Vol. 3 No. 10                                                                          OCTOBER 2005

Written by Allan Holden  Edited by Debbie Holden



    Because of a very busy spring and summer schedule, one which included the state's largest local show and Michigan's first national show, we completely overlooked the real important issues like a club picnic!

    Well, here is some news that you can sink your teeth into! The club will convene for our October meeting at Kalamazoo's best pizza parlor, Bimbo's Pizza in downtown Kalamazoo! Bimbo's address is 338 East Michigan, right across from the former location of B. Desenberg & Sons Wholesale Grocers. For those of you who are not old enough to remember the 1880's bottler of, "The Best Bitters in America,"you might better recognize this as the current location of the Y.W.C.A. Bimbo's is across the street.

    Trust me: they make the best pizza around! And the inside of the Bimbo's building is just as it appeared in the 1880's!

    We will meet at Bimbo's for our meeting at the usual time of 7:00. We will be covering club business as usual, and the only rule that will be strictly enforced will be, "No talking with your mouth full!" That should slow our president down some! We are also inviting each of you to bring in your latest bottle finds and bottle digging stories.

This is a 'member's only' event so if you are not up to date with your membership, we can take care of that before we assign you a napkin! We expect to have a good turnout and we hope you can make it to this very special meeting.

Last Meeting!

    As I recall, at our first meeting of the 2004 season, we only had two or three in attendance. Things were different this time! The September 2005 meeting's rollcall received a "here" response from: Ed Nickerson, Bill Johnson, Chuck Parker, Beatrice Young, Tim Hayes, Scott Hendrickson, and yours truly, Al Holden. I have to admit that sometimes I see folks who are at the meeting in spirit only-- it's a gift!

    It was neat to see the Nickerson name back on our membership list after losing Duane recently. Ed Nickerson had a large assortment of bottles for sale and I picked up some nice ones. "Are they rare?" you ask.

    I'm afraid that I haven't a clue! I simply add stuff to my collection based on what I like and not based on what is rare. That method makes collecting more affordable-- usually.

    I picked up three neat dairy bottles and two of them I cannot link to any dairy by name. Maybe you can help me by sharing what you know about these bottles. All three are half pints, and one says " 3¢" six times around the neck and there is a large 3¢ embossed on two sides. On the bottom of the side panel, it says "Store Bottle."

    The second bottle simply says, "A Bottle of Milk is a Bottle of Health." And if you think date coding products is something new, this bottle says, "Sealed January 11, 1914!"

    The third bottle that I picked up is a half pint with a slug plate that reads, "Lansing Farm Products Co," with the letters "F P" on the base.

    I also picked up a Bronze bank in the form of a majestic roaring lion that reads, "Harris Trust and Savings Bank." Whomever last entered the bank, jimmied up the bottom door, but it looks repairable. What is neat about this bank is that the coin slot has a spring loaded 'one-way' trap that allows coins to go in, but not out without a key. This one way flap is cut with a jagged, sawtooth design, as if to intimidate young bank robbers! In a way, I feel bad about buying the bank because, after I told Ed that I would buy it, I realized that Beatrice had her eye on it. I tried to let my friend Beatrice have it, but she declined.

    So, just what did these 4 treasures cost me? How does $12.00 sound? I think I got a great deal! I'm sure Ed will be back with more treasure deals at the pizza party.

    Speaking of wheelers and dealers, we missed Kevin at the last meeting. At the national show, he didn't get any offers on his antique oak McCourt Label Cabinet filled with 1920's druggist labels.

    Right after he bought it, he displayed it at a fall bottle club meeting and I was impressed to say the least. At that meeting, Kevin was throwing around some figures of what he thought he could sell this amazing drugstore collectable for. Of course I didn't have a clue what the thing was worth, but the dollar amount he was suggesting sounded way too cheap to me.

    I told Kevin that I felt that his treasure was worth much more than he thought. I promised him that if he could not get more money than that at either the Kalamazoo Show or the National Show, I would personally buy it for his initial price.

    I had a feeling when Kevin rolled up to my shop the day after the National Show that I was about to see what it is like to put my money where my mouth is!

"A deal is a deal!" I told Kevin.

    Kevin told me that the cabinet drew a lot of attention, but nobody went reaching for their checkbooks. And he said that if I still wanted, it he would take $100.00 less than my original offer! Isn't it good to have friends! Well, I could not be happier with my purchase! However, I still might see what this treasure will fetch on e-bay sometime this winter.

