Many of the comments that I have gotten from this blog centered on stories written about Schlitz. Comments have come from not only former employees but also from wholesalers who were at one time associated with the brand. Recently I have gotten more comments about Schlitz than normal; however one comment I received in early December brought back a flood of memories.
I was 23 and had recently moved back to Dallas from Austin where I had been working as a driver salesman for Falstaff. I wanted to work as a rep for a major brewery, so a close friend and I visited both AB and Schlitz. As it happened, both companies had their regional offices in the same building. AB was not hiring, but Schlitz was hiring. We both did well in our local interviews and were sent to Milwaukee for the corporate interviews.
The primary interviewer and final decision maker was the creator of the Schlitz Marketing Institute, James Haire. I spent the majority of my interviewing time with Jim, and late in the afternoon he taught me a valuable lesson. Being young and inexperienced, I was not prepared for the interview, and Jim ripped into me. I did not get the position I had applied for and obviously was disappointed.
By 1975 I had become the Schlitz Sales Manager for a large Schlitz house in Louisiana. I went back to Milwaukee for training at Jim’s school. Jim was there, but I do not recall spending time with him, nor did he remember me.
In 1981 I went back to Milwaukee, having just purchased the seventh largest Schlitz distributor in the US and I was looking for final brewery approval. Jim and I went to dinner, and I must say I really wanted to bring up that ill-fated interview. The point I wanted to make to him that evening was that I was not good enough to work at Schlitz, but good enough to buy the seventh largest operation in the US. With respect to Jim I said nothing. I did get the approval to purchase the distributorship.
Jim’s daughter, Judy, recently contacted me after reading some of my blogs about her father and old times at Schlitz. Jim passed away in January 2012 at the age of 95. He was a first-born American to European immigrants who had served as domestic servants.
Jim obtained his GED after dropping out of high school to serve in the Naval Intel during WWII. He started at Schlitz in 1948 and his dream was to own a Schlitz distributorship, but instead he created what was referred to as Haire U. He retired, reluctantly, in 1982 and spent the next 30 years volunteering and giving back to his community.
As Judy mentioned, Jim was a great story teller who relished an audience and never tired of talking about beer, and was no stranger to hyperbole. She said it was not until after his death did she understand how well he was respected throughout the industry.
She found a three-ring binder with at least 50 letters of congratulations on his retirement, sent to him from wholesalers he had trained throughout the country. Without exception every one of them mentioned this positive influence on their careers and how much they appreciated what he had done for them and how much they would miss him.
I never saw Jim again after 1981; however his training and institute were the industry standard. His legacy was to teach me a lesson as a young man. I would not have made it all these years in the beer industry without that one-day experience with Jim.
I want to thank Judy for contacting me and sharing stories about her dad. For those of us who went to Schlitz U, we remember Jim with fondness.
Beer Fodder; http://youtu.be/Dyonu7NsHdg