I travelled to Sauk City Wisconsin to visit April Derleth at Arkham House Publishers this week. I met with Bob Weinberg in Chicago going and coming back as well. At “Place of Hawks” April had her two dogs with her, and our conversation was difficult because both dogs, named Reggie and Queenie were constantly barking. Reggie is elderly and arthritic, and he grew tired and laid down in the corner. Now Queenie was a young, lean, large Dobermann Pinscher with significant mouth full of teeth. The more I tried to talk with April about editorial duties and responsibilities with Arkham House, the more Queenie barked and howled at me. She bared her teeth in her barking and actually bit me, but did not break the skin of my hand. April noted that her dog would do better with a couple of milkbones but there were none in the house. I offered to bring some the next day, and I did. However April’s friend Jesse had already purchased a box of flavored large sized milkbones the evening before. April and I shared a couple of cans of “SunDrop” which is a local favorite — more later. At one point when we were travelling from the home to the bookhouse, I put the can of pop in my pocket, and it unfortunately it spilled in there. Both dogs were happy to be outside in the snowy cold, and Queenie decided to start barking once again with a vengeance. Suddenly I was struck with an idea, and I went back into the house and filled both my coat pockets with large and medium seized milkbones. Queenie continued to bark viciously between milkbones, but she much preferred the milkbones from the pocket containing the spilled Sundrop. It must have been the high sugar content in the soda pop, that swayed her preference. We took the Arkham SUV to go shopping, and I was doing the driving; the dogs were eager and came along for the ride, and April helped Reggie into the back seat. Queenie was excited about the trip and in a moment of weakness licked my right cheek in the driver’s seat. I was somewhat surprised and April chuckled. When the four of us returned from shopping, Queenie started to bark again in the front yard but was much subsued with a dozen or so more Sundrop coated milkbones.
And now “Sundrop” — Originally Sundrop was produced by the Celo Bottling Company with its headquarters at 708 Water Street, Sauk City. It closed down in December 2006, when its founder George Koehler passed away. George referred to himself as “King George” and to his wife as “Queen Thelma.” They were both keen fans of “The Rambler” and I met King George one day at Hugo’s Harness Shop, and he gave me a calender and a digital clock to display in the Shop. We sat and talked for well over an hour about everything under the sun. King George sat in Hugo’s chair, and I sat in Augie’s chair. George told me of his cars, and of his bottles — I actually said very few words that day. We discussed Hugo’s bamboo fishing rods, and King George’s memories of Auggie — going morelle hunting and walking uptown every day in his sandles and carrying his wicker basket for the mail. King George wanted to arrange to have a couple of cases of Sundrop at the Walden West Festival that year, and we talked turkey and it happened. He got all of his empties back, except a couple of the visitors who kept them as souvenirs — they are now collectibles. There are only a handful of rebottlers of glass return bottles left in The U.S.A. George told me that his Celo Bottling Company had its roots in the Second World War when it processed and bottled celery into a carbonated beverage for local consumption. For more information google Celo Bottling Company.
The Celo Bottling headquarters is located just down the street from the Old Hahn House where the old shack was located where August Derleth and Mark Shorer first composed those early collaborations for Weird Tales, and they both front on The Wisconsin River. I photographed this property in the fall of 2009 and I append it here.
And so the editorial responsibilities were fulfilled with the four participatants imbibing Sundrop, Queenie vicariously. On my next visit, I will go prepared with my pockets full of milkbones!