Prohibition, 100 Years Later

On January 17, it will be 100 years since Prohibition went into effect. Because of the current political climate  around immigration, I  am posting an excerpt  from Brewing Battles that describes the treatment some German-American brewers received  during the enactment of Prohibition.

The brewing industry was overwhelmingly German; most German-Americans drank beer as did many other Americans. Although German-Americans maintained many ties to Germany, the vast majority were second or third generation Americans. The founders of most breweries had immigrated to America in the 1840s and 1850s. World War I generated a tremendous amount of public hostility against Germans and German-Americans. For brewers and their fellow ethnic citizens, the war period was a test of their dual identities.

Some of the nation’s most prominent brewers faced these issues of loyalty and cultural identification as soon as America entered the war. One of New York’s most prominent brewers was George Ehret, Sr., the nation’s largest brewer in 1877. In 1914, Ehret, an American citizen, returned to Germany to live. In 1918 his son, George Ehret, Jr., turned over the family property with a value of $40 million to the federal government. A. Mitchell Palmer, who was then the Alien Property Custodian, found Ehret, Sr. to be “of enemy character.” Ehret had not broken any laws but appeared to be friendly with and under the protection of “powerful men.” He had also given large amounts of money to the German Red Cross since 1914. Palmer stated that Ehret, who was 83, could get his property back if he returned to America. He would then lose “his enemy character.” The Ehret family’s status as influential New Yorkers and wealthy Americans apparently did not mean as much as his German affiliations.[1]

Lily Busch, widow of Adolphus Busch, suffered similar problems. The Buschs, if not the country’s wealthiest brewing family then certainly its most ostentatious, owned several estates including a castle on the Rhine in Germany. Adolphus died in 1913; estimates of the value of his wealth ranged from $30 to $60 million.[2] Both Adolphus and Lily were born in Germany; Lily had become a naturalized citizen of the United States. When World War I broke out she made her German home a war hospital and served as a nurse. The German government took her property because she was an American citizen; the United States viewed her as enemy alien since she was in Germany. When she returned to the United States in 1918 the government seized her property and placed her under a form of house arrest. She died in 1928.[3]

The prosecution, if not persecution, of these prominent brewers and their families indicated the deep unease Americans felt about the presence of Germans in their country. The rhetoric of the Prohibition movement for most of its existence had been positive, extolling the virtues that removing alcohol from society would bring. . . . The final push that brought Prohibition, the Eighteenth Amendment, and the Volstead Act into being became negative and played on people’s fears as American faced a world that was unfamiliar and rapidly changing.

Jacob Rupert, owner of the New York Yankees and Jacob Rupert Brewery with Miss Harwood, 1921. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

 

[1] “Nation Gets Ehret Property,” New York Times, May 14, 1918, 1.

[2] “Adolphus Busch Dies In Prussia” New York Times, October 11, 1913, 15.

[3]; “Mrs. Lily Busch of St. Louis Dies,” New York Times, February 26, 1928, 27.

© All Rights Reserved Amy Mittelman 2020.

Goals

My main goal for 2020 is to finish my book on faculty wives. I hope to complete chapter five, which I have been working on for over a year, shortly. I would then have five or six chapters left. At the very least, I need to pick up the pace.

When I was thinking about my progress, I realized that I would need more structure, focus and motivation to achieve this goal. Beginning the end of January, I will be participating in the year long non-fiction manuscript group that the Pioneer Valley Writers Workshop offers. Most of the other members of the group will be memoirists but I think paying for the workshop and having regularly scheduled meeting once a month will provide a lot of structure and motivation.

The other writing commitment that I am undertaking is being part of Nerissa Nield’s Writing It Up in the Garden workshop for ten weeks. This is two hours once a week. Both of these writing groups require a commitment which I hope will benefit my rate of production for the book.

Besides writing the book, my other big commitment is to my ice skating. Having competed in October, my focus is now on being part of an adult group number, for the annual skating show of the Skating Club of Amherst. I hope I will be less nervous skating on home ice. My other skating goal is to complete at least one three turn this year. Here is link to a video, by a professional, of a three turn. After today I will have 357 days left to do it.

Because finishing my book is imperative, I am going to try to keep my schedule free from the other activities. This will not be easy; I have trouble saying no. The only thing I will consider getting involved in is efforts to defeat Donald Trump.

What are your goals for 2020? I would love to hear them.

New Decade

Since this is the first day of a new decade, I am going to reflect a little bit more deeply than I usually do in this yearly post. The years 2010 -2019 had some real highs and some real lows. During the decade my older son graduated from college, I had a bat mitzvah and my son got engaged. The lows included both of my in-laws dying as well as my brother. My brother died of ALS and this past June, my beloved cousin, Lowell received the same diagnosis. The decade was what you would expect out of life;  both good and bad occurred.

Moving to this past year, 2019,I did compete in ice skating which was a very memorable if not entirely positive experience. I have been working on the fifth chapter of my book for over a year which is not a very good pace.

