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(January / 2006)
The early 1970's rumors swirled around that "Cacti Pete" in Los Angeles had extra Soul Malt L. cans, but was it true?--- 1-2006
2. An adventure awaited any collector who visited Cacti Pete - a beer can collector who was about unlike any other.
John Ahrens, BCCA #9, had been trading with Bob Myers, BCCA #26, and passed a lead on in 1972 saying: "you have the traders - fill up your car and see what Cacti Pete has." The next weekend, in 1972, with a full car of traders, Bob visited "Cacti Pete", also known by various with other names such as "Baron Von Meter." He was BCCA #418 and lived in LA (Sherman Oaks) at the end of Magnolia Blvd where it dead-ended at the 405 next to the Sepulveda Reservoir.
Cacti and his brother each had a home on an unusually large lot (around 1 and 1/2 acres) for their two homes in an area that was surrounded mostly by apartments, commercial buildings, and a few other homes. Their property was filled with treesbushes and a mass of items such as several 25-30 foot high piles of wooden pallets that Cacti said were from the Schlitz brewery; cars; piles of debris; and sheds. To outsiders, the brothers had just a "dump" that was out-of-place for the neighborhood, but each item was important to Cacti. (In contrast to the general public, most beer can collectors probably would understand better what was going on... .)
At Cacti Pete's front door was an astrology chart on the floor and before talking beer cans, he asked Bob Myers for his "sign." After driving there with a car full of cans, anticipating that Cacti Pete might have Soul cans, Bob began to think that Cacti might find some wrong "sign" for that day. After a few minutes of suspense, Cacti Pete said ok and the trading started.
Cacti Pete reportedly had been a movie "extra" and had the lean, weathered "movie-cowboy" look. Cacti Pete's "home" was more a series of sheds that snaked off from a small, original house. (An early BCCA news report may have an article on Cacti Pete.)
After a hour or so, Cacti Pete had gone through the car load of beer can traders picking those he wanted at a rate of around 20 traders for each Soul can; and Bob had 22 Soul cans - picture shown. Later, for a benchmark price at the time, Soul cans sold for as much as $225, or maybe more, in 1976. Around 1975-1976 was the last interval when Soul cans had a value several times the then-going value of rare 1930's cans which at the time were moving upwards from $25-$50 range - pushed by Jim Garard and other collectors who started to differentiate between the "popular" Soul and 007 cans as compared to much scarcer flat tops and cones.
3. Follow-up to Cacti Pete: other collectors would have more stories on Cacti Pete:
Gene DiCicco, BCCA #22192 who was active collecting again after 1982 never met Cacti Pete but heard about him and gathered Cacti had mostly sold his cans by the 1980's, many to Harvey Lambert of Northridge, CA. Harvey told Gene another example of Cacti Pete's fun personality: whenever Harvey visited on Saturday morning, he found Cacti Pete occupied with the cartoons on TV. Harvey would have to sit around waiting for Cacti to finish watching before any dealing in beer cans could start.
4. Update to present:
Cacti Pete is long gone from his property now. As of November, 2006, in the recent past the large lot has now been scraped clean, is surrounded by higher-end apartments, and awaiting development as a valuable parcel. Cacti Pete knew the potential of beer cans and real estate. The address, in early BCCA rosters, is 15357 Magnolia Blvd., Sherman Oaks.
Many of the Soul M.L. cans in collectors' hands today likely were found by Cacti Pete, and any holder should have a few beers to thank him.
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