HISTORY HERE AND NOW Buried box car made for ‘Schlitz’ mine of 1950
Grand Junction High School classmates Verne Anderson and Dick Beye were rabbit hunting north of the Highline Canal in the fall of 1950 when they opted for a little target practice, aiming their .22 rifles at a shiny object in on the bank of an arroyo.
Much to their surprise, fluid erupted – and on further investigation the fluid was found to be beer from a well-perforated can of Schlitz.
Digging into the hillside, the boys found row upon row of Schlitz beer, the cardboard containers beginning to deteriorate.
Naturally a mining operation ensued and the spot became a mecca for Grand Junction High School students as well as a hefty contingent of liquid prospectors from Mesa Junior College.
Temporary student housing between North and Elm avenues had walls lined with Schlitz beer, and basement storage hiding places of local students were soon filled.
Apparently a “hot box” freight car on the Denver & Rio Grande rail line was pulled to a siding at the CD Smith distribution warehouse where it caught on fire. Officials, now stuck with a box car load of damaged merchandise, elected to transport the beer under the still of night to the arroyo where it was found.
Transporting workers were sworn to secrecy and were told that the beer was contaminated and unsafe to drink.
There are several different accounts of how the beer was relegated to a desolate arroyo in western Colorado.
Berndt Holmes remembers a story that the beer was outdated and could not be distributed.
The story that I remember hearing was that there were some cans in the boxcar load that were not keg lined and/or sanitized before they were filled and then there is the “hotbox” and the resulting fire that damaged some of the load.
As for the credit for the finding of the mother lode, another rabbit hunter made a similar claim — i.e. he shot at a shiny piece of metal and had beer shoot out of the ground. This was attributed to Dewy Gubicheck, an athlete from north Denver who had been recruited to play basketball at Mesa Junior College. This is quite possibly the scenario as the military dorm used for athlete housing at 12th Street and Elm Avenue had walls lined with Schlitz Beer.
Today the exact location of the discovery remains a mystery. It was definitely north of the Highline Canal, with people thinking that the site was anywhere from 24 Road to 28 Road.
Soon woodsies, instead of featuring a keg of beer, had a couple bushel baskets of Schlitz for liquid refreshment.
This production did not go long unnoticed and articles ran in The Daily Sentinel that warned of both the illegal nature of underage drinking, and also of the previous admonition that the beer was unsafe. A Caterpillar tractor was dispatched to the area, a barrel of diesel fuel was burned over the site and the “car” thoroughly packed down in the ground.
Three nights later, though the digging was a little more difficult, the mine was in full operation.
The Grand Junction High School class of 1951 was well provided with beer for an exciting few months in the fall of 1950. The operation ceased when the entire load had been carried away, thus ending the Schlitz Mine of 1950.
Another Mesa Junior College recruit from north Denver, Tom Wooster, arrived in the fall of ’51.
Undaunted by tales the mother lode was empty, he and friends dug “many a hole” in the desert to no avail. He has lived in the Grand Valley since then, and perhaps is still digging the desert in his spare time.
Jim Parker moved to Grand Junction from Telluride in 1947. Dr. Parker, now retired, practiced medicine in Grand Junction for many years.