I had 43 posts which is less than last year but, given the turmoil of my life from June until November, I feel pretty good about that number. Posting every week was difficult; I did the best I could. I tweeted 585 times which is 1.6 a day. This year my tweeting came more in spurts depending on a particular political moment or not. I feel good about my tweeting.

Next week I will talk about my plans for the new year. Happy New Year!

 

 

Hallmark Does Hanukkah

This holiday season both Hallmark Channel and Lifetime have produced Hanukkah movies along with the usual staple of Christmas movies. Calling something a Hanukkah movie would imply it was about that holiday and its celebration. The three movies had different degrees of success in meeting that standard.

Only one of the Hallmark movies, Double Holiday, was about celebrating Hanukkah and it was the best of the three. Rebecca and Chris are coworkers who must produce a holiday party for their company. How well the party does will help determine which one of them gets a promotion. Because the eight days they have to prepare coincides with Hanukah, the two wind up celebrating together.

Rebecca celebrates with her family and Chris appreciates their warmth and sense of social obligation. The Hoffman’s only exchange gifts one night and the other nights are dedicated to charity and volunteering. Chris is open to learning about Hanukkah; in the course of the movie the blessing for lighting the candle is recited three time.

The movie stresses that people celebrate in different ways. This is at least a tacit acknowledgement that the fantasy Christmases of Hallmark movies is not for every one. Although Double Holiday did, to some extent, equate Hanukkah and Christmas, it was respectful of Jewish traditions. The plot did not involve Rebecca coming to love Christmas, rather Chris came to a better understanding of Hanukkah.

The other two movies, Lifetime’s Mistletoe and Menorahs and Hallmark’s, Holiday Date are both Christmas movies that include a Jewish person.  Holiday Date was the worst. It has a convoluted, unrealistic plot and verged on being condescending and patronizing about Hanukkah.

The best thing about watching these three movies was that I heard “Hanukkah Oh Hanukah” sung multiple times and heard the candlelight blessings several times as well. Double Holiday had the extra bonus that no Christmas music was played.

***********Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas!***********

***********Happy Hanukkah! Happy New Year!**********

 

Sisters

On Saturday, I went to see a Shakespeare and Company staged reading of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Kate Hamill wrote the play.  The actors played the story mostly for laughs, presenting the material more broadly than Austen’s version.

One serious moment which was deeply affecting was when Marianne is seriously ill, and Elinor pleads with her to live. “Don’t leave me Marianne”  says Elinor. I felt tears come to my eyes in response to this wonderful portrayal of the deep connection between the two sisters. I have a sister; our relationship is very complicated, but I don’t want to lose her. However, Elinor’s speech comes from the playwright not Jane Austen.

Thinking about this scene led me to reflect on other sisters in literature and movies.  The original Frozen is definitely about sisters. Elsa and Anna are the “heroes” of the movie; their sisterly bond enables them to triumph.

Another movie which is about sisters and is appropriate for the season is White Christmas.  There is even a song, “Sisters” in the movie. It stars Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen play the sisters. When I was little this was one of my favorite movies.

It is more difficult to come up with books that feature two sisters with as deep a bond as Marianne and Elinor. Little Women is all about sisters but there are four. Throughout the book, at various times, the sisters have different connections to each other. The relationships are not static.

I want to find good examples of sisters in a few novels for my Jane Austen book club. Starting in February we are reading Northanger Abbey. The rest of the year we will read gothic novels. Thinking ahead, the following year I might do Sense and Sensibility so I would need works that fit with the book’s themes, especially sisters.

New Host – SiteGround

I did it. I switched my hosting company from BlueHost to SiteGround. It took a few days for everything to get into place but now it is done. SiteGround was helpful during the process; BlueHost was less so. As in past experiences, the best way to contact BlueHost and get results was via chat.

My goal in making the switch was for it to be seamless and invisible so no one would even know I had changed hosts.  That worked so I was very happy. As far as logging in to work on posts, I do that through WordPress. The login is the same.

For the first year, I got a special Black Friday rate so it is cheaper than BlueHost would have been. If I stay with SiteGround, next year it will be more expensive. However, I am stopping SiteLock because SiteGround persuaded me that  my site would be secure without it. Because SiteLock  was so expensive, I will be saving a lot by discontinuing it.

My main concern in choosing a new host was security. BlueHost was useless when my website got hacked. Hopefully I won’t get hacked again. If I do, I am hoping SiteGround will be helpful in fixing whatever problems occur.

Jane Austen’s Birthday

December 16th is Jane Austen’s birthday. She was born in 1775 so this is the 244th celebration of her birth. As you may know, I have been leading the Jane Austen’s Regency World book club at the Jones Library, Amherst, MA since last February.

