Author Archives: theschaeferstory

Stories from a Schaefer PR Man

by Alan Schuster

I was working for Golf Magazine in 1961 after completing my military service. The editor, Bob Cooke, left soon after to join Schaefer as its Public Relations Director. About three months later, he called and asked if I’d like to come to work for Schaefer doing PR work. I remember asking him “What’s PR?” He answered that “It’s a job that will pay you twice as much as I know you’re making now.” I quickly accepted the offer and went to the publisher’s office and gave him two weeks notice.

A few days later, Cooke called and said there was a change in plans. “Apparently” he said, “I can’t hire you because company rules require you to go through a hiring process which means a resume and interview with the Personnel Director.” When I told him I had already given notice that I was leaving the magazine, his response was something like “Uh, oh. I’ll get back to you.” On his return call, he asked if I could join him and some Schaefer execs for the New York Baseball Writers Dinner a few nights later. “Mr. Schaefer will be there and I’d like you to meet him.”  Of course I said yes. I enjoyed the dinner, particularly the time I spent chatting with him.

New York Baseball Writers Dinner: A very special one for me since it is the table at which I sat with Mr. Schaefer, Bob Cooke and guests on the occasion that led to my being hired by Schaefer a week or so later. Left to right beginning with Mr. Schaefer; Henry Mayer (glasses), one of co’s biggest distributors; Howard Jones (foreground, white hair); Regional sales mgr Artie Holmes; Bob Cooke; Alan Schuster; Harold Sykes (profiled, foreground); friend of Cooke; Jack Morris.

When my resume was updated, I was invited to Brooklyn headquarters to meet the Personnel Director, Frank Casey.  The interview didn’t take long. He glanced at the resume for a brief moment, looked up, smiled, and said that Mr. Schaefer seemed quite pleased to know that I was interested in joining the company. “Welcome to Schaefer,” he said. And thus began my 33 years in the beer business, thanks entirely to the cleverness of Mr. Cooke and the kindness of Mr. Schaefer.

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It didn’t take long to realize that public relations was an important part of the company’s business profile, and that Mr. Schaefer took a close personal interest in its activities. One day, Mr. Cooke came to my office and told me that Mr. Schaefer had a special assignment for me, to oversee the Schaefer exhibit at Freedomland, a large amusement park open during the summer months in the Upper Bronx. This meant an occasional visit to the park two or three times a month, to make sure that everything was in order and that the Schaefer image was properly presented to the public. On one occasion – a Sunday afternoon – Mr. Schaefer came by, accompanied by Mrs. Schaefer.  He seemed surprised to see me there, assuming my visits would only be on weekday 9-5 hours.  I guess he had a good memory of that day, because less than two years later, I got a call from his secretary Marion Schmidt saying that he wanted to see me. It was another special assignment, this time much bigger – to be the Public Relations Manager for Schaefer Center at the N.Y. World’s Fair.

I spent five or six days a week for two consecutive six-month periods, managing the exhibit and handling guest relations with the press, key distributors and customers, sports stars, celebrities and the general public. And in addition to occasional visits from Mr. Schaefer, I got to know and work for Rudie Schaefer III, better known in company circles as “Rudie the third.”  Most of the time, Bill (aka Billy) was managing the Albany plant, but the few times we were together in Brooklyn, both guys were fun to be around.

Aerial view of Schaefer Center. Always drew big crowds, both for the beer and to meet the weekend athletes.

Regarding Mr. Cooke who had once been the sports editor of the N.Y. Herald Tribune, he was very fond of horse racing and spent much of his idle time at Aqueduct. Unfortunately, too much time. He was a likable fellow, jovial and a great story teller. After a meeting with Mr. Schaefer one afternoon, he returned to the office and told me that he had been let go.  I asked why and he half-smiled and then told me what Mr. Schaefer said to him.  He said: “Bob, I wish you knew as much about the beer business as you do about horse racing.”  It was entirely true, and Bob knew it. A few weeks later, he went to work for NYC’s concessionaire king, Harry M. Stevens. His assignment? Keeping an eye on Stevens’s concession stands – at Aqueduct, Belmont and Roosevelt.

