These guys are not amateur archaeologists. They are neither archaeologists nor amateurs. What they are is very knowledgeable Dumpdiggers, digging a very old dump, in the shadow of the CN Tower. And they find the best stuff thirty feet below the concrete.
On dark cloudy nights in the spring of 2007, Timbit and his team explore the bottom of Toronto’s most downtown construction site. ‘They’ve actually hired security now,’ Tim reports. ‘Now that the digging is almost done.’
Timbit, Big Larry and Knuckles Muldoon are diggers well practiced in the art of eluding red tape. ‘Security guards just watch the fence.‘ Knuckles grins, ‘They don’t bother to look down the hole.’
Because if they did, they’d see Tim and his team using pitch forks, scoops and garden spades to uproot century old stoneware pots like so many spuds in a potato patch. ‘That’s what its like when modern excavation equipment does 99% of the work’, Tim explains. He brings only a fork, and a spade, and some burlap bags into the hole each night – and just before sunrise each morning he climbs out with a sack larger than Santa’s on Christmas Eve.
These two stoneware ginger beers evidence a simpler life in early industrial Toronto. Made by the Price Pottery Company of Bristol England in 1892, these containers were custom stenciled for local merchants before they were exported to the Port of Toronto as ship’s ballast for so many cents a ton.
John Vernor and WM Robertson were local soda water bottlers that became ginger beer brewers in the late 1880s when the public’s thirst for this drink became unquenchable. Both businessmen proffered sophisticated beverages made by fermenting ginger sweetened with stevia. Ginger beer was always popular with Toronto’s wealth English aristocracy, but it only attracted a following with working class after the rise of a Dark and Stormy drink combination created by mixing ginger beer and cheap Bermuda rum.
Timbit’s Antique Assault Force is composed of three middle aged men brave enough to dodge site security, athletic enough to scale a ladder and jump a fence, and obsessed enough to dig a hole in the dim light of passing cars all night. Tim also asks they be discrete enough to keep the details to themselves until all the digging is done. But most importantly, each member of the crew is passionate enough to clean and polish their prizes, and then post and research the best pieces online.
Timbit’s latest adventure lies on the bottom of a deep hole immediately west of the Air Canada Centre in downtown Toronto. This lonely place has a story to tell, but during the day nobody listens. It’s at night, when no one is around that Tim’s team recovers some of the names, words and sentences locked in the mud of this old urban shoreline. Tim and his crew are trying to learn as much as possible about this special place in the few hours they can spend here each morning. For much like the mythical Irish town of Brigadoon, this dump only appears once every hundred years.