WOW ! What a busy last part of 1999 it has been for me. I had put the finishing touches on my 4 year long project of finishing my basement (due to my work travel I could only work on it during the weekends) and finally I got ALL of my collection up. The icing on the cake was the purchase of an old time beer can collection in New Mexico. Scott xxxx, Rick xxxxxand Mike xxxxxx had shown me this collection 10 years ago in Taos , NM. The guy was an old time collector has has been dormant the
past few years. He sold his mountain outfitters shop which had the collection displayed. Since he was moving out of the area and couldn't be there every day to see the collection or keep an eye on it , he decided it was time to dispose of it. After numerous phone calls I persuaded him to let it travel my way. Things worked out perfectly as I had a road trip to OK city (from KC) and from there I could drive to Taos and pick up the collection. Otherwise I would have had to make alternative arrangements. When I arrived , he said, 'I have 3 or 4 cases of dumpers you arewelcome to in the shed" , of course I said , :SURE" It gets even better , the 3 or 4 cases turned out to be more like 20 -30 cases of dumpers he had accumulated over the past 30 years. While we were loading them in the back of my truck , his wife says to me , "don't feel obligated to take all these cans if you don't want to",I replied "No Problem!!" After loading and filling the back of my truck , we headed over to the shop to get the collection. I had brought enough half totes to transport the collection home in the back of the cab of my truck.
While we were taking the cans off the shelf , he says to me, "You don't have enough totes, what about the cans in the other room?" HOLY COW there was another 150-200 cans I didn't even know about! The collection consisted of all flats and cones , the cones were all on-grade and the flats were IRTP or earlier. All told the collection was about 250+ cans plus all the dumpers. OK now it was time to head back home and I had an 14 hour drive through the mountains to get back home. No sooner had I left it started to rain and didn't quit until I stopped for the evening. I had planned on driving half way home and was shooting for "Amarilla " Texas for the night. Let me tell you it not only rained but really rain the whole way. "Harder than a cow pissing on a flat rock "as they say in these parts! I was worried the cardboard cases would deteriorate and the dumpers would soon start rolling all over the back of the truck but they held!. Every hour or so I would rearrange the totes in the cab so I could look at different cans during the drive. It was 10:30 PM by the time I reached "Amarilla", Texas but of course all the hotels rooms in that city were sold out for that night. I had to drive another hour and a half near the TX/OK border before I found a room. Since it was still raining so damn hard I just left the dumpers in the back of the truck for the night , thinking who the hell
would want them and second they'd get mighty wet if they did try to take them and at that point in time I couldn't care less. I did bring the collection into the hotel room with
I arrived safely home the next day and looked at some of the beauties like Ilsener, Ox Head long opener, Kool, Alt Heidelberg with "BRAND" on the front of the can (I was looking for that can forever and didn't even know it was in the collection!). All told I added or upgraded 15 new cans for my California collection and 70 new/upgrades for my IRTP/OI collection. My brother Ed got the Ilsener (different variation for him),a metallic gold Fox Deluxe OI from Chicago and the illusive BLACK EAGLE 4 panel (this guy was 2 hours west of Tommy's). So this took much of my time sorting and checking before canvention. So you can say I was at the right place at the right time.....opps that's another column!.! A few weeks later I traveled to Arizona for canvention which was a pretty good show. I didn't realize how good it was until it was time to pack and go home. When I opened my dresser drawer in the hotel room and saw all the cans I had to take home, I'm thinking just how in the heck am I going to do it!. My best acquisition was the Budweiser OI open star variation still full. It was cool to see Roy Nelsen and Matt Mengini get together. They are good friends and had only communicated through the mail or phone and had never met in person.