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Once the World’s Fair assignment ended in the fall of 1965, it was back to work in Brooklyn.  A few months later, another call from Marion, telling me that Mr. Schaefer would like to see me. At this stage, I still wasn’t certain that any invitation from him to visit his office would mean an assignment. And so – having nothing else to do at the moment! – I arrived quickly and took a seat.  He came to the point right away, asking me in these exact words: “Alan, do you like to go sailing?”  I didn’t – and I told him so, very carefully. His reply was a bit of a shock: “Good,” he said, “I have a project in mind and I’d like you to oversee it.”  He went on to say that he would be building an exact replica of the schooner yacht “America” which won a race in England in 1851, leading to the series now known as the “America’s Cup.”  Before I could ask ‘why me?’ he explained that this was a job, not a pleasure cruise, and he wanted someone who would treat it that way.

Shortly after this meeting, he took me to lunch at the New York Yacht Club where we were joined by Olin Stephens, one of the yachting world’s foremost designers, and Everett Morris, a prominent sailing historian. That’s when I realized what an enormous undertaking this would be. Not only would it have the same design and specifications of the “America”, but it would be constructed by using many of the original tools that existed during that time. Of course, below [deck] would be a slightly different story, most notably Mercedes Benz engines and the usual 20th century comforts and conveniences.

At the laying of the keel at Goudy & Stevens, East Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Left to right: Name forgotten but a partner in the company, general business mgr.; co-owner Jim Stevens; unknown; Jerry Schneider, owner, producer, director of L.A. company of film “Sail to Glory”; Jack Dickerson (I think his role might have been as project ‘agent’ for Mr. Schaefer, rarely seen); Everett Morris, yachting writer and historian; RJS; Olin Stephens; co-owner Tunk Stevens; Tom Villante, VP of ad agency BBDO; Alan Schuster.

I think I made about ten visits to the builders, Goudy & Stevens in E. Boothbay Harbor, Maine, several of which were with Mr. Schaefer who took a keen interest in all phases of its construction, beginning with the laying of the keel. In May, 1967, this magnificent yacht was launched with guests including the governor, Ken Curtis, and a crowd of about 6,000. I was fortunate to be aboard in more ways than one. Weeks earlier, I was in his office as he was going over the list of people who would be on deck for the ceremonies. He handed me the list – and my name was on it. Then he asked me to count how many there were. I told him 13. He took the list back, commenting that 13 was an unlucky number. He crossed out a name, and then returned it to me. My name was still on the list! Lucy and Edmee, as you know, christened it that memorable day.

Things went smoothly on May 3, the date of the evening launch, thanks to good weather and a lot of hard work by the G&S workers, the state and local police, the Coast Guard, caterers and the big crowd who witnessed this historic event. I arrived at the boat yard about four days before the launch with a lengthy checklist of things to do, such as confirming details of hotel reservations for more than 100 invited guests, bus transportation, press interviews, releases, credentials, etc. Two days later, someone asked me “When will the beer arrive?” I contacted our Maine sales manager, Jim Zubrod, who explained that it was against state law for alcoholic beverages to be given away by a brewer at a public event.  Having met Governor Curtis a few months earlier when he visited the boat yard – and was now to be a guest speaker at the launch – we pulled some strings (ropes more likely!) and he agreed to a meeting with us to see if there was any way to make it happen. When we arrived in Augusta the following morning before launch day, the governor was already working on a possible solution to the predicament. Although Schaefer could not give away beer, a permit would be granted to Goudy & Stevens to purchase the beer. We were back in Boothbay in time for lunch, permit in hand.  In a way, the problem became a public relations boost.  First, the news media from Augusta to Boston was releasing stories about a “beer-less” launch party for the “America.” The following day, even more publicity was created when it was announced that there would be free beer after all. This news probably doubled the attendance that day. Good thing someone asked me “When will the beer arrive?”

