------Founding of East Coast Breweriana Association (ECBA) in 1970------
"Around 1966-7, I was visiting the U.S. Brewers Association offices in New York City, where Philip Katz was very helpful in allowing me access to the Association's many files as I was researching material for my "Turn-of-the-Century Brewery Directory. While there, Philip showed me an article from one of the New York City tabloids, Post or Mirror, that had an article about a guy on Long Island, Joe Veselsky, who collected beer cans. Not long after, I visited Joe at his home in Hicksville during a time when there was a group of other collectors. For the first time, I learned that a few car loads of beer memorabilia collectors living in the New York City area had been gathering for years at their homes to talk about their collections, look for new additions, and the camaraderie was always accompanied by a lot of beer going down for a fun time.
In 1969 during a meeting at our home in Carmel, New York, the subject was raised generally about forming an official group with a name, etc., but the formal organizational procedures with the name East Coast Breweriana Association weren't completed until a gathering at Joe Veselsky's home in 1970. Joe, as member #1 was elected President, and as #2, I was elected Treasurer. Joe really liked his role as #1 and took the lead in handling all the organizational details in running the club. I was glad to help out as Treasurer, and soon found that Joe kept track of any amount he spent on behalf of the club, even down to wanting reimbursement of small amounts he had spent for stamps on letters.
Among some of the collectors during the time before and after the founding of the ECBA (sorry with a quick listing if I miss some guys) were: Joe Veselsky, Ernie Oest, Ken Kroeger, Ron Schliessman, Ed Scott, Joe Allis, Leon Beebe, Bob Gottschalk, Skip Bennett, Dewey Hixenbaugh, Steve Seidel, John Pardee, Jay Herbein, Al Zaika, and Dave Lang - each of whom had varying interests in beer cans, bottles, signs, trays, labels, etc."
------Reviewing again how you started collecting beer cans----
"When at Cornell, a fraternity brother who I now only recall as "George" was drinking heavily and piled up a number of Ballantine cans. Seeing that pile, my roommate Bob Myers and I started talking about how many different brands there were, and to find out, we drove around Ithaca for a few hours finding 26 brands. From then, our collections grew rapidly as we took trips farther afield, even going to Montreal. At the time there were still many small breweries operating with brands such as, Hedrick, Topper, Dobler, Old Ranger, Fitz, Simon Pure, Iroquois, etc. Probably the rarest "current" beer can label I actually bought was during a trip home to Ardsley, NY - two Penguin cans in Hancock, NY."
-------Buying the Joe Allis collection--------
"After graduation from Cornell, I also "graduated" beyond cans to focusing on embossed bottles, as well as trays, signs, and labels. In the beer can category, I mostly accumulated "current" ones, but on occasion would add older cans such as those found in the Owls Head railroad station attic and by 1968 had around 1000 cans.
Early on I enjoyed the "camaraderie" with collectors and sharing information on collecting.
As I wrote in "Turn-of-the-Century Brewery Directory":
'We're about 60 miles north of New York City, and I mean it sincerely when I say the door is always open to fellow collectors and enthusiasts.'
Then in 1968 I purchased the Joe Allis collection which gave my accumulation a major boost to around 2000 cans, 200 trays, 700 embossed bottles, plus numerous signs, taps, etc. For a few years prior, I had known Joe from the gatherings of collectors and he offered me his collection. Joe lived in Whitestone, NY and ran a restaurant in Manhattan, maybe? on 47th St. He was what I would describe as an "opportunistic collector" who had bought a number of collections and by 1968 was ready to sell. I knew he had a great collection of older cans with many trays, signs, etc. as I could compare what he had with the collections of Ernie Oest and Joe Veselsky.
I don't recall Joe Allis giving much information on what collections he had bought, but in the early 1960's he had acquired a good part of the collection of Paul Daniels, who had lived in New Jersey and abruptly moved to South America. Paul, part by fact and part by legend, was known to have had many early beer cans. Later I learned from Bob Myers that Joe Allis had also bought the collection of Jim Bacon who lived in Sacramento, Calif. Joe had traveled out to a "subway token" convention in Oakland in the early 1960's and had bought Jim Bacon's collection at that time.
