San Diego and Riverside County, CA collections

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Apr 22, 2009
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Port Angeles, WA
I also dug a bit at the late 19th century Hemet city dump in Riverside County. I lived in east San Diego County, and using county maps from the 19th century dug old ranch dumps, walked along old wagon roads, a Butterfield Stage station dump, and walked along the San Diego and Arizona Eastern railroad looking for the original construction camps.
Welcome to the site Steve.

Looks like you assembled a nice collection of bottles and fine memories to accompany them! Unfortunately, my folks were not as accommodating as your mother, or I might have acquired the antique bottle addiction earlier than I eventually did, and might have gotten in on some digging in that same neck of the woods (if one considers yucca plants, sagebrush and Joshua trees as comprising "woods." :p)

Our family Summer vacations from the mid-1950's, through 1967 when we moved to WA, often included a drive east through Cajon Pass, thence up Highway 395 past Bishop, and usually beyond Bridgeport, to some relatively cool and watered camping destination in the High Sierras. I can remember traveling past some ghost town, south of Owens Lake I believe it was, that sat back a mile or two from the highway on the eastern side. Numerous ochre buildings still stood visible in a flat at that distance, a flat that between the abandoned town and the highway was littered with rusted old auto hulks of Model T vintage. That flat also glistened with light reflected from countless bits of glass. I can remember more than once asking my dad to drive over there so we could look around. The answer was always a consistent "No. We want to get to [Twin Lakes or some other destination] where it's nice and cool."

I can't blame my father for his preference. For we lived in Fontana at the time. Not only was the town a bit of heat-sink itself, but my dad worked in the sweltering foundry of the Kaiser Steel Plant there. However, had he had a similar fascination with "the old days" as always seemed to afflict me, I reckon we could have acquired enough premium antique bottles to fund a comfortable retirement long before he reached that age in the 1980's. You see, the earliest of those vacation trips were a few years before the antique bottle craze exploded in the wake of a big urban dump dig in Sacramento in 1959. Excavations during an urban renewal project there exposed a nineteenth century dump (I've heard that it was Gold Rush vintage, but can't confirm).

It was a chance encounter with a turn-mold whiskey bottle that was simply lying on the surface of a weedy field I had to cross when returning to camp after a day of deer hunting near Loomis, WA in 1970 that eventually rekindled my interest in old bottles. A year prior, a dorm mate at University of Alaska was shipping home a crate of bottles to his sister in the Midwest. He'd picked them up out at the site of Livingood, northwest of Fairbanks. When I questioned his shipping old bottles that far, he explained that his sister collected them and they were worth money. $$$ rang in my mind when I stumbled upon that old amber whiskey, but I quickly got hooked on the adventure and history, and I never sold a single bottle. I used my better duplicates as trading stock instead.

I found it interesting that you mentioned Hemet. I have fond memories of hunting coyotes, rabbits and quail on a ranch near there at a tiny locale named "Sage." The ranch was owned by the parents of my barber at the time. "Woody"--his last name was Woods--used to give me his older magazines as newer issues accumulated in the waiting area of his shop. Along with the craziness of "Mad" magazine, there were issues of "True West" or similar periodicals--more than fifty years passed has dulled my memory of the precise titles--among which I read the serialized story of Herman Lehmann, one of the last white captives of the Apaches. I've oft wondered Herman's "Nine Years Among The Indians" was the inspiration for "Little Big Man." Those magazines gifts from Woody did nothing to dull my interest in "the old days."

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