Saturday, June 20, 2015

“Come Drink Beer with Me”: Brewery Song Books


Drink beer, drink beer,
Oh come drink beer with me;
I don’t give a damn
For any old man, 
Who won’t drink beer with me

Above is a song sung lustily from the back booths of taverns and bars all over America by college student today and reaching back into the 19th Century.   Drinking beer and singing are like Siamese twins — not joined at the hip, but joined at the lip.  This close identification was understood by many a brewery in vintage times.  Illustrated here are a number of examples of the song books they issued to take advantage of the musical carousing.

The first item, “Drinking Songs for Auld Lang Syne,” is illustrated by a barbershop quartet, all in tuxedos, three of the gents wearing homberg hats.  The notes are flying.  This song book was issued by the Schmidt Brewing Company of St. Paul.  Formerly located at 882 West Seventh Street in that city, it was founded in 1855 and its name changed when Jacob Schmidt, formerly the brewmaster at Hamm’s Brewing Co., took over.  The brewery continued under that name until 1954, staying open during National Prohibition by making “near beer.”

The barbershop quartet motif was echoed the “Songs of Long Ago” issued for Bruck’s Jubilee Beer.  Here the songsters are actually performing in a barbershop while the barbers and patrons look on.   The chaps apparently are serenading with “Sweet Adeline,” that was, we are told, the 1903 Season’s Song Hit.   This book originated from the Bruckmann Cumminsville Brewing Company of Cincinnati.  Bruckmann operated two plants and featured a number of brands in addition to “Brucks.”  They included “Big Ben Ale,” “Aristocrat Cereal Beverage,” “Jubilee Beer,” and “Dixie Beer.”  The company also issued a song book that looked like a foaming mug of its brew.  
The Star Beverage Company of Minster, Ohio, issued two song books, both entitled “Sing the Good Old Times.”  The items advertised the brewery’s “Wood Shoe Lager Beer,”  available, we learn, on draught and bottles.   It is not clear why one shows the beer in the stein with a golden color while the other shows up amber.   The brewery was founded in 1869 by one Frank Lange who ran it until 1882 when the Steinemann brothers bought and directed the plant until it became Star Brewery in 1890.  Under that name it operated until National Prohibition in 1919.  Surviving during America’s “dry period” by producing nonalcoholic beverages, it began making beer again in 1933, finally closing in 1954.
Milwaukee’s Blatz brewery, of which I have written extensively before, created a song book made to resemble a German beer stein, complete with pewter lid.  These were created to carry the identification of particular restaurants and saloons carrying Blatz beer.  The one advertised here was a Cleveland, Ohio, watering hole known as “Braustub’l,”  located on the Lorain Road.  Once the book was opened, Blatz’s ad made its appearance.  This view allows us to read the songs and — goodness me — they are all in German.  Although “O Tannenbaum” hardly seems like an appropriate drinking song, except perhaps at Christmas,  I well recall intoning “A Du Lieber Augustin” and “Du, Du, Leigst Mir Im Hezen” at the Trails Inn Lodge in Milwaukee, with the owner, Mitzi, joining in.

“Everybody Sing!” was the title of the Duquesne Brewery Song book.  It advertised Duquesne Pilsener as “The Finest Beer in Town.”  That town was Pittsburgh where the brewery was a major merchandiser of beer from its founding in 1899 until dissolved in 1972.  Using a wooden barrel as the motif for the song book might have been the idea of Henry Miller who had begun his business career selling furniture.  It is said to be one of the first breweries in America to use refrigerated train cars to transport its beer to customer outside Pittsburgh.  Opening the book reveals the motto “Songs you love to sing, beer you love to drink.”  The index of songs reveals a fairly tepid roster of tunes including “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow,” and “Goodnight Ladies.”  Inclusion of Franklin Roosevelt's theme, “Happy Days Are Here Again” suggests a post-Prohibition origin.  

Even as far away as Los Angeles, the beer and singing tradition impelled the Eastside Brewery to issue a song book that featured beer songs in the repertory of Carl Ledel’s Tirolier & Bayern Orchestra, aka the “Alpine Troubadours.” Shown here front and back, the cover gives us two lyrics, one in German, the other in   English.    I remain puzzled by the motto at the top of the publication:  “Put Eastside Inside - For the Gesundheit.”  Is it implied that their beer can induce sneezing?  Eastside Brewery owes its origins to a Bavarian immigrant and veteran brewmaster named George Zobelein who bought an existing Los Angeles brewery and began making a range of beers from light pilsners and dark hocks, all under the Eastside label.  When purchased by Pabst the brand was retired after 1962.

Speaking of that Milwaukee brewery, the final song book is entitled “Pabst Blue Ribbon Stein Songs,” and shows a shapely woman holding a stein with the background of a red checked table cloth, just like those featured at the “Forstkeller,” the Pabst-owned German restaurant and bar immediately adjacent to the brewery complex in downtown Milwaukee.  It was at the Forstkeller too that beer and song mingled in a way to gladden the heart and remain fixed in memory.  This song book is definitely post-Prohibition, dating from about 1933.

