Museum....In The Beginning


Evolution of the Museum of Beverage Containers and Advertising by Tom Bates
 I can first remember wanting to collect beer cans from the winter of 1973. My Grandparents were living in Chattanooga, TN. The family went down for Christmas and I remember a pyramid of colorful beer & soda cans in the basement along with the Christmas tree and lots of presents. The cans were my Aunt Susanís. Susan had accumulated an impressive array of about a hundred different beer & soda cans that my Uncle Buzzy had picked up in his travels as a chemical equipment salesman. I was hooked and wanted my own collection. In the next couple of years, I walked and rode my bike looking in the ditches & woods trying to find as many different beer & soda cans as I could find. After a year or two my father (Paul Bates) got involved with collecting cans. We started going "Dumping" for old cans. We started saving bottles, license plates, oil cans and anything else that was worth a buck. We found many thousands of dollars worth of treasure out of the old dumps from coast to coast. I started buying collections, keeping what I wanted & selling the rest... In the1980's and early 1990's massive data bases were established by my father Paul & I to track the many varieties of soda and beer collectibles that were accumulating in The Museum of Beverage Containers and Advertising. These data bases were eventually converted into some 70 different books, mostly about soda collectibles. On Friday, April 3, 1987, The Museum of Beverage Containers and Advertising was officially opened to the public in Millersville, TN.  In 2002, the soda collection from the museum was relocated to Springfield, Tennessee and then was sold after Paul's passing in 2009. The beer collection is still intact but in storage. It awaits a new home. More to come...
Tom Bates

confused person You collect WHAT?
by Paul W Bates
Museum of Beverage Containers & Advertising - Entrance
cave man collector In The Beginning At some point in any discussion about our Museum, a visitor will ask, "How did you get started collecting?" Uncle Buzzy, "William Spurgeon", had picked-up beer & soda cans from traveling across the United States and gave then to his sister: Aunt Susan "Susan Spurgeon" who started Tom on the road to collecting.  She had the pyramid of cans in the basement. Tom saw Susan's collection of cans and got hooked.
We can trace the beginning back to 1973, when Tom was a young thirteen years old.

Tom Bates at 13

Uncle Buzzy "William Spurgeon" dropped by for a visit and during the course of discussion, the subject of his new hobby of beer can collecting surfaced.  Uncle Buzzy had bought cans out of town for Susan. Tom liked them.  Susan had accumulated an impressive array of about a hundred different beer & soda cans that Buzzy had picked up for her in his travels as a chemical equipment salesman.
Man with prize Beer can Impressionable Age Being at an impressionable age, Tom thought that collecting beer & soda cans might be a "Neat" idea, so on his way home from school each day he reclaimed lots of dirty, scroungy, ant-filled beer cans from the side of the road.

Y-O-U-R Son

One night I got home and Tom’s mother pulled me aside and said, "Do you know what Y-O-U-R son dragged home today . . . A bunch of nasty beer cans!"

"Just ignore it", I stated confidently, "It’s just a passing fad that won’t last."

Boating Weekend

Boy was I wrong! A few days after the roadside expedition, the family had a weekend boating venture on one of the area lakes.

We had no more than pulled on the interstate when the familiar cry from the back of the car sang out "Dad, I have to use the bathroom".

Dumping for Beer cans

Charge To the Garbage Cans

Being an understanding Dad, I cursed under my breath and pulled into a rest stop.

Tom hopped out of the car and headed for the bathroom . . . but he didn’t make it . . . past the first garbage can.

No, the urge wasn’t that great . . . he was collecting, you guessed it . . . BEER CANS!

My wife screamed, "What’s he doing in that garbage can, all I can see are his feet."

About four garbage cans later, with a big smile, and arms loaded with dripping beer cans, Tom reappeared.

"What about the bathroom?" I asked.

"Oh, I forgot, but look at the great beer cans I found!"

Closet Runneth Over

A month, then two passed, and Tom’s urge to collect had not subsided, and his closet, where we had suggested he display his cans, was filling up . . . along with his whole room.

Display In Den

"Dad, I really would like to display my cans in the den, but Mom doesn’t like the idea", was my greeting upon arriving home from the office one day.

"Look", I said to Tom’s Mom, Carolyn, "Let’s humor and encourage him a little and let him put up a small display in the den".

Reluctantly, a bargain was struck, and together we hauled the cans to the den and built some small shelves with 1 x 4's.  This was our 1st display.  

Cans Multiply

It wasn’t long until overload occurred on the newly constructed shelves, and we resorted to stacking the cans in a pyramid along one wall of the den.

1974 Beer and Soda Can Collection 1

This is Ginny, "Ginny Vaughter", Tom's sister, in the photos below taken in 1974.  She has contributed a lot to the collection and stands by the cans in the den.

1974 Beer and Soda Can Collection 2

And the pyramid got bigger . . . and BIGGER . . . and B-I-G-G-E-R, until it covered a ten-foot wall all the way to the ceiling, held against the wall by the "universal holder", duct tape.

Frantic Call . . . Cat-astrophy

One day I got a frantic, almost hysterical phone call at the office from my wife.

"Tom’s beer cans . . . Cat . . . Almost killed", was the disjointed message that greeted me.

What happened was that our pet cat, playing with a ball in the den, ran head on into Tom’s pyramid-wall of cans . . . causing what’s known around scientific circles as a chain reaction . . . and around cat circles as a CATastrophy.

beer can crisis

Reaction to A Crisis 

When confronted with a crisis, one has to act swiftly and decisively, so I did the only logical thing under the circumstances . . . went out and bought a house trailer . . . or should I say a Can Trailer.

Old Blue

"Old Blue" as we affectionately called the new can trailer was undoubtedly the ugliest most decrepit piece of junk ever pulled into anyone’s back yard.

It had served as a construction trailer for a local motel and then abandoned to nature for several months before we found it . . . real cheap.

We shoveled out the dirt, chased out the wasps, stripped out the insides, built display shelves, and presto . . . "Old Blue" and Tom’s beer cans found a suitable home.

All pictures can be enlarged by clicking your mouse on them.

Olb blue, the beer can house

Enter the Soda Can Can collecting was now becoming fun for our new family, and while helping Tom accumulate beer cans I began picking up a few unusual soda cans.

A few soda cans quickly turned into hundreds . . . then thousands, and "Old Blue" underwent two additions bringing the total display area up to almost two thousand square feet.


beer can collection

Let’s build A Museum From time to time we would have collector friends and visitors over to see our collection housed in "Old Blue".
Many were awed by the quantities of cans and soda bottles (added in the late 1970’s), and because of the historical significance of the collection urged us to place it in a setting where it could be shared by others.

After much discussion and planning, ground was broken for the Museum in August 1986. After many hours of moving and rearranging the collection, the grand opening of the Museum of Beverage Containers and Advertising was held in April of 1987.

The Museum contained over 40,000 different beer & soda cans, 9,000 different bottles, and  all types of advertising.

grand opening of Museum 1987


If you have any items you would like to donate to the collection... Send them to us at:
Nostalgiaville C/O Tom Bates, 106B Echo Ln, Millersville, TN 37072.

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