While nothing could possibly match the thrill of watching the yacht sliding into the harbor, there was a wonderful personal moment for Mr. Schaefer earlier in the day. It occurred during a luncheon party that Mr. Schaefer hosted for the Goudy & Stevens employees and their families at the Holiday Inn in Brunswick. He spoke to them briefly once they were all seated, praising their efforts and high spirits. Then, stepping away from the microphone, he began moving from table to table, shaking every hand of every worker along the way. He spent so much time with them that when he finally got back to our table, they were serving dessert.

The champagne bottle used to christen America

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For the next few years, the “America” made public relations visits up and down the east coast, entertaining beer wholesalers and their customers, company employees, the news media and a variety of VIPs. I was aboard mostly for the tours and other special occasions.

If Mr. Schaefer was a patient man, I’m sure I tried that patience a few times when we began the first southern tour a couple of months after the launch. Since the only boats I had ever been on were a few fishing boats along the New Jersey coast, spending a couple of weeks travelling on a 110-foot schooner yacht was quite an adventure. Fortunately, seasickness was never a problem for me, and I was quick to adapt good sea legs. But seafaring talk was different. For the first day or so, Mr. Schaefer listened patiently as I would make comments about seeing another sailboat “off to the left” or “going downstairs to get something” or “the captain’s at the back of the boat.”  Finally, he sat me down and taught me things like port and starboard, topside and below, fore and aft.  I caught on soon enough, except for “downstairs.”  It took a few shouts of “below, below” before I got back on his good side.

My favorite: Mr. Schaefer, taken during a cruise of the harbor the day after the launch. Note that there were still a few chores to be performed on the deck!

Soon after the launch, the “America” began a fall public relations tour of the eastern shore, beginning with a nice welcome by the Naval Academy at Annapolis. As we approached the academy to the sounds of cannon fire, we were surrounded by boats that provided a huge escort to the academy docks. We were warmly received by the superintendent and other dignitaries, after which Mr. Schaefer learned – much to his surprise and mine – that the “America” was challenged to a race by a large academy sail boat. Mr. Schaefer might have been a little hesitant, but he never let it be known. Instead the brief ‘race’ – mostly fun – was held and Mr.Schaefer made sure that our captain, Lester Hollett, followed the opposition across the line!

A day or two later, a weekend visit had been arranged in the Annapolis area with the most significant event being a VIP sail on the Chesapeake.  Many of our Schaefer executives – and distributors – arrived for the occasion since one of the guests was to be the governor, Spiro Agnew. He was easily singled out, being the only one dressed completely in white from head-to-foot. Mr. Schaefer whispered to me as he approached something to the affect that my only responsibility that day would be to show him around the boat, stay close, and make sure his glass was filled. A year or so later, he became Vice-President of the United States!

CharlestonSC was the next stop, only this time not to a state where Schaefer Beer was sold. Neither was Georgia when we made a memorable port-of-call to Savannah.This came about as the result of a letter Mr. Schaefer received from one of the state’s most prominent and influential figures, Mills Lane, the president of Citizens and Southern Bank, inviting Mr. Schaefer to make a stopover in Savannah. Not only did Mr. Schaefer accept the invitation but he also had me make an advance visit to meet Lane and coordinate the details of the event.

Another flotilla greeted us as we were sailing up the Savannah River, along with a large crowd waiting on the dock. As lines were about to be tossed, I pointed out Lane to Mr. Schaefer and they exchanged waves. When the gangplank was set, Lane was not only the first person to come aboard, but the only one. They greeted each other, and then Mr. Schaefer took him on a short deck tour.Tagging along behind, I noticed that there were a couple of parked police cars close by with lights flashing. When I called this to their attention, Lane looked toward the dock and said “Oh, I forgot about him” Then he called out “Lester, get yerself over here.” When the guest came aboard, Lane introduced him. “Rudy, this here’s our governor Lester Maddox.” Lane had kept him waiting for about five minutes! As Mr. Schaefer and the governor were chatting, Lane took me aside and said: “Alan, do me a big favor and keep ‘ole’ Lester happy while Mr. Schaefer and I are having a nice little chat.” And so, in the span of one week, my assignment was to occupy and entertain two governors, one of whom would later become the Vice-President.