    I already have some marketing ideas. The first thing that I thought of as I stared in a trance at the beautiful label cabinet, was of my favorite Christmas movie, "It's A Wonderful Life."

    Do you remember when the half-drunk, brokenhearted, druggist, Mr. Gower up pulled a label from his label cabinet and put it on the wrong bottle? The medication was for a sick child and the correct label with dose instructions was now on a bottle of poison! As you may recall, he handed it to young George Bailey, his delivery boy, and told him rush it to the home of the sick child.

    Of course, the sharp, young George picked up on the problem and he explained to Mr Gower the mistake he had just made. This angered the druggist and he struck George on his bad ear. Then he realized the George was right and had saved his life, so to speak.

    Later in the movie, George meets, Clarence, his guardian angel, and he gets a chance to see what Bedford Falls would have been like if there had never been a George Bailey.

    Sure enough, if George wasn't there to stop that terrible mis-labeling incident, Mr. Gower's life was destroyed and he was reduced to the town drunk, only to be ridiculed and laughed at.

    Could this be the same label cabinet? Maybe that explains the strange carving on the bottom, G.B.! So, what is my bid?

    Much of the talk at the last meeting was about the Federation's national show in Grand Rapids. Everyone was in agreement that it was the best experience of their collecting careers. Everyone agreed that John Pastor is really the new name for Clark Kent, aka Superman!

    We missed you at the meeting, John. You sure received a lot of praise and rightfully so! Oh how I wished that I could have made it to that show!

    Scott Hendrickson was awestruck! He only stopped talking about the great displays long enough to relate how that the best part for him was to rub elbows with the great icons of the hobby. Chuck Parker and I were mystified at this reaction of unbridled worship! After all, Scott has been hanging around the two of us for so long, you would think that only God could impress him!

    The next time Scott is in the bottom of an outhouse pit that he just dug, I think I'll ask him to look up and use his imagination. If he pictures the old one-holer above him with one of these idols on the throne, maybe he will then realize that to God we all look the same. After all, where would these "Big Shooters," as Scott refers to them, be without the backbone of this hobby, us lowly diggers. Well, I'll tell you, "Up a creek without a paddle!"

    Scott was down in Saint Louis visiting a mutual friend of ours for a few days. These two former trouble makers were checking local antique shops. One of these shop buildings was an antique in and of itself. The owner was in the process of expanding the old building and he had the back room roped off, where construction had already begun. Of course Scott, ever the treasure hunter, had to peek into the off-limit area and he saw that the old flooring had been torn up. The ground under the old floor was littered with old bottles!

    Scott asked the storekeeper if he could go back and check some of the old bottles. Unfortunately, he was given a firm No. However, the store owner did bring out a bucket of old bottles that he could look through, and he picked out some neat old painted- label sodas.

    Scott also bought a deep violet canning jar and we all told him that it was a fantasy piece or reproduction. He refused to take that as a final judgement. Since then, Scott spoke with an expert and learned that the bottle is the real McCoy, but it has been radiated somehow to produce the deep violet color. It is indeed a beautiful bottle.

    I believe it was Chuck or Tim who told us about a man from Portland, Michigan, who was tearing down an old building when he found a lime green Drake's Plantation Bitters bottle. This rare- colored cabin bitters was sold to a collector for $2,000. It was resold at the National Show for $10,500! It pays to know your stuff!

    In last month's newsletter, I told you about a bottle that Kevin Seigfried found on top of a dirt pile at one of the many Kalamazoo construction sites. It was a pontiled Genseng Panacea bottle. Kevin sold that bottle at the National Show for $250.

    Well, it gets even better! Ed Nickerson was checking out some dirt piles at the old Lincoln School when he pulled a strap- sided flask from Detroit from a dirt pile. Ed learned that it was a rare bottle and he decided to add it to his personal collection! Unfortunately, his vehicle broke down and he needed some quick cash to get it repaired. That bottle sold for $420.!

       How about you? Do you have any bottle stories to share? I hope you can make it down to the pizza parlor and share your stories with your friends!

Reward Paid!

