The concrete dam that held back the water on lake Delhi broke during the flooding of 2010 and for the first time since the water was impounded in the 1920s, the lake bottom reverted to dry land once again. Not only was the lakebed easily accessible, but so were pieces of history that had been covered by water for decades. Chicago beer can collector, Steve Gola and his buddies, came to the lake with metal detectors.
“It’s amazing how well cans get preserved underneath the sediment of the lake, apparently oxygen doesn’t get to them so they preserve very well,” Gola said. Gola came to Lake Delhi right after he heard national media reports about the lake draining. He returned four times and salvaged about 50 antiques, some going back to when the beer can was invented.
“I found a couple old, nice ‘30s cans, Fox Deluxe out of Chicago which is an O-I can which stands for opening instruction,” Gola explained. “Back in the day when they first made beer cans they put instructions on how to open them with a church key, the can opener.”
Gola also uncovered three rings, including a diamond engagement ring and a military ring that he returned to a Vietnam War veteran 41 years after he lost it swimming. A bottle that once contained liniment could be the oldest find. “Mexican Mustang Liniment late 19th century maybe, possibly early 20th century. That may’ve been there before the dam was even built,” Gola said.
There discoveries made by the beer can historian give testament to some of the activities that took place on Lake Delhi through he years. “Well it definitely I think used for entertainment with the beer and soda cans — out in the boat having a couple beers fishing — and when they’re done with their beer in the old days they would generally throw them overboard and sink them to the bottom. We found an old radio. We dug it up and it was a boom box from the ‘70s had the cassette player so we got a laugh out of that.”
Gola and his Chicago buddies left something behind for future treasure hunters: they dumped their canoe and lost a digital camera. He says there are more buried artifacts, and he may be back for another expedition.