I think my most enjoyable day aboard the “America” came the following summer. Mr. Schaefer called and asked me to join him for lunch the following day for a cruise up and down Manhattan’s Hudson River with Walter Cronkite. No press, no business, and no other guests. Just  a great day with two great gentlemen!

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I’ll finish with a closing anecdote, involving Mr.Schaefer and my wife, Yvonne, with me as a bystander. He had met Yvonne on a few occasions at Schaefer Center, but they never had what might be called a conversation – until a dinner during a management conference at a NYC hotel. We were at a table of eight with one vacant seat. Yvonne was sitting across from Mr. Schaefer and before dinner began, a bucket of Schaefer Beer was placed on the table. Others opened their bottles and poured – but Yvonne did not. Mr. Schaefer noticed this and passed an open bottle to her. “No thank you” she said, “I don’t like the taste of beer.” My instant reaction was something like “Oh, boy, that’s not good.” But within a second or two, he patted on the empty seat next to him and said: “Come here missy, sit next to me.  I like a woman who speaks her mind.”  That was the real Mr. Schaefer.

My father died when I was 10 years old, and I was an only child.  I had a few memories of him, but not many.  But there would be certain times when I was with Mr. Schaefer that I thought about not having a father as I grew up, and how nice it would have been if I could have had someone like the man I was now talking with. I’m sincerely pleased to have this opportunity to write about Mr. Schaefer to people who cared so much about him. I did too!

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ABOUT THE BLOGGER – Mr. Alan Schuster:

Schaefer Brewing Company

  • Public Relations Manager, Schaefer Center, N.Y. World’s Fair 1964-65
  • Director of Public Relations (not sure about the years, but approx. 1967-1974)
  • Schaefer Brand Marketing Director (again not sure, but maybe 1975-1982)

In addition to managing special projects like Schaefer Center and America, also the Schaefer Music Festival in Central Park, the Schaefer Circle of Sports / LeRoy Neiman MVP Awards; and the Schaefer 500 at Pocono.

Stroh’s / Schaefer

  • Director of Marketing Services
  • Director of International Marketing and Sales

Retired 1994

  • Living on Dataw Island, SC.
  • Wife Yvonne, two daughters (Donna, Jill), two grandchildren (Rachel, Matthew).

THANK YOU, Alan for such a huge contribution to The Schaefer Story in both profession and in sharing these stories, images and documents with Schaefer People everywhere!

Categories: Guest Post, Sailing, World's Fair | 1 Comment

Pockets of Schaefer People

For a time Schaefer was the biggest brewery in the United States and it was one of the biggest for a long time. Though not the brand it once was (popularity-wise), there are still pockets of Schaefer people scattered all over the country. I know of a few but would love to find out about more. I’m guessing they’re hiding off-line so if you know of any old-school Schaefer crews out there let me know. In addition to the groups below I’m sure, based on Schaefer’s regional history, there’s still a strong Schaefer following in the Northeast U.S. I also know, at one point, Schaefer was incredibly popular in Puerto Rico – especially during the big salsa (dance, not condiment) movement in the 80’s. Will salsa for Schaefer!

Pabst could give us the demographic sales rundown but most of the fun is finding this stuff on our own. Pabst hardly markets their namesake/flagship brand and they certainly don’t market Schaefer. With the Pabst company being sold, now is the time for the pockets of Schaefer People to unite and spread the suds! – uh, I mean love.

