(Note: The following article appeared in the February, 2011 issue of Antique Bottle & Glass Collector magazine (pp. 6-9). Our thanks to AB&GC publisher John R. Pastor for providing an electronic copy of the article to post on this page. For more information about AB&GC magazine, visit the AB&GC web site.)
The Bottle Man of Atlanta
By Charles David Head © 2011
1910 Photograph of the Atlanta Big House (source: Wikipedia.com)
Construction of the United States Federal Penitentiary in
structure in the world, but was eclipsed by the Hoover Dam.
the penitentiary and wall was being built, the construction crew began
to accumulate a good
More often than not, the soda pop was Coca-Cola, a drink that originated
However, it did not take long for inmates to figure out an easier method
in which to dispose of
course, one had to toss the pickle jars, catsup bottles, medicine
bottles and soda pop bottles
For many years in the weather-worn walls, one could see the outlines of
cork-stoppered bottles and an occasional
Carl David had developed an interest in fighting chickens at the very
young age of 5 when his pet bantam rooster named Speckle would go next
door to a neighbor’s farm in
his knowledge grew, Carl David realized he needed to downsize his
massive collection of mostly common bottles and specialize in a
particular field. He settled on Coca-Cola bottles and go-withs
because the best bottle in his collection was an aqua straight-sided
Coke crowntop from Tracy City, Tenn. He’d found that gem on the
riverbank while swimming in the Tennessee River with his best friend,
Kathy, a leggy raven-haired beauty from
Kathy knew this, but would not marry Carl David because she knew someday
his luck would run out and he’d end up in jail or prison for running a
chicken fighting ring. She loved her bottle-collecting,
chicken-fighting man with all her heart, but could not bear the thought
And run afoul Carl David did on an early May morning in 2002 when the
Marion County Sheriff’s Department nabbed him and 32 other pals in the
middle of a rowdy match between Speckle IX and John Hunt Morgan, a mean,
long-spurred red from
Within a few weeks, Carl David went to work at the prison’s Unicor
factory as a quality assurance inspector in the factory’s wood-working
shop. There he inspected recently lathed table legs as diligently
as he had once inspected meaty thighs on game roosters just before they
made their debuts into the cock-fighting ring. He also got
acquainted with the prison’s leisure library
It did not take Carl David many trips around the track before he noticed the old glass bottles protruding from the concrete wall surrounding the prison. In fact, it was the glint off a Fletcher’s cork-topped Castoria bottle that first got his attention.
thorough but casual inspection (lest the guards in the towers get
suspicious of his intentions) of the glass-studded walls soon had Carl
David’s heart hammering in his chest, but when he glanced up and saw a
sizeable chunk of an Atlanta Coca-Cola Hutchinson embedded in the wall,
Carl David’s heart actually stopped beating for a minute or two.
There within his grasp was the Holy Grail of Coca-Cola bottles!
Not withstanding a few inches of ancient concrete, it would be
his for the taking, and within a few minutes of seeing it, Carl David
determined to do just that, come
Line drawing of the extremely rare Atlanta Coca Cola Hutchinson bottle, courtesy of Ron Fowler, www.hutchbook.com.
Photo of a badly damaged example reported sold on eBay in late 2001, for $1,108.89!
With years left to serve on his sentence, though, Carl David figured by
the time he had successfully abstracted the bottle from the wall, he
would have thought of many ways in which he could smuggle the prize out
of prison to Kathy, who would keep it for him until he completed his
sentence. Although she was
dismayed at his conviction and ultimate prison sentence, Kathy still
remained Carl David’s best friend. She kept him regularly supplied
with books and magazines related to his bottle collecting hobby.
With his good prison job, regular exercise and relishing the fact that
his vast and valuable collection was safe at Kathy’s house, Carl David
First, he began a thrice-weekly exercise regimen that was conveniently
located by the prison wall just beneath the nesting Coca-Cola
Hutchinson. He would lean upon the wall for support as he
stretched his muscles in preparation for his daily fitness routine. His
Being a better than average softball player, Carl David joined one of
the prison’s teams at the beginning of summer. Playing right field
for the Astros gave him yet another opportunity to work on the
excavation of the
Carl David soon noticed the imaginary home run line sparked a lot of controversy. Nothing breaks the boredom of a lengthy prison sentence than arguing with your fellow inmates over politics, music, religion and, most of all, sports. Instead of joining in the ensuing fracas, Carl David would shake his head, get out his spoon and work on freeing his beloved bottle.
