"Fuhrmann & Schmidt had family flavor" article from the Shamokin News-Item

The Fuhrmann and Schmidt Brewing Co. was a family business in more ways than one. It was a business that attracted members of different generations of families - and those of the same generation.

This held true for Max Schmidt - who co-founded the brewery in 1895 with P.H. Fuhrmann - and his son Frank W. Schmidt, who served as president of the firm for nearly two decades. It also held true for a considerable number of the employees.

When Francis "Punch" Zielinskie of Coal Township traces his family tree, quite a few branches have F&S foam on them. His grandfather Frank Omlor was longtime master brewmaster at F&S. His father Alphonse "Ike" Zielinskie worked there from 1933 until the brewery was closed. His uncle Jerome Zielinskie was employed there for many years, as was his father-in-law Sam Kolonoski who started his long employment there in 1934.

"There were quite a few brothers who worked there," recalled "Punch" "There were the Appeals, "Nibs" and "Bob," the Gemberlings, the Grow brothers, the Mudrick brothers, the Maerkls," he said, noting the Kasemen family was also associated with the operation.

These family ties and the relatively laid-back atmosphere of a "small" brewery led to the other type of family at F&S - a family atmosphere among management and employees. "They were always together, even when they had their union meetings," said Zielinskie. "They got just about everyone at those union meetings." And when you have families, you're sure to have memories and anecdotes.

Some are from a general nature. Zielinskie recalls the week of preparations it would take to get ready for the annual clambake his grandfather Frank Omlor would stage for members of the Master Brewmaster Association of the Eastern United States.

"Another thing they always did at F&S was try to find the ugliest Christmas tree they could find" said Zielinskie "And I mean they use to get some ugly ones, all the decorations where made at the brewery - bottle caps, coasters, empty cans, labels."

Another Christmas tradition involved bartering with another long-gone Shamokin buisness, Martz's Dairy. "They'd make eggnog and trade a case of beer with Martz's for every case of milk or cream they needed for the eggnog."

Robert F. Appeal, who worked at F&S for over 35 years, gets a gleam in his eye's when he recalls the craftsmanship of some of his co-workers and the antics of others. There was a skilled cheif mechanic named William "Bizz" Thew "He was all over the brewery recalled Appeal, "You didn't have much down time for anything... He was a mechanical genius."

Then there was a cooper (barrel maker) by the name of Andrew Mihalik who lived on Bunker Hill. "He was a real craftsmen," said Appeal. "He would take the barrels apart because they were leaking, He was a real master, He would put them barrels together and there wouldn't be a drop out of them."

On the other end of the workmanship scale was a guy known as "Wagon Tongue John" so named because of his habit of putting pipes together -barely- Appeal said anytime steam started to escape from a loosely connected pipe, they could be sure that "Wagon Tongue John" had been involved.

He also laughed as he recalled the exaggerations of a boiler room employee with "extensive" work experience. Appeal said this guy would say that he has spent so many years in the boiler room , so many years at another job in the brewery and so on. "Until he got done, he was a 135 years old and had worked there 300 years."

Zielinskie recalled the skill of "Dutch" Deitrich, a salesmen, at setting up F&S displays in barrooms throughout the region. Incidentally, the "Dutch" nickname proved to be well earned when he spoke Pennsylvania Dutch to peddle F&S in taprooms in the "valleys"

One anecdote may sum up the mixture of hard work and good humor found at F&S Brewery. Frank Olmor was a master brewmaster, but he "He liked his fun" as his grandson recalls. "The fellow who use to put the seals across the barrels of beer used glue, it was thick stuff," said Zielinskie,"And every time one of the workers from the racking room would come by and turn the brush upside down and put it back in the glue."

A hand full of glue gets old mighty quickly, so the justifiably upset barrel labeler went to Olmor to vent his rage. The brewmaster called the employees into the office and told them in no uncertain terms he wanted the upside brush work to stop immediately. "My dad said that when every one left my grandfather, went out of the room and put the handle of the brush in the glue," Zielinskie said.

Article written by Walter Kozlowski
Shamokin News-Item Assistant Editor
Wed. February 28, 1996

source: http://web.archive.org/web/20041022070155/www.haywired.com/stahkalien/FAMILYflavor.html

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