They each walked right by each other and had asked me if the other one was there yet! When they did meet in person it was like two long lost brothers! October brought a trip back to New Mexico. I had another lead from the some of the former owners of the Tommy's bar. "Pistol" had told me of a bar in southern New Mexico called the MANHATTEN BAR that had an old time beer can collection in it. it was an hour hour drive from Albuquerque (My base of operations since my sister and in-laws live there). I had called the owner of the bar and sure enough there was a beer can collection in there but they were not interested in selling. I still wanted to see what was in there. Not wanting to make the long drive by myself I invited my nephew ,a non-collector along for the ride. He's a grad student at UNM and his research has him tracking critters called Coatias AKA Kumagandas ( they are anteater looking things with a raccoon tail) all over southern New Mexico. He knows the southern part of the state fairly well. My plan was to take I-25 south , then over to Silver City and then the back way home through the mountains. I cant think of a more desolate drive Albuquerque to the turn off to Silver City but once off the interstate the scenery gets very nice. It was pretty much a straight drive to the Manhattan bar. About 10 miles from the place we topped at an old bar that had a killer A-1 neon out front. I asked them if we were close. The old man said '"yep just right up the road". Even this place had a small can collection probably from locals dropping off some cans here
Back on the road, im getting very anxious, visions of Manhattan brands in my head. We almost drove right by the place but sure enough there was the sign "Manhattan Bar". There were about 10-15 Harleys parked in the front of this dive bar but what the heck I made it this far , I have to go check it out. Sure enough there was a beer can collection in there but it was ALL ALUMINUM!!!!!!! uuuuuuggggggghhh I glanced over this collection in all of 2 minutes and decided it was time to leave as the bikers were giving us strange looks. What a waste , drove all this way for nothing. My thinking was they had to call it Manhattan for a good reason. I found out 2 minutes later as this whole little settlement is called Manhattan, New Mexico. My nephew saw how dejected I was and said ," not to worry as he knows of an old ghost town we can go and check out. Since it was on the way back home and not out of the way we headed off.
This town is called Mongolon. Its off the main drag by 15 miles or so and is only accessible during the summer months as the road is impassable during the winter. The scenery surrounding this place is awesome. We stopped near one abandoned building and find that its near the entrance of a mine shaft. The shaft is huge and one could drive a truck into it. It had a chain link fence in front of it but I wasn't about to go venturing in. It must have been deep as it had a good 10 mile an hour wind blowing out of it. We looked around the surrounding area and found lots of rusty junk and oil cans but no beer cans. At that time we headed for the town. driving into this town is like taking a step back into time---- false front buildings , rusting model A cars, ancient gas pumps. There was a town museum and in the window we could see a Blatz low profile cone. Unfortunately it was closed so we could not inquire about where it was found. We then started to drive through the town which had
about 20-30 old time buildings , but no sign of people. we continued driving on the old road past all these "summer " homes. We keep driving and the term "dumpy " comes to mind. I see a little pile of trash off to one side of a house and we stop to check it out. My nephew almost steps on a cone top. It turned out to be a ratty Schlitz high profile. I did mange to take a hoe along and we proceed to dig out about a case of these cones. About that time a figure comes down the road carrying a pick ax. We can't tell if its male or female. It turned out to be an old woman with this ax. She asked us what we were doing and we told her. She said we better get moving along as the owner would be back soon and wouldn't appreciate us relic hunters.
It was now getting dark and we had a 5 our drive back home so it was time to head for home. I would like to return to this place as the lady said this place had 3 or 4 bars during the 30s and 40's. We never did find any Blatz cones.
On the way back we drive by a state park where my nephews says it used to be a huge CCC camp. It even had its own boxing ring. He's been there before and says there's a trail and signs which mark the location of the camp itself including where the dumps used to be!! But again its dark and late and that'll have to wait for another time. So thanks to my nephew the trip was salvaged with the discovery of the Schiltz cones, not the hardest but at least it was something.
So here I am living in KC and I have more leads than I can shake a stick at 500 miles away in New Mexico. Thank goodness I have family there and business brings me back 4 or 5 times a year.