of the way that first year. And maybe because of that, I had let my guard down this year.

The tiller has a foreward-positioned motor and the roto-tillers are in the rear just ahead of the drive wheels. The drive wheels turn at a rate about three times slower then the tillers. What you have to remember is to lift the handlebars high and keep the rotating tillers high off the ground as you travel across the lawn. I forgot about that! As I started leaving the garden the tiller took off at high speed! Everything went in fast motion! I was still holding the handlebars, but the thing was going too fast for me to just lift up the handles --- I was in a full run!

The other option was to pull a lever that would take the tiller out of gear. It was hard for me to do that because it would mean I had to remove one hand from the handles and, if I failed to pull it out of gear, the thing might not stop until it ran out of gas! I could just see entry and exit holes in every home this out-of-control machine came to!

With every last ounce of strength that I had, I released the handle with one hand and reached for the gear disengage rod and pulled it out!

The whole thing came to a halt like a stone! I didn't stop! I still had one hand on the handle, and the roto-tiller started into a forward flip and I was going with it! When the drive was disengaged, the wheels stopped and so did the tiller! They stopped spinning just as I ran into the tines with my belly!

I went into a roll and somehow managed to avoid having the roto-tiller come down on top of me! If the tillers had been spinning I would have been skinned and disembowelled in less then a second! The noisy engine killed and I laid in the grass about ten feet away. The whole neighborhood was dead quiet!

I expected people to run from every direction yelling, "Are you alright, Al?"

There was nothing but silence . . . only God saw my moment of stupidity! I lay there for about five minutes with my thoughts. I have suffered through a knock-down-drag-out battle with cancer but I have never broken a bone. I was afraid that had just changed! Slowly I pulled myself together and stood up--- nothing was broken! That is when I realized that not only had God seen it, He was involved!

It was less than two weeks later that a city-deer paid me a visit to thank me for the tender sweet corn.

My advice is to dig more bottles at American Glass Galley --- it may save your life!


I was packed and ready to leave on vacation at the last club meeting. Originally I had planned on being on the road before the last meeting, but we had to wait until my granddaughter's school to let- out for the summer. Her last day was on the 18th, but we managed to get permission from the school to leave a day early.

As usual, we pulled our trailer and headed to the west side of the beautiful Michigan's U.P. where my wife was raised.

We have developed a routine for our travel that usually works really good. We try and start early in the day and that never happens. As a rule we are on the road by noon, about 6 hours behind schedule. We take our two cats over to my mother's for a few days and drop them off in Otsego. I never feel like I am really on my way, until we get on U.S. 131 pointed towards Grand Rapids.

My wife grew up in a neat little western U.P. town that has always been tiny by most standards. So, she loves to drive in Grand Rapids and Chicago. I hate it! Especially when I am pulling a travel trailer! I am always so happy to put those G.R. "S" curves behind me and it isn't until I pass the Whitecapp's ball park that I start to settle in and feel like I am on vacation.

Boy I cannot wait! I have some great plans for this trip because last year our trip as a nightmare. I left for the U.P. in 2010 just a couple days after my final cancer surgery and I was one sick puppy! I remember getting out of our truck at my in-laws and I practically rolled out onto the ground dead! In my mind I wanted to do all of 'these things' but all my body wanted to do was sleep!

This year was going to be different! I was going to make up for lost time! I am still pretty weak, and my stamina is still pretty low, but I am learning to pace myself. I packed two underwater metal detectors, my long-handle beach scoop, my wetsuit, bottle probe --- all the toys!

A few years back my Father-in-Law took me to an old ghost town location which is about 5 miles from their house. One day when he had to work, I had strapped my probe and shovel onto my mountain bike and took the long ride to that location. When we drove to the site it seemed so close, but on a bike it was a slow climb up a five mile hill! About half way up I was pedaling the bike in low gear creeping along an inch at a time, huffing and puffing all the way!

I was startled when some seasoned bike rider blew by me on that long grade! He past me as if I wasn't moving at all! Another thing I noticed on the bike ride, that I didn't notice in the truck, was that the entrance into the ghost town site was not on top of the hill it was down on the bottom, on the other side of the hill! By the time I got back into the woods to dig, I was pretty much wasted! And this was when I was still healthy!

I did drive by the site this year and I was happy to see that it has been recently logged. Every time I had been out there I have spooked up a bear! This vacation was in June when the mother bear can be walking with her cubs and that can be a bad thing!

Well, this hidden ghost town is going to have to wait yet another year. Our vacation trip this year was nearly 8 solid days of heavy thunderstorms! The only time it wasn't pouring was when we were driving! And even then it was raining! It was good to get away, and great to see the in-laws, but being cooped-up with an 8 year old saying, "Grandpa I'm board."

Well, I love her, but I want to see her happy! It won't be long and she will be digging with grandpa!

The Kalamazoo Antique Bottle Club meets at the main downtown Kalamazoo Library, located at 315 South Rose Street. We meet on the third floor in the conference room. This meeting is July 12th. Meeting starts at 7:00 pm. For questions e-mail prostock@net-link.net

Or call 269-685-1776