When buying the Joe Allis collection, I decided to split it 50/50 with Ed Scott of Haledon, New Jersey and recall the total price was $3500 or $3800 -, somewhere here I have a check for the half I bought. Ed Scott got everything from New Jersey (there isn't much New Jersey breweriana in my early books); I got first pick for a number of other items; and we split the rest.
In later years, collectors have asked: 'Why did you split such a great collection when you had the chance to buy it all?' The reason was a family one: whenever I had been spending money to add beer items to the collection, my wife Sonja was always saying: 'you are taking money from the boys.' "
----"Breweriana" is well known word now - how did you pick it?-------
"Driving home from my work at Reader's Digest one evening in 1968, I was thinking of a book that would show my collection of beer cans, embossed bottles, trays, signs, etc. that had been substantially increased with the Joe Allis' collection, but what title would work?
--Liked 'Beer' for the first word.
--Had visited a number of 'Breweries' so had the 2nd word, but just those didn't make a highlighting title.
--Then boom - 'Breweriana' popped into my thoughts, and had the title: "Beers, Breweries, and Breweriana".
I like the alteration of three B's. Still remember the location when "Breweriana" came to mind - was driving past a local bar with the name, Do Drop In."
--------The Beer Book---------
"Of my nine books, "The Beer Book" in 1973 by the Pyne Press probably attracted the most interest due in part to its color pages, hardback binding, and fortuitous timing just as the hobby was growing fast.
The Beer Book led to my being on the "Today show", "What's My Line" in 1974, and an article in the March, 1976 issue of Town and Country. On the Today Show, a "Breweriana Room" was set up and I spent 15 minutes showing and discussing the collection.
Since over the years most towns have a had brewery, Breweriana has a way of connecting persons. As an example, for the Town and Country magazine article, the photographer who visited my home to take pictures was Arnold Newman. (As is well known, he specialized in photographing persons in their typical surroundings, showing their activities.) Mr. Newman's wife was also along but she was quite bored with the breweriana subject, and wanted to leave soon. Somehow the information came out that she was from Chester, PA and I showed her some of the colorful cans and signs from Chester Brewing. Immediately her attitude changed as she had never known there had been a brewery in her home town, and with that connection, she had a friendly interest for the rest of their visit."
----Ernie Oest is known to have visited and photographed many breweries---
"I have a 45 minute tape by Ernie describing his collecting and travels, will look for it. Ernie had many interesting stories, but for two of mine: Back around 1976 on a Sunday with my son, I was taking pictures of the Rheingold Brewery for my book, "Breweries of Brooklyn". A couple approached and the woman, I remember very clearly, was in her Sunday's finest white dress - but a few sizes too tight and with lots of glitter - was shimmying up the sidewalk towards me. I thought she looked just like LaVern Baker - the '50's singer with a #1 hit, "Jim Dandy".
In a local accent she says:
'Whys u's takin' pic'turs of dat durty old bill'in fer, when u culd take a pic'tur of MEEE!!'
So I said: 'Why sure, I'll get a picture of you in front of the building.' "
Another time when checking out the R & H Brewery on Staten Island was my closest call with security persons. The brewery was abandoned, but still had various items inside. Mostly of interest were a number of sets of china, which I loaded in my car. Suddenly, a vehicle pulled up with several men from a private security company and asked what I was doing. I said I had an interest in looking at former breweries and showed them several of my books. The books and my knowing about the brewery took the pressure off and they drove off. Fortunately they didn't check my car with the sets of china I had taken and would have seen I was doing more than just 'looking' - still use that china!"
----For your current activities, what book are you working on now?------
"Currently researching material for a book on New York State breweries, which is appropriate going back to the State where I grew up and started learning about beer and breweries. Among recent trips taken, have visited Brooklyn again."
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