Updated: Jan 1
I grew up a scavenger. I must have raven in my blood, because I have always been attracted to shiny things, and like a raven, those things that held the most fascination were found, not purchased. As as young lad, I found my greatest pleasures exploring the dumps, salvage yards, and midden piles of the modern American lifestyle, gleaning the garbage and discard for treasure. I was most fond of badges, decals, and signs; iconic representations of marketing prowess and manufacturing success; Bell, GE, BMW, Porsche, Chevrolet, Wolf. These would be prized from hoods, panels, and appliances, and packed off to my “fort”, a couple of pieces of scrap plywood, leaning against an old fence.
Somewhere along the way, I stumbled across what looked like an oil can, a steel can with a conical spout on the top, but instead of the black and gold Pennzoil insignia, there, in deep ruby red letters, was written “Schlitz”. What a curious thing, and there were others in the pile as well, Grain Belt, Glueks, Berghoff, Wiedemann. There was a glorious pile of steel cans, requiring a “church key” to open, Coors, Cremo, Red Lion, Chester, Golden Crown, Genesee, Pilsengold. I was fascinated by the array of colors, the bits of rust around the rims, the vast numbers and varieties. Several hours later, and with an unwieldy box under one arm, I pedaled my Schwinn Stingray home with the first of many loads in what was to become a collecting passion and my mother’s worst nightmare. My fever for beer can collecting and perhaps my undying curiosity for all things beer, was born.
In my zeal, I sought out private dumps near the canals and unnoticed ditches near my home. Scaling fences and carefully avoiding aggressive dogs, I scoured the discarded refuse of suburban Denver in a time when most folks actually burned their trash in a home incinerator in the back yard or park. Junk became the source material for my private collection, curated with the greatest attention to detail and accuracy. It wasn’t long before my collection included exotic cans from far away places like Texas, Washington, California and Hawaii. I’ll never forget the pride I felt when I found my first “Primo” beer can, it felt so exotic, like finding a piece of the Apollo moon lander. It would be years later that I would learn it was actually produced in Los Angeles by Schlitz.