Waking up to a layer of snow on the ground, Sid van der Meer ventures out to his museum. He is getting ready for winter when he will be in sunny Arizona and his museum will be covered in snow.
As he walks along the museum’s boardwalk he comes across a unique object. It’s large, rusted, and awkward — a water heater.
Anyone else would have thrown this unusual object away, but not van der Meer, the collector. He’s had this object in his possession for so many years that the exact location where it was found is unknown. We only know that he found this object so interesting that he took it home and it now sits displayed outside his museum in Beaver Creek.
“It’s a hot water heater made by some army camp during the Alaska Highway construction,” he says. “The army must have wanted some hot water, took a couple of gas barrels, chopped one up and set the other on top of it to make this water heater.”
They used two metal barrels and whatever other materials (mainly metal) were accessible to create the water heater.
“They had plenty of empty gas barrels lying around — you need to heat the barrels up a few times to get rid of the gas.”
Because the barrels were previously used for containing gas they were “not used for drinking. Used, rusty, metal barrels are not good to drink from but were probably a good water heater.”
Pointing at the vertically attached barrels, van der Meer explains, “They cut a hole in the bottom barrel to put wood in there and put the other one (barrel) on top of it and welded it completely in one piece — they heated the water from underneath.”
Much like a stove, the bottom barrel was connected to a chimney and was able to heat the water that was contained in the top barrel.
“There’s a tap on the front of it (the top barrel) to get to the hot water,” says van der Meer. “They didn’t have any running water at the time. A lot of army camps didn’t have access to it. So, if you wanted a hot bath or something like that this was the solution.”
He points towards the water heater.
“It was a good way to make hot water. Good for taking a bath in and/or doing laundry and washing up, but not for drinking!”
This one-of-a-kind object can be viewed outside Sid van der Meer’s Bordertown Museum on the boardwalk. Hurry by Bordertown Garage & Museum before van der Meer closes for the winter.
Sid’s Bordertown Garage & Museum will be open until October 15, 2014 and will reopen on April1, 2015.