It seems only fitting to end this tribute to singing, drinking and brewery song books by quoting another favorite of the bierstube crowd:

Ein Prosit, ein Prosit der Gem├╝tlichkeit
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit der Gem├╝tlichkeit

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Sweet Memories: Candy and Gum of an Earlier Time

No better way exists to evoke memories of the small pleasures of bygone days than the vintage artifacts that featured them.  My remembrances of the candy and gum enjoyed in my young days six or seven decades ago are spurred by seeing their advertising paperweights and other items.   Shown here are ten such, all of them conjuring up thoughts from the 1940s and 1950s.
World War II broke out when I was five years old and severely constrained the variety of candy that was available to a young sweet tooth.   As I recall, sugar was rationed with much of the supply going to the troops at home and abroad.  One confection still readily available was marshmallows.  Those treats had been introduced by a Milwaukee candy company in 1917, with packaging that recommending roasting them over an open fire.  With the war restricting travel, many activities were neighborhood based, including evenings around a campfire with marshmallows.  My preference was to let them burn until the entire outside was charred and then to eat the whole blackened mess with the soupy insides.  Yum!
Another candy that seems to have been around during the War was licorice, sold in the form of chewy ropes or tubes.  They could be purchased in those days for about two cents a rope and gave many a moment of pleasure as your teeth snapped off a chunk and the process of mastication ensued.   The flavor is an extract of the roots of the licorice plant and not to everyone’s taste.  In those wartime days, however, any candy to be had was eagerly consumed.
Represented here, not by a paperweight, but by an early 20th Century metal container is another favorite of mine — Tootsie Roll.  Tootsie Rolls, however, encountered a different kind of rationing.  My father was a dentist and determined to exclude cavities from the teeth of my brother and me.   Although this candy had been around since 1898, he objected to it because it had a tendency to stick to the teeth and the sugar to linger in the mouth.  The buying public was not concerned.  Today Tootsie Rolls are consumed worldwide and enjoy global favor.  According to the company, 64 million rolls are made daily.
Dad had considerably less objection to Cracker Jacks, possibly because of his own “sweet tooth” and love of popcorn.  Shown here on two vintage paperweights, this confection originated with a German immigrant named Frederick Rueckheim who ran a popcorn stand in Chicago beginning in 1871.  In 1896 his brother, Louis, discovered a method to separate the kernels of molasses coated popcorn during the manufacturing process.  As each batch was tossed in a drum similar to a cement mixer, a small amount of vegetable oil was added that helped prevent the contents from sticking together in chunks.

Inside each Cracker Jack box were two additional items:  a peanut or two and a prize.  The presence of the nuts meant little, but the prize was a big deal.   As I recall, before World War II, they frequently were made of metal.   During the war, with metal going for military purposes, the prizes disappointingly were made of paper.   After the war plastic made its appearance in the Cracker Jack box.   Whatever the prize, it was always a kick to pour out the candied kernels to look for what else the box might hold.
Life Savers were another favorite.  As shown on the weight here, for many years the round candy with the hole in the middle sold for five cents — a nickel.  The price was usually within reach of a kid with kind of any enterprise.   All it took was returning three soft drink bottles back to the store to afford a roll, with a penny left over.   The package of candy, with discipline, could last a long time.  The story of Life Savers reaches back to 1912 when Clarence Crane of Garrettsville, Ohio, invented the sweet stuff in 1912 as a “summer candy” that could withstand heat better than chocolate.   After registering the trademark, Crane sold the rights to Edward Noble for $2,900.  Noble grew Life Savers into a national brand.  He is said to have encouraged sales at cash registers of restaurants and stores, suggesting that change include five cents.  Noble’s strategy frequently was successful on me.
Bubblegum was around for a long time, produced by Frank H. Fleer in 1885 through his Fleer Corporation.  Called Blibber-Blubber, it was inferior to regular chewing gum.  It was not until 1928 that Fleer improved the formula to produce the first commercially successful bubblegum, giving it the pink color with which it traditionally is associated.  I was too young to chew before World War II and it was unavailable during the conflict itself, re-emerging only after 1945.  What a revelation!   My friends and I could not get enough of the stuff.  We also collected the cartoons that wrapped the pink chunks.  Many had corny jokes but some could even be quite sophisticated.  For years I kept one that featured the painter Picasso.  
Fast forward from the 1940s to the 1950s and Necco Wafers.  Those candies date back to 1847 when Oliver Chase, an English immigrant, invented a lozenge cutting machine to produce the wafers.   The name “Necco” was added in 1912.  The wafers got their boost during the war after the U.S. favored it as appropriate for consumption by troops overseas.  Returning servicemen became customers and spread the word.  I became addicted about 1955, buying a tube of assorted flavors almost every day before embarking on an hour-long bus trip home from high school.  
 About the same time, my taste in chewing gum changed and I became fond of the flavor of Beechnut Gum.  The Beechnut firm was founded by Bartlett Arkell in 1891 in Canajoharie, New York. It manufactured numerous items, including bacon, ham, peanut butter, coffee, strained foods, chopped foods, soups, candy and — importantly for me  — chewing gum.  Just when Beechnut Gum was first marketed is not clear, but its appearance pre-dated a 1931 paperweight that featured an “autogyro,”  an early form of helicopter.

A final memorable candy requires another movement in time, to my late 50’s college days in Milwaukee.  On many occasions going to and from the campus, my route took me past the Ambrosia Chocolate factory, founded by Otto J. Schoenleber in that city in 1894.  The company was named “Ambrosia” to characterize chocolate as “food of the gods.”  The aromas coming from the plant were indeed heavenly and I did all I could to imbibe of them fully.   The experience would lift my whole day.  Under new ownership since 1964,  Ambrosia in Milwaukee got a new plant in 1992 and today is the largest supplier of private label chocolate baking chips in America.
Although this illustrated romp through the candy and gum of yore is meant as a personal memory trip via vintage artifacts, further observations seem appropriate.  First, note that each of these confections is “home grown,” that is, invented right here in America.  Although some of the inventors were immigrants, possibly bring insights to candy-making from their homelands, all these products were “Born in the U.S.A.”   Second, without exception, all are still being sold today, having survived the Great Depression, World War II, succeeding crises and economic turndowns.  In fact, many candies such as Tootsie Roll, Cracker Jack, and Life Savers have achieved a global market, proving that the world has a sweet tooth.