Wednesdays For My Wife: My Bottle Collection

Everybody collects stuff when they’re a kid. Postcards, trading cards (baseball, football, hockey, The Man From UNCLE, Beatles etc.), records, books, bottle caps, coins and stamps are all typical things for the average kid to want to collect. But, as you probably have figured out by now, I wasn’t exactly what you’d call a typical kid. What did I collect?

Liquor bottles.

Why? To be honest, I really have no idea, but I think I wanted to project the image of a charming, suave and debonair international playboy, completely with a well-stocked bar in his “bachelor pad.” I mean, this was the late Sixties, and James Bond, Napoleon Solo, “Broadway” Joe Namath, Hugh Hefner et al. were always in the public eye and imagination, especially the imaginations of twelve-year-old boys.

Charming, suave and debonair international playboy John Holton, age twelve.

Of course, I was about as charming, suave and debonair as Jethro Bodine. But that didn’t stop me.

Anyway, any time a liquor bottle was drained in my house, I would take it to my room (at times after fishing it out of the garbage), clean it up and set it on my nightstand. After a few months, I had amassed quite a collection. But something was missing: all the bottles were empty. I decided they had to be filled up with something. Water would do for the clear liquids (e.g. gin) and for the tinted bottles (e.g. vermouth, Cutty Sark), but I had to come up with an idea for the bourbon bottles.

After giving it about 30 seconds of thought, I hit on the perfect solution: iced tea! (We lived up north, so it was unsweetened iced tea, from a jar.)

Twenty minutes later, I had a well-stocked bar, complete with partially-filled liquor bottles. At some point, I also decided I needed mixers, so I would add empty ginger ale and tonic water bottles to the mix. And I saw it looked authentic, and I was happy. It was Playboy After Dark in my room overlooking the alley behind Arthur Avenue.

For a couple of weeks, anyway, until mold started to form on the surface of the tea in a couple of the bourbon bottles. When that happened, I would shake the bottle and the mold would disintegrate, and all would be well again.

Mom did a good job of holding her tongue until one day, when she went into my room and saw that my bottle collection more closely resembled a bootleg penicillin-making facility than the well-stocked bar of a charming, suave and debonair international playboy, and made me get rid of it. I guess she also talked to one of her friends, who complained that her son (a classmate of mine) had been over to my house, saw my collection, and decided to build one of his own, at least until she saw it and told him to get rid of it.

My days as a charming, suave and debonair international playboy were at an end.


20 thoughts on “Wednesdays For My Wife: My Bottle Collection

  1. HAHAHAHA! I loved this post 🙂 My son had a thing for bottles when he was 15-16, too. Colored glass bottles, like Sunkist and & 7Up and groovy old root beer bottles. I’m glad he didn’t try for penicillin. He lined his windows with them.


  2. Hi John – gosh that’s some collection or idea of one … and you were so thorough making sure they were all filled – I did that sort of thing with some brandied pears one year … if I’d sterlised the jars that’d have helped … so I had mouldy pears or peaches even perhaps!!! Cheers lovely story – youth! Hilary


  3. Well, in that sense, my husband is a conservative one. He only collects corks. Even with that, I’m running out of clear vases to accommodate his collection. I was trying to consolidate them once, he thought I tried to get rid of them. He made sure that’s not what I was doing. If he collects liquor bottle, he could have filled his whole office with them!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There are some very cool looking liquor bottles out there. I have a nice start to a collection myself. I leave them empty once the last drops have been drained though a good many still have some liquor in them. My collection is tucked away in a hard to reach cabinet over my refrigerator where it’s difficult to get to them.

    My parents never had much liquor in the house unless it were for alcohol consuming company and that was somewhat rare. They did on one occasion buy several gift set bottles in Canada and I kept the outer containers the bottles came in. I wonder if I still have any of those in my accumulation of stuff from the past?

    Tossing It Out


    1. Difficult to get to them, hence hard to find and throw away, eh?

      Might be worth a look for some of those boxes. You might be able to sell them for a good price…


  5. Great story. Some of those bottles would probably be collectibles now! Remember the Old Crow and Jim Beam decanters? I have one that my dad had of the little boy who “pees” into the glass. I got a kick out of that one.


    1. Like the fountain in Belgium? I think it’s “Manikin Pis” or something like that.

      As sort of a “thank God your mother made you get rid of all those bottles” gift, Fabulous Auntie Jill gave me several Jim Beam decanters with prints of paintings on them, including one of my favorites, Toulouse-Lautrec’s “Aristide Bruant dans son cabaret.” T-L did several of them of M. Bruant, all of which were posters for his cabaret, Ambassadeurs.

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  6. This is funny and I think Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra rubbed off on you:). My brother would actually drink a bottle of beer…or two when he was young…like 12. I caught him taking a beer out of the fridge that was in our downstairs hall, and he told me he had a tough day(at school..hahahahaa) and needed to relax. He always loved beer and does to this day but never had more than 2. One morning, we were having breakfast and my mom was cleaning downstairs. She was vacuuming and, being German, she was thorough which meant she took his bed away from the wall…the bed held a secret…all the empty beer bottles. My brother and I looked at each other in panic knowing what was about to happen and a second after, the word came strongly and very loudly, from my mom…”BARON!!!!” With that, I told my brother to run and he did!

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    1. I was a regular Rat Packer: Dean, Frank, Sammy, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, and 12-year-old me…

      We didn’t generally have beer at home until Mom married my stepfather, who was also of German descent, so I was a good boy as far as the booze was concerned. Although, I came up with a cocktail called a GINger ale, which you can imagine was gin and ginger ale. Not the best combination, but I was a kid, and Mom didn’t drink a lot of gin, so I was in the clear, at least until summer (i.e. gin and tonic season). By then, I could plead ignorance.


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