His first softball season with the Astros was a productive one for both his team and Carl David. The team made it to the play offs, came in second, and each player got a six-pack of Pepsi-Cola. Carl David managed to uncover another inch of the bottle and a pal in the prison maintenance shop provided him with a small can of white paint. He carefully painted the exposed portion of the trench he’d dug around the bottle and the bottle itself.
During his second season, Carl David benefited from an unexpected revelation when he saw a guard nailing signs onto the wall. They read: “ALL BALLS HIT ABOVE THIS SIGN ARE HOME RUNS!”
When Kathy came to visit Carl David the week before Christmas, she was
quite amazed at what she saw. Instead of a sandy-haired, chubby
middle-aged man, standing before her was a short-haired, tanned,
athletic version of her beloved Carl David. Cupid struck again
Each visit from Kathy over the next two years inspired Carl David to
work even harder to free the
With no parole or more good time legislation pending in Congress, Carl David determined to seek early release via another route as he had already been locked up four years on his 12-year sentence. His plan to be home in time for Christmas would have come as quite a surprise to Kathy, as well as to his roommate and the penitentiary guards. His plans required 30 to 40 20-penny nails from the prison’s tool room at the maintenance shop and a hammer. The nails he would easily acquire from his friend Louie (the lifter), but the hammer would be too easily missed. He had to settle for one half of a broken shaft from an old tractor axle purloined from the lieutenant’s office by an orderly. The axle had been confiscated by an officer who found it hidden away behind some milk crates in the mess hall where it had also been used as a hammer to knock apart boxes of frozen chicken quarters inside the freezer.
Two days after Thanksgiving 2006, Carl David at long last had retrieved
the Atlanta Coca-Cola Hutchinson from the wall. He easily smuggled
it past the guards manning the main corridor of the prison and hid it
among his clothes in his locker box in his room. He showed the
bottle to nobody,
Once starting his descent on the other side of the wall, Carl David’s
trouble began. Leaning over the wall to hammer in the first nail,
the bottle fell out of his pants pocket. Its flight was only
slowed when it hit Officer Childs in the head. Childs and Officer
Duncun happened to be walking
Carl David had leaped to his feet when his prized bottle fell, but when he saw it knock Officer Childs in the head, he knew the game was over. He quickly scurried back over the wall before Officer Duncun could see his silhouette in the thickening fog. Hoping that his luck would hold out, Carl David took the time to hammer the 20-penny nails flush against the wall as he made his descent back into the prison yard.
He was soon back in his cell, avowing never to tempt fate again, and promised the Almighty that he’d give up crime, especially chicken fighting, forever, if he’d let him pass muster in the next 48 hours if there was indeed an uproar over the Christmas eve escape attempt.
Officer Childs was taken to
Carl David was a model inmate the rest of his sentence and while he did
occasionally bemoan the loss of his rare bottle, it was soon forgotten
by the time he and Kathy were married in the little white
Photograph of the Macedonia Baptist Church, New Hope, Tennessee, at the foot of Sand Mountain on Nickajack Lake, courtesy of Merle Bellamy.
At Christmas dinner on Dec. 25, 2012, Carl David ‘fessed up and told Kathy of his ill-fated escape attempt six years earlier in which the Hutchinson Coke and a desire to be home early with her played significant roles.
Talk of the bottle stirred Kathy’s memories and she soon dug out the
bottle she had bought him at the Jasper,
He nearly choked to death on a piece of pecan pie when she showed him the bottle, but he didn’t and they lived happily ever after.
AUTHOR’S NOTE:This is a fictional story and, to the best of my knowledge, no inmate by the name of Carl David Hulvey ever served time behind the walls of the