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Messages in a Bottle

IN 1970, I WAS FOURTEEN YEARS OLD. In those days, if a person wanted to get somewhere, they walked. The Schmidt Brewery was always

fascinating, with its wildwoods mural and real trickling brook.

Landscaped trees were lovingly tended within a tiny wooded triangle

on the brewery grounds in the middle of urban Saint Paul. That

was nice and all, but it was the giant beer bottle that really piqued

my interest. Towering two stories tall, it was to a small person such

as myself one of the wonders of the world. Sometimes with friends,

sometimes alone, I’d climb up into the bottle. The beer bottle was

a hollow shell with two shelves inside that could hold one or two

small people. It was the perfect getaway. In those days, it was open

to the passerby, not chained in like today. Wedged against it, like

two giant wings, stretched giant billboards on either side called

out to who-knew-who to buy the best beer around.

Inside the beer bottle was a place to percolate one’s imagination.

I could imagine being a message in a bottle, bobbing along the

wide, rough sea. Next, I was a salty pirate, walking the billboard

plank, or a magical genie ready to grant a wish, or . . .

“Hey you, kid! Get out of that bottle!” a man screamed as

he shook his meaty fist from the bottle-house entrance.

He shook his fist with exasperation, as if he had to do this

several times a week. Scrambling down the bottle, walking

along the planks of the billboard shelf, and jumping

to safe ground, I knew I’d come again someday soon.

The giant beer bottle stands as a reminder of the

old days, a monument to West Seventh Schmidt

beer, bottlers, and blue collars. Now I may

not be living near the bottle,

but I’m close enough so

that if I close my eyes,

my imagination will

take me back to

those hot summer

days so

long ago . . .

Story: DEBORAH COSTANDINE is a visual artist whose heart has never left the West Seventh Street area. Deborah has a BA from Metropolitan State University in experiential creativity and an MA from Adler Graduate School in counseling and psychotherapy. She is a practicing Adlerian psychotherapist and an art therapist. She loves to collaborate with people of all ages, using art materials in her practice to promote health and healing.


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