Clear Lake man seeks treasurers at bottom of lake
CLEAR LAKE (AP) — The bottles and other assorted items plucked from the bottom of the lake by Clear Lake resident John Larsen have stories to tell.
“It kind of tells the history of Clear Lake,” Larsen told a gathering at a recent program of the Clear Lake Historical Society.
The Mason City Globe Gazette reports Larsen took up scuba diving in 1990 to see what he could find along the lake bottom.
He began diving off the island, then branched off into other locations, including off City Beach, the Clear Lake Sea Wall and the former Lakeshore Hotel, once located two blocks north of the Sea Wall.
His collection of bottles and canning jars alone numbers in the hundreds.
One of his favorites is a clear bottle from the Clear Lake Dairy, rare for being from Clear Lake. It was manufactured in Chicago.
He also has rare pop bottles manufactured in about the 1880s by the “Hub Bottling Works of Mason City, IA.”
Other bottles manufactured in Mason City were from the Mason City Bottling Co. and Crystal Carbonating Co.
There are beer bottles, milk bottles, cream bottles, pop bottles, bottles for chemicals and bottles for food items such as Tabasco Sauce or olives.
In the area of the Lakeshore Hotel, Larsen has found whiskey flasks and bottles for bitters.
Some bottles are colored, many are clear.
The first bottle he found was an olive-green bottle manufactured by the I.G. Glass Co. of Illinois, the insignia of which appears on the bottom of the bottle. He believes it dates to the early 1900s.
A bottle found off City Beach was a Kansas City Light and Power Co. chemical bottle manufactured in New York City. It is one of the older bottles in his collection and is odd-shaped.
Another old bottle is a brown bottle saying “The Maltine Mfg Co. Chemists New York.”
His oldest bottles date to the 1880s. Some were closed with wax seals, others with corks.
“They tell what people were using back then,” Larsen said.
When searching for bottles, Larsen goes by feel. He wears a rubber suit and synthetic rubber gloves.
“Once you get to the bottom, it’s pitch black,” he said.
Bottles are stuck in several feet of mud.
Larsen carries a metal detector. He hasn’t found anything valuable but he has discovered the lake is full of nails, he said, probably from years of building and removing docks.
His other finds have included fishing reels and fishing poles, cast-bronze propeller, oar locks, an early Old Style beer can, brass water intake tube from a water treatment plant, a crock labeled Silsby’s Baked Beans from a Clear Lake restaurant that operated in 1909, and a Green Brothers boat line from the Green Brothers company that operated in Clear Lake from about the 1870s to the 1920s, Larsen said.
One of his most prized possessions is a large wrought iron anchor found by his son, Isaac, in the area of the Lakeshore Hotel. Larsen said it dates to the 1880s and was made by a blacksmith.
“It’s a rare opportunity to find things in the lake,” he said. “I feel fortunate.”