A cool bit of Chicago history was found buried under this garage on the Northwest Side

“I was like, ‘What the heck is that?’” Soraya Zamora said of what she saw sticking out of the dirt after she had her garage demolished.

SHARE A cool bit of Chicago history was found buried under this garage on the Northwest Side
Soraya Zamora displays two of the old metal advertising signs she found under her garage.

Soraya Zamora displays two of the old metal advertising signs she found under her garage.

Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

Soraya Zamora prayed for the destruction of her run-down two-car garage.

“No matter how much I prayed, the wind refused to knock it down, and my neighbor’s tree refused to fall on it,” she said.

“I finally gave in.”

About three weeks ago, workers arrived at her home in Irving Park on the Northwest Side and tore it down. As they demolished the concrete foundation, it was clear something was buried underneath.

“I was like, ‘What the heck is that?’” she said.

Upon closer examination, she realized there were hundreds of metal signs advertising products such as Krem-Ko chocolate milk and Green River soda sticking out of the dirt.

That discovery kicked off Zamora’s brief amateur archeology career.

“I brought a stool, my panama straw, my shovels and staked mybeach umbrella in the ground,” she said. “I looked like I was digging for gold or something.”

The image of unearthing a body crept into her imagination, but it was fleeting. She would not be deterred.

Hundreds of old metal advertising signs unearthed when Soraya Zamora’s garage was demolished.

When her old garage was demolished, and the concrete slab below it broken up, Soraya Zamora discovered hundreds of old metal advertising signs.

Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

Zamora even grabbed an old, cheap metal detector she had lying around from her years working as a science and computer teacher with Chicago Public Schools. It beeped but was not much use.

“I was just fascinatedwhen I dug these things up, and then I started looking online,” she said.

Their provenance is a mystery. But after researching Chicago ties to the companies, her best guess is that the signs might be from the 1920s and may have been discarded after a patent dispute.

Green River, it should be noted, is still sold; Krem-Ko is not. There also was a sign for Edelweiss beer, with the slogan, “A Case of Good Judgment.” The beer, which is no longer produced, was made by the Schoenhofen brewery in Pilsen. (The brewery also made Green River starting during prohibition, but stopped when it closed in 1950.)

Zamora had visions of learning their immense value as a guest on “Antiques Road Show” and grabbed a few for her wall.

A sign for Edelweiss beer, which was made by the now-defunct Schoenhofen brewery, which had been located in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.

This sign advertising Edelweiss beer, which once was produced in Chicago, was among those Soraya Zamora found under her garage.

Provided

Her appetite for buried treasure waned, though, as rain flooded the site in recent days, turning it into a giant mud puddle.

She put a plank across the muck — “like a pirate,” she said — so her nieces and nephew could cross.

And she left messageswith a few people seeking help in determining their origin, including one with the folks from the Chicago History Museum. She hasn’t heard back.

One thing is certain: Time is running out.

“The signs, and whatever else might be down there, are going to get entombed again as soon as the ground is dry enough to pour cement, probably next week,” she said.

After all, she said, she still needs a new garage.

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