Tomorrow is the last meeting for this fist year of the club. Since we are meeting in December, I am planning to bring refreshments for a celebration of Jane’s birthday. The menu is going to be ginger cakes and apple cider. The recipe for the cookies is from Jane Austen’s Card Games; 11 Classic Card Games and 3 Supper Menus from the Novels and Letters of Jane Austen by Jo Ann Staples.

For this meeting, we read Barbara Pym’s Excellent Women. Even if you haven’t read the book, all are welcome to attend.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JANE!

 

BlueHost

This week I was going to write about beer, for a change, but, I had another BlueHost issue. I got an email that said the server for my BlueHost email  was being “decommissioned in the next week. In order to ensure full email functionality after this server’s shut-off date, you will need to update the server name in your email client settings.”(their bold). This was pretty anxiety provoking and reading the rest of the email didn’t alleviate my panic.

I looked at my current email settings and I couldn’t really understand what they were talking about so I decided to contact BlueHost for help. When I went to their website, the most immediate form of help was a live chat so I did that. Twenty-nine minutes later, I was still completely perplexed about what I was supposed to do.

I did tried changing the settings to  what the emails suggested but then my email didn’t work so I changed them back. The person chatting with me was no help so I decided to call.  Ray, the tech support person I reached, was helpful. After ascertaining that the email was legitimate, he concluded that I didn’t have to change anything since my email was working.

This is the  fourth time since my website was hacked in February 2018 that I have had a problem with my website and BlueHost.  In October, my website was offline for two days or so because BlueHost had changed servers and SiteLock, my security provider, couldn’t access my site and therefore shut it down. Again chatting was useless but a real person did help me by contacting SiteLock and getting my website restored.

In looking over the various posts I have written about website problems, a common theme is that I would like to make a change but I still have not managed to do that. In June I renewed for six months. The six months have come and gone and I am still with BlueHost.

Since I was hacked, the main issue has been security. I pay SiteLock $70 a month to prevent my site being hacked again. If I switched to WordPress.com, I supposedly wouldn’t need SiteLock anymore which would save a lot of money. The problem is I don’t believe that. Not being sure about the advantages of WordPress has kept me with BlueHost.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Stalemate

I was having trouble finding a topic for today’s post. The end of last week was very stressful if not traumatic and I am still getting my bearings. I feel like I have been on a roller coaster for the last twelve days.

From November 8 to November 10, I attended a writing retreat in Northampton, MA. Nerissa Nields runs writing groups and retreats under the rubric, “Writing it up in the Garden.” This retreat was women only; the Kali Retreat. The group was 11 women, including Nerissa.

The retreat was a great experience both for my writing and my psyche. Thinking about a retreat was most enticing; the idea that I would be able to focus on my writing and nothing else was incredibly appealing.

My feelings about the writing part were more mixed. I write non-fiction from an academic background and I thought most of the people would be creative writers. I feared that my work would not resonate with the group.

The retreat exceeded my expectations in both areas. The two and half days were a wonderful escape from real life stress and the group couldn’t have been nicer and more supportive about my work. I was incredibly productive; writing almost ten pages during the retreat. Another great benefit of the retreat was that the motivation it engendered lasted into the following week.

On Thursday I had to go to New York City to attend a legal hearing, concerning a civil matter on Friday. I spent the late afternoon on Thursday prepping with my lawyer for several exhausting hours. Thursday night my husband and I had a lovely dinner with our son, his fiancée and her parents.

Friday was the hearing, which was definitely not a pleasant experience; it did not go my way. Because of privacy concerns I cannot say much more about the proceeding. However, my friends and family know the judge’s decision was wrong. I appreciate their love and support.

 

 

 

The American Wife


As I continue to work on my manuscript about faculty wives, I am always interested in books that appear to be about wives or more broadly women. After reading The New York Times obituary of Elaine Ford, I read her collection of stories, The American Wife.

In the story, “Changeling”, the main character, Sandy, thinks the following: “It’s as if getting married when you’re an undergraduate and then having a baby before your husband’s career is well established, together amount to sheer irresponsibility, which cannot be allowed to go unpunished.”

The story is about a young woman living in Athens with an infant while her husband is off on an archaeological dig. Sandy experiences extreme psychological distress to the extent that she believes the baby is not hers.

The story has autobiographical elements; in 1958, Ford, an undergraduate at Radcliffe married a Harvard student, Gerald Bunker. Together with their infant they pursued lengthy travels while he completed his Ph.D.  By 1964, she had three children but did completed her bachelor’s degree.

The couple continued traveling and having more children. By 1976  they five children and were living in Northern Ireland while Bunker was in medical school. Ford divorced Bunker, returned to the United States and began pursuing a writing career. She published her first novel, The Playhouse, at the age of 41 in 1980.

Ford, writing  about “Changeling”, said it “reflects my experience of living in Athens with a baby while my husband was far away on an archaeological dig. Though I’ve imagined the central plot of the story, the protagonist’s sense of isolation and disorientation certainly expresses my state of mind at the time.”