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History of the Beer Can Museum

The Legend
In 1942, five young friends about to serve in World War II came into the current location at 287 Pleasant Street for a farewell toast. Each of them placed a full can   of beer on the wall, with a vow that they would all return and toast those cans   upon their return from duty. Only three of the five men came home.
The remaining three drank the beers they had left on the wall, and placed
the three empty cans next to the two full ones in memory of their comrades.

The Museum
     In 1975, former owner and collector Al Drew decided to  put on display his sizeable beer can collection within the bar, and his original setup of the can shelves, (especially the ones suspended from the ceilings in the pool room), remains the same today as it was when the museum began.  There are more than 4,000 cans on display that are an interesting and historic wallpaper of this legendary local bar.     

In 1989, the Ye Ol' Watering Hole and its can collection was sold to Gary Kelly, and, subsequently, in 1992, to its current owners, Jim and Colleen McGorry.

Over the years, heavy second hand smoke took its toll on many cans, and the collection became somewhat of an eyesore due to its deteriorated condition.  A statewide ban on smoking in bars in 2004 helped change that. Thanks to the efforts of numerous people, especially our good friend (and serious collector) Bob (Hubie) Huber, and the countless people that have donated cans over the years, the bar and the collection has been substantially upgraded . It truly is a piece of American beer history! 

A Brief History of the Beer Can
1935: The first steel beer cans were introduced in Virginia by the Gottfried Krueger
Brewing Co. The larger brewers were quite skeptical of the can, so the can
manufacturers started their marketing strategy with the smaller, local brewers in
hopes of showing the can's success to the large brewers across the country.

The Watering Hole collection of cans manufactured from 1936-1960 are on
display upon entering the Pool Room on the upper shelves at the front of the bar.

Although many of these cans are not in the best of shape,
they sure are interesting to look at!

Advantages of can vs. bottle:
Half the height and weight of bottles
Easily stackable
Less packaging required
Reduced shipping costs

1940 Can manufacturers created the "cone-top" and "crowntainer" cans instead
of flat-tops. These cans could be filled by the same machines that filled bottles, and
capped in a similar fashion. However, the cone-top and crowntainer ultimately
could not compete with the popularity and cost-effectiveness of the flat-top cans,
and their production ceased by the late 1950s.

Cone-tops and Crowntainers in the Watering Hole collection are on display
in the same section as the flat-tops in the Pool Room.

1960 Aluminum "tab-tops" were introduced. Cheaper to produce, lighter in weight,
and easier to open, they caused the decline and elimination of the steel can by
the mid 1960s.

1975 By this time, tab-tops were becoming an ecological problem. The removal
and disposal of the tab after opening created a great deal of hazards and waste,
thus, the creation of the pop-top can currently in use.

The invention of the pop-top rendered the tab-top obsolete by the early 1980s.

Miscellaneous Facts:
Oldest can in the collection: Currently undetermined, but the majority of the steel
flat-top and cone-top cans date back to 1935-1960. Catalogue-ing of these steel
cans is currently in progress, to be followed by pull-tab cans, and finally the
pop-top cans of today.

Most requested can: Billy Beer. Created by President Jimmy Carter's Brother in
1976, this can is nostalgic and always requested. However, the can itself is not worth much due to the enormous amount available in circulation.
The two Billy Beer cans on display at the Watering Hole are in the
section to the left immediately after entering the bar side door.

Most valuable can: Also undetermined. However, the large quart "Oil Cans",
a 16 oz rare Krueger can, and some other assorted 16 oz flat-tops are considered
some of the best in our collection.

The large cans behind the bar are mostly European imports, and more for
show than value, with the exception of a few of the American gallon cans.

Can Collecting
As a general rule, the Watering Hole does not actively buy, sell, or trade cans.
However, we are always interested in donations of cans or any beer-related items.

For those of you interested in getting involved in Beer Can Collecting, contact the
B.C.C.A. (Beer Can Collectibles of America)

Open: 3:00 PM to 1 AM (2 AM on Fri. and Sat.)
Remember, you must have a valid 21+ ID to enter the premises.

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