Sunday, December 27, 2009


It was Aug. of 1977 when I first scoped-out the property where several 1890's Victorian houses stand. Being located in the heart of the central district of a very old Northern Cal town, I suspected there may have been an earlier home or even several earlier homes on this property well before the 1890's. A look at the older Sanborn maps quickly confirmed my theory, showing just one house sitting in the middle of where three Victorians now stand. Next step was to obtain permission to search for empty bourbon containers. After getting the usual "run around" from several different tenants, I was told the owners lived a few blocks away. I knocked on their door, and a nice older oriental gentleman answered the door. I gave him my spiel, and he nodded his head many times in agreement to what I was asking to do. Just as I was thinking "wow, that was easy", an older lady appeared out of nowhere next to the door, and she wasnt happy. She started yelling at him in her native tongue and literally karate kicked him in the ass right in front of me. I felt sorry for the poor guy, as he now started to motion his head towards me in the "no, no" manner. Well, that was that. Over the next 15 yrs I stopped by and talked to them several more times, hoping the lady had just been visiting or had moved away. No such luck, as she was always there, and shut the door on me a little sooner each time I showed up. I even had one of my partners call them about 10 yrs ago ! Of course, she answered...

Well, last month I saw what I'd been hoping for the past 32 yrs.... a "SOLD" sign on the front of the places. A few phone calls later, my partner and I had permission to dig ! The 'waiting game' finally paid off. I had outlasted the wicked witch from the far east !

This past Saturday we headed out for the town and the lot. The only downer was that there were now 2 concrete carport slabs in the backyard. When I first scoped-out the place 30 + yrs ago, it was wide open. A closer look revealed a 3 foot wide dirt boarder around 3 sides of the slab. I just KNEW this place had to have good bottles..... it had to. If you wait 32 yrs, something good has to be cooking in there for all that time, or so we seem to always think ! I had to stay optimistic, since I was determined to get bottles from that yard after waiting so long. I probed one side of the strip next to the slab, and my partner probed the other strip on the West side. Bummer, there was also 'fill' added to the lot, probably when they put in the carports. Geez.....I was now thinking, "can this dig get any worse" ?? Oh, and if you guys know what 'clean fill' is... this wasn't it. The fill was 2-3 feet deep and consisted of a foot of broken concrete pcs on top followed by dirt with rocks below. About an hour later my partner announced he had 2 privy sites located in the strip on the West side that he was working. It took him an hour of attempting to snake the probe around all the BS to thoroughly probe the 50' long narrow 3' wide strip.

After throwing chunks of concrete off of the top of where the 2 privies were located, shovels were now whaling dirt from both holes that were opened-up simultaneously. The hole closer to the house site appeared newer right off the bat, with lots of evidence up high. Not a good sign, in two respects... new and possibly ABD. The other hole was a little further back and was clean until about 4 1/2 feet, where it broke into a layer of bottles layed-in side by side. They were mostly late 80's -early 90's, and the best part was it hadnt been dug. It was non-ABD ! The first pit continued to produce nothing but shards, and upon hitting the bottom at about 7', we officially declared it 'Double ABD" ! My partner in the non-ABD hollared out... "I got an embossed coffin flask" ! That's always exciting, as any seasoned digger knows they turn-up far too seldom, and you're always expecting every coffin to be just another 'slick'. I'm hovering over the hole now, just like an over zealous property owner does to us on occasion, trying not to give my partner a dirt pile shower. He holds it up, and it's an intact clear slug-plate Phoenix coffin, and we agree that things are now looking up.

I'm now up in front of the carports working on opening a 'floater hole' out in the center of the yard. About every 10 mins my partner is shouting "it's jammed" ....... and I can hear the clanking and ringing of the plates and broken bottles being tossed out of his pit. I started feeling like a rabbit jumping out of my hole every 15 mins to see the latest find in his pit. My hole was late 60s-early 7'0's but very sparse and unexciting compared to the other hole, especially when he yells out " cobalt soda showin". I hop out again, and by the time I get over the piles and peek down, it's already out, and it's a broken Owen Casey. This was significant though, as we both knew we now had entered the "golden age for bourbons".... the mid to late 1870's ! Back in my pit, I hit onto a nice unusual Underwood's peppersauce bottle that appears to have just missed pontil. Next, I come across a broken Walker's V.B. in deep green. About 20 mins later I hear another shout from the other hole, "I got an embossed 1/5 showin". I do my rabbit out of the hole routine, and I'm hovering again. It's broken...... he says " looks like an olive green Star/Shield", and hands the base up to me. I rub the rest of the soil off and look at it, quickly noticing that the base is plain and the "R"s are curved. Knowing that only the varient 3 star-base Star/Shield has curved "R"s, I quickly determine

it to be a broken S.H.M. and announce the news to my partner. He pauses and looks up at me in amazement. Things have now changed once again for the better, as we both realize we are in a potentially high-powered whiskey hole ! More 70s bottles come out, meds, several hairs, and utilities. I jump back into my hole and polish the bottom off shortly soon after, as it was only 4' deep and very sparse. Pulling down the upper walls, I come across a broken Garland's Cough Drops in killer dark fire aqua with a single collar flying saucer top that has a sloppy long drip on one side. What a gem that one would've been ! Moments later, I hear the all too familiar shout "I got another fifth showin". I quickly jump out again and watch the slow process of digging around the bottle. This time he can see the Fleur de Lis monogram and we both know it's another S.H.M. Meanwhile, hearts are pounding ,until he gets just below the shoulder on one side and says "it's broken". Looking at it, I could see it was from the exact same olive colored batch of SF glass as the first broken one, and even more amazing, probably was from the same batch as another olive example I found nearby over 25 yrs ago. We're bummed, but know there is still more hole left. Minutes later another whiskey comes out, and this time it's whole, but it's just an unembossed 1/6 with a gnarly off center glob top. A good find on any normal day, but not when you are digging S.H.M.'s in olive green-amber !!

Even though we didnt score the killer intact 1/5, the "waiting game" still paid off for me. Just finally being able to dig that place, know what was buried there, and to have all the fun and excitement of almost finding 2 olive S.H.M's was worth it in itself. Whether it be digging, or waiting for a good 1/5 to come your way to purchase, the "waiting game" is a necessary evil, and more often than not, worth playing !

Comparison photo of one of the recently dug broken S.H.M's and another example found 25 yrs ago nearby...most likely from same batch of SF Glass. Could there be more ???


  1. They sure look like the same mold, great color ,keep diggin that area a hole one might show up good luck

  2. keep diggin're constantly pulling top-shelf glass !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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