A digging escapade that was quite humorous at the time took place on Lincoln's birthday 1969 in the center of Chinatown, San Francisco on Grant Ave., formerly Dupont St. A bottle digger friend of mine contacted me one evening to tell me about an old building on Grant Ave. that had recently been torn down. He had to be out of town on business and that I should check it out.

That very next evening after work I loaded my Jeep up with my digging stuff and headed for San Francisco. Parked in the Portsmouth Square underground garage, grabbed my shovels and probe and took the elevator up to the Grant Ave. level. The demolition area was directly across the street from the New Empress Restaurant, now "Rare Art and Antiques". I got lots of looks and stares as people didn't know what to make of this guy walking down the street with the tourists, wearing old coveralls and carrying a couple shovels and a probe.

Fortunately, it was only a half a block to the lot. The gate consisted of two hinged four by eight sheets of half inch plywood held together in the center by two nails and bailing wire. They were hanging so crooked, I just squeezed between them. The lot was a tiny plot about thirty by forty feet and right in the center stood a big D-9 bulldozer. How it could maneuver in such a small area is beyond me.

Well, I started probing in likely looking spots and right between two rows of foundation concrete my probe slid down with no effort. Probed a couple more times in the same area and hit the old familiar glass "clink". I began shoveling and about only two feet down started hitting broken pottery, bones and ashes and then beautiful graphite pontilled sodas. Unfortunately the Cudworths and Italian sodas I dug here were sold to Bob West in the late Seventies. Pictured are a green J. Reynolds & Co: Bottlers mineral water (Eastern) and a Superior "B&G" San Francisco Mineral Water

All the while I was busy digging, kids up on the roof of a building behind me were tossing firecrackers down into the demo lot. Chinese New Years was not far off. You can imagine the noise being surrounded by brick buildings on three sides! A little more digging and I'm bringing up cherry toothpaste pots and lids

and more old cobalt blue and emerald green sodas. I remember digging one green and one blue "Italian Soda Works" blob top soda. I had two slug plate "Cudworth San Francisco, Cala." sodas along with a couple of emerald green "J. Reynolds & Co:" sodas. One J. Reynolds is shown above.(Unfortunately I had an emergency in 1976 and was forced to sell a large portion of my collection, along with some of my Chinatown treasures.)

I was down now to about four feet working my probe to feel for more glass, when a voice startled me saying, "What's goin' on in here?" I looked up and saw a large business looking man and I thought, "Oh Man, I'm busted!" Luckily, I had on my work coveralls and a hard hat so I figured I might bluff my way out. I told him I was testing the compactness of the soil in the lot. He then asked what was being built and how tall? At this point I figured he was just a sidewalk superintendent, so I said, "Oh, she's going to be a ten story high rise hotel." He said "Thanks, have a good day" and squeezed out through the plywood gate.

At the bottom of this privy, I pulled out some nice stone inks, Stone mustard or chutney, Bennington and Agate hand made marbles.

Large Thaddeus Davids & Sons master stone ink

Maker's Stamp

Small T. Davids stone Ink. Registered Nov. 3rd. 1858

British Registry Seal

Fulton Square Mouth Master Stone Ink

Registered Nov.28th. 1876

Fulton & Co: Limited, Lambeth

Small Stone Cone Ink

FINNIS & FISHER Great Tower Street LONDON Stone Jar

Bennington Marbles

Hand Crafted Agate Marbles

I filled my hole back in and smoothed over the top. About then I realized I had forgotten my croaker sack to put my treasure in, then I remembered a little grocery store on the corner (Now Dragon House Antiques)I passed by earlier. So, hesitant to leave my goodies, I squeezed back through the plywood out to Grant Ave. and covered with mud and blood from cuts from broken glass, I approached the little Chinese lady behind the counter in the market and asked her if I could buy one of her empty produce boxes. I must have freaked her out because she just screamed, "You go! You Go!" Fortunately I was able to communicate with a grocery boy in the back and when I explained why I needed a box, he laughed, handed me one saying, "No charge". I went back to the lot, hoping all the while no one had gotten my beauties. Squeezed back in the lot, loaded up my treasure and headed home. Incidentally, the building that was erected on that lot is now the "Asian Image", and I doubt that it went over two stories. It's been many years since I have been on Grant Ave. One day I'll have to visit my old haunts to see if I can recognize any of the area. Those were the days!

Back to "Digging in Downtown San Francisco"