    A good friend of mine, Gary Nicholls, has been metal detecting for several years. Gary is one of the detector users who prefers to hunt in the water with a fully waterproof detector. Gary and his wife Vicki own a beautiful 32-foot fishing charter boat that they dock in on the Black River in South Haven. Just a few weekends back, Gary stayed on the boat overnight because he had an early morning charter. As he was getting ready for the fishing trip, he received word that the party had to cancel.

    Not one to crawl back in bed, Gary grabbed his metal detector and long-handled scoop and headed for the North Beach for some early morning treasure hunting before the crowds showed up. After spending some time in the surf, Gary was able to recover some coins and a gold man's ring. It's not unusual to find a gold ring like this; in fact, water hunters expect to. Over the years Gary has found hundreds.

    As Gary was loading his gear into the back of his truck, a young lady who was jogging by stopped to talk to him.

"Hey, did you find the diamond ring?" she asked.

    Gary was surprised by her question. "What diamond ring?" he asked.

"The one on the reward poster in the concession stand."

    Gary told the young lady that he wasn't aware of the reward poster and thanked her for the tip. It was too early for the concession stand to open, so Gary decided to check back later that day.

    Sure enough! There was a reward poster with a description of the lost ring and a Chicago phone number. Gary made a note of the phone number and, as soon as he could, he called the man who had lost the ring.

    Gary told the man that he would be happy to search for the ring, but he needed more information to help narrow down the search area. The North Beach at South Haven is a big area and Lake Michigan is pretty big itself!

    The man told Gary that he and his wife had rented the second cottage from the north end of the beach front drive, right behind the concession stand. From the cottage, they went straight out into the lake and were in chest-deep water. When the ring was lost, there was some high wave action and the couple was jumping up and down as the waves passed.

    Armed with this information, Gary went back into the big lake as soon as it was calm. Starting in shoulder deep water, he started hunting a north-south pattern that zig zagged him back towards shore. From time to time, Gary would get a hit but, because of his detector's tone identification system, he knew that what he was hearing were coins, before he even scooped them up.

    Soon Gary was in chest-deep water, he tightened his search pattern and a few more newer coins were recovered. Then he got that rich tone that is expected from a target in the ring range. Gary pinpointed the target, then used his scoop to bring up the find. As the water and sand drained from the scoop, Gary saw a big platinum ring with three rows of ten diamonds per row! There was no question about it! This was the ring exactly as described on the poster!

    Gary calmly walked over to the concession stand and asked the attendants for the reward poster.

    "Did you find the ring?" one of the girls asked. Gary showed them the ring and explained that he felt that the poster should come down so that other hunters wouldn't waste time searching.

    Gary called the man to tell him the good news and to ask him how he wanted it shipped back to him.

    At first the man was in total disbelief! "Are you sure you found it?"He kept asking!

    Gary assured him that there couldn't be another platinum ring with 30 square-cut diamonds in the entire lake and he was holding it in his hand as they spoke.

    "Forget about shipping, I'm coming to pick it up personally! I can be there in a couple hours."

    As it turned out the man wasn't able to leave town as he had hoped to, so he called Gary back and told him that he has parents who live in Kalamazoo and he would send them to pick it up. After they decided on a place to meet, the man asked Gary how he wanted the reward money. He suggested a check, money order, or cash. Gary told the man to use whatever worked best for him.

    The parents were just as excited as anyone to see the recovered ring! They expressed their gratitude as they explained that the ring had sentimental value. Then they presented Gary with the $1,000 reward!

Slow Thinker

    The village of Schoolcraft has been replacing streets and sidewalks in the downtown district and the treasure hunters have been having a heyday detecting coins from the 1800's. At our club campout last week, one of our friends, Greg, told us that he was approached by a police officer and told that what he was doing was not allowed.

    What puzzled everyone after hearing his story was that he was the only one to be told this. Many hunters have been working the area since then and they were not approached by anyone telling them to leave.

    After Greg gave the officer his name and other information, he was told that if he came back to detect he would be ticketed. Shortly after the officer left, Greg thought of something that he should have said. So he drove to the police station to tell the man that the treasure hunters had asked for and were granted permission to hunt the area.

    Do you ever do that? You know, think of all the things that you should have said when it is too late?

    Back when I was selling R V's at my father's business, I sold a 33-foot trailer to a retired couple from Grand Rapids. I sold a lot of trailers and motor homes to so many people that it was hard to remember names or even faces, though I wanted to.

