If the Pixies aren’t a household name in your household, get another household. The band started in a garage on Francis Wyman Road in 1986 and went on to immense success primarily in Europe. When the Pixies hit the scene, they had other musicians absolutely rapt:
- David Bowie: “What they’ve done is change the format for delivering harder rock.”
- Radiohead: “There are only a handful of Pixies albums. You kinda can’t keep copying them, which is what we’ve done for so long.”
- Kurt Cobain: “I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it [smiles]. When I heard the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily I should have been in that band — or at least in a Pixies cover band.”
So the next time a Burlington garage band is disturbing the peace at all hours, think about the Pixies for a minute before you call the police. When that minute is over, by all means make the call. There will never be another Pixies.
David Lovering (BHS 1980), the band’s co-founder and drummer, says he started digging into local history, literally digging, long before Burlington Retro came along.
The woods behind my parents’ house on Francis Wyman Road was a treasure trove of a historic yesteryear going all the way back to the Shawshin Indian days. Cellar holes from the 17th century, forgotten apple orchards, miles and miles of stone walls, grown-in dirt roads, colorful old bottles and oyster shells protruding from the ground after a winter’s thaw.
All this Colonial history had an impact on me to discover more.
Around the age of eleven, I bought my first metal detector. It was a BFO, meaning “beat frequently oscillator.” Any kind of metal, ferrous or non ferrous, would make an audible signal rise in frequency depending on depth. A shallow object was louder. This was a very early and crude type of detection. I don’t think I ever found anything more exciting than nails. I eventually turned it into a lame electronic drum by mounting the coil in a drum pad and taping foil onto my drum sticks.
My next detector was a Bounty Hunter VLF 840. This was a VLF machine, meaning it is sensitive in mineralized soils where it is able to identify targets and discriminate trash. This was the game-changer. Now I was starting to find very old coins and relics. My very first coin was an 1864 Two Cent Piece in my own back yard! From that point I was hooked.
As the years went by, I bought better machines. These machines not only detected deeper, but they were also able to tell me with some probability what the target actually was and at what depth. But I learned the best tool for hunting is research. You search where people congregated years ago, such as swimming holes and places where events were once held, no matter how overgrown they were.
In Burlington alone, Simonds Park yielded many old coins. Knowing your machine, and hunting these busy places, yielded my best finds. I filled my “treasure box” with old Colonial coppers, loads of old silver coins, gold, and early foreign coinage used in the United States before it began minting its own.
The coins amazed me. To think that someone over 200 years ago was in the same woods that I played in and called my own was quite remarkable. I can still remember exact locations from which each coin or relic was found.
An interesting fact about detecting coins: A Large Cent, U.S. pennies of the 1700’s, are rather large, hence the name. A coin of that size would sink probably 10″ into the ground after 200 years. By comparison, a much smaller Busted Half Dime from the early 1800’s would sink to over a foot. All because of the surface area of the coins. Also, coins that are in the ground for that long begin to leach out some of their alloys. This creates a halo effect, making a much larger signal than a coin buried just a few years back. The halo effect aids in finding older deep coins.
In 1993, I moved from Massachusetts to southern California. Gone were the plentiful hunting areas dating back to Colonial times. Now I was faced with pavement as far as I could see and a not so distant past. But there was plenty of something else to hunt. The ocean. The water is cold; it shrinks your skin. It’s also a lubricant. Rings are lost daily in the surf.
I purchased an underwater detector called a PI, or “pulse induction” unit. These detectors go extremely deep. There’s no discrimination on these machines. But hunting in wet or dry sand is much easier than digging in soil. After a while I learned the responses of the PI and was able to discern, without digging, what might lurk below.
The ocean constantly throws coins, jewelry and a lot of trash onto the beach. And knowing how to read beach conditions makes successful hunting. Years ago I went on a detecting trip to Hawaii. Just so happened that conditions couldn’t have been better. Everyday I traveled to a different four star hotel on the island and worked two hours in the surf. After seven days I found 21 men’s gold wedding bands!
I now have six metal detectors. Two all-purpose units, a gold nugget machine, a VLF submersible, a PI submersible and “tot lot” detector with a small coil for edging around playground equipment.
At home, my treasure box is a wonderful thing to bring out for show and tell. It has everything from musket balls to old dog tags and everything in between. Once I brought it in to my son’s first grade class. All the kids needed to hear was the word, “treasure” and it was a hit from then on.
There is more money lost in the ground than in circulation today. Considering all those centuries that have gone by, I have a lot more detecting to do.