SCHAEFER RACING: RING OF HONOR Great music, great beer, great racing…
One great group of Shaefer folk is based in Nashville, TN. They established the Schaefer Racing Ring of Honor, which is really based around drinking Schaefer suds at NASCAR races/venues all over the county. I became friends with @toomuchcountry on Twitter based on his Schaefer prowess and soon realized how big-time these guys were. He’s got a great blog too where he’s started a Schaefer Sellers Google map. Let him know where you buy your Schaefer and he’ll add it to the map! One of the guys kept bothering the Pabst company until they agreed to have shirts printed for the Schaefer Racing Ring of Honor. I was lucky enough to get one of the shirts (pictured). Besides cans, 30-pack cardboard and 40 oz. labels, these shirts have got to be some of the first marketing collateral officially printed for the Schaefer brand in a very long time. HUGE THANK YOU to @toomuchcountry and the rest of the Schaefer Ring for my shirt! And by the way – I am a NASCAR fan too though my kids keep me from hittin’ the races like I once did.

As opposed to the official Schaefer Beer Army – nice! Per the official unofficial Facebook page, the Schaefer Beer Army’s mission is to “Bring back Schaefer bottles so that all future generations have a chance to experience and enjoy one of America’s Greatest Treasures. Schaefer in a bottle!” A noble cause indeed. I currently hold the rank of Platoon Commander (2nd Infantry). The group has 122 members, 100 of which are officers – a high-ranking crew! I joined just a few months ago and there were somewhere around 60 members so there’s some good growth there. Self-billed as “northern rednecks” I’m pretty sure the Commander and Chief is stationed somewhere in Connecticut. The First Lady is even a member. Awesome group – tons of Facebook fun!

I came across Team Schaefer on the Wikipedia page for Schaefer Beer where the group is billed as “The company’s preservation society…” There’s just that mention there and, after Googling, I found their Facebook page. I am the 20th member of the group. Not sure how active this group is but it is definitely a Schaefer Beer-related crew.

PLEASE hit me up with more Schaefer-centric groups from around the country/world. I know there’s a big network out there, we just have to tap into it…

Categories: General | Leave a comment

Welcome, Schaefer People!

Rudolph J. Schaefer, Jr. ran The F. & M. Schaefer Brewing Company from 1927, through Prohibition and the Great Depression, until 1968. He published The Schaefer Story in 1980, 2 years before his death. The Schaefer Story is a 99 page dialogue detailing the history of the Schaefer family and brewery. It is the reason this blog exists.

Chapter IV of this blog is the full, first-hand Schaefer beer story told by RJS, Jr. It’s “Chapter IV” here because that’s what it was in the original text.

Rudolph was my great-grandfather. We all knew him as “Pie” do to someone – my dad I believe – not being able to pronounce “grampa” as a baby. I was only 10 when he died but my memories of him are vivid and warm. He was a great story teller and would gather all of his great-grandkids around to tell them about giants who lived on his property in Mamaroneck, NY. We all believed him because there was truth in everything he said and they were his stories, from his giant imagination.

His story telling shines through in the Chapter IV text just as his imaginative mind shows in the incredibly forward-thinking work he did with marketing, public relations and advertising during his tenure at the helm of the Schaefer success story, which happened to be a brewery. For those who feel marketing is “fluff,” or anything short of a major component of business, I would contend that Pie’s marketing acumen not only aided but was directly responsible for the success of The F. & M. Schaefer Brewing Company.

Please enjoy this blog responsibly.

Categories: General | 6 Comments

Ebbets Field Scoreboard

Ebbets Field was a Major League Baseball park located in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, NY. It was the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1913 to 1957 when the team moved to Los Angeles, CA. Below are a number of photos of the Schaefer scoreboard located in right field. During a game, the ‘h’ lit for a hit and the ‘e’ lit for an error. The rounded photo shows Rudie Schaefer, Jr. in the outfield with some of the players.

Categories: Baseball | 2 Comments

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