    This couple I did remember because they were especially nice and a pleasure to deal with. Some folks are so nice that you don't feel like you 'made a sale,' but rather like you 'made a friend.'

    I think that this couple told their family about how much they liked dealing with us and I was to learn about this in a most bizarre way after they both had perished.

    After traveling around the south during the winter months, they found a place to settle in for their yearly winter retreat. The place they picked was in New Mexico. As they were making their way to a favorite RV resort they were traveling along a freeway when a large semi passed them at a high rate of speed, causing the trailer to go into a sway. The more the driver tried to correct the problem, the worse it became. Finally the trailer flipped onto its side, which caused the Suburban to roll. There were eye witnesses who said that one of the propane tanks rolled under the tow vehicle and exploded in a ball of fire, causing the couple to be burned to death. It is a horrible picture I know.

    The family secured a lawyer and sued everyone they could think of, which is usually the case. The strange thing was that they didn't sue my fathers business! I was called by a lawyer and was told that I needed to give a deposition. My father had since passed away and the business had been sold, so I was the only one who could do this.

    The family had sued General Motors, Fleetwood Industries (the trailer's manufacturer), Reese Hitches, Easelift Sway Control company, and others. They flew lawyers from each of these multimillion dollar- corporations into Kalamazoo to get my deposition and we met at the Radison Hotel.

    Frankly, I was scared! I was so afraid that I would say the wrong thing or forget some detail or, worst of all, somehow implicate myself or my family.

    It was about two and a half hours of non-stop questioning. These high dollar Detroit lawyers were grilling me with questions which I answered truthfully and they didn't like what they were hearing!

    "You mean to tell us that, after you showed these people how to work their hitch and other towing accessories, you didn't have them sign a release form?"one asked.

"What do you mean when you say that you agreed with a hand shake?" another spouted.

    After fielding what seemed like a thousand questions, finally the family's lawyer wrapped things up by thanking me for my time. So did the other lawyers.

    Then the family's lawyer said. "There is one last thing that we would like you to do. I have some pictures of the wrecked trailer and tow vehicle. I would like you to look at them and make any comments that you care to."

    With that he laid out six pictures that really told of the true horror of what we were dealing with. When I looked at the Suburban, I felt like my heart was in a vice that was being tightened. It was a horrible scene. I was surprised to see that the trailer had no fire damage, to speak of. In fact, it look very salvageable.

    My father never liked the Easelift hitch, but he felt that their friction sway control was the best. Furthermore, he didn't care for the Reese Straight Line sway control, but he felt that they made the best hitch, so that was the combination we used: Reese hitches and Easelift sway controls. If you ever look at a hitch that uses these friction sway controls, you will notice what looks like a small hitch ball off to the side of the regular trailer ball. The sway control fits over the small ball and onto another small ball that is fastened to side of the trailer tongue.

    When the trailer is towed, the sway control acts like a break or stiffening device to prevent sway. As the trailer is turned, these small balls act as swivel points for the sway control. On trailers over 25 feet long, we used two sway controls, one on each side of the trailer tongue.

    "Why in the name of heaven didn't you show me these pictures first!" I demanded.

    You could have heard a pin drop and every eye was trained on me as they awaited my next words.

    "You can see that this man took good care of his equipment," I said. "Most people don't take the time to keep their trailer's tongue painted like he did."

"How do you know that isn't the original paint?"

    Because if it was the original paint there would not be any paint on the sway control balls. I can assure you that it left our lot with two sway controls attached and you cannot drive around the block without the paint coming off the balls.

"What are you saying?"

    "I'm saying that since he painted the trailer tongue, he hasn't used either of his sway controls."

    Well, that was the end of that case. The GM and Fleetwood lawyers took my name and contact information and told me that they might contact me in the future to work as a professional witness. It's been about ten years now and I am still waiting by the phone.

    As I have observed people over the years, it has struck me that many who are quick thinkers would have handled this differently. Suppose I wouldn't have been so anxious to show off my wisdom and display my pride. Instead I could have called the lawyers for the defendants into a private conference and told them for $20,000 from each of them I could put an end to this here and now. I saved their clients several million dollars at the very least. Of course I thought of this one decade to late.

    My wife tells me that I didn't think of this because I am not that kind of person. Maybe nice guys do finish last because of a slow brain.