Reading Times April 16, 1976
“Wet Eulogy… ‘taps’ sounded for (Old Reading) brewery.”
By Gary Catt
It was called the “stanawat” the palce where brewhouse employes took breaks from work.
No one in the Reading B.C.’s stanawat could remember how to spell the room’s name Thursday.
There was a wake going on.
Reading Beer flowed free and easy as the day shift paid parting tribute to the end of an era in Reading.
Reading Beer will now be turned out in Philadelphia by C. Schmidt & Sons. It’s Reading’s beer no longer.
Death came officially to the brewery at 4 p.m. The knell was a foggy blast of an air whistle.
The whistle, which used to signal relief for the 105 workers – the end of another work day – signaled hopelessness for the men in the stanawat Thursday.
It blew too long, loud and empty. The raucous atmosphere in the stanawat stilled. White-capped glasses of fresh Reading brew were hoisted ceremoniously. The men drank deeply.
There were no tears. But as they san good-bye, there was a hollowness in their voices. They drank deeply and swallowed hard.
Voices spiked with cynicism, they ribbed each other. “See you Monday at 8th and Penn… the unemployment office.”
For most it was their last day with the brewery. Some will continue indefinitely shipping out what’s left in stock of the original Reading Beer.
The Singing and toasting started again. They paid tribute to the beer, the brewery, themselves and the brewery workers that had passed before them.
There was warm talk of the brewery baseball team, and its players.
And the glasses were refilled again. The last of Reading Beer spilled from the tap into the glasses, into the men who made it.
They sang some more. This time it was louder. Robbie Hagenbaugh took his teeth out. Joe Pickler sat and stared.
Ed Hare, called the “Six Million Dollar Man” by his co-workers, was jokingly given credit for shutting down his second brewery.
Hare had spent 16 years with the former Sunshine Brewery and five with Reading. He’s 59 years old. He’ll be at 8th & Penn streets on Monday.
Adolph Uhrig, the company’s assistant brewmaster, stood nearby, his tennis cap slightly askew. He was asked where an unemployed brewmaster goes for a job.
“He goes to 8th & Penn like everyone else,” he replied. “This is the first time I’ve been unemployed since I was 15.”
After 25 years with the brewery, Uhrig was about to perform his last act. “I told the brewmaster (Elmo E. Messer) before I left I would put the keys to the lab and the brewmaster’s office on his desk.
At 54, Uhrig is jobless, and three of his nine children are still in college. He’s too young to retire, and he feels ther’s not much likelihood he’ll be able to find a similar job.
“I wouldn’t say there’s no hope. I could always pull up stakes and move out. I ought to be able to find something, even if it’s digging ditches,” he commented.
Uhrig said he came to Reading from Rhode Island as assistant brewmaster in 1951, the same year the firm installed a new copper brew kettle. The date-embossed kettle will remain.
“I moved to Reading for a few more bucks,” Uhrig explained. “I figured it was a start. I was happy here. I liked Reading, the brewery, the people here. I wouldn’t have left unless someone offered me a lot more money.”
In the stanawat, Robbie Hagenbauch ran through his repertory of Old Reading Beer radio jingles. Another worker offered a vocal, but off color tribute to Russians.
The filling of glasses was constant. The songs were louder, the laughter more boisterous. The paper-thin shroud of good humor did not burst.
After 43 years of constant operation, the brewery did not die quietly. It was sent into history with sass and bravado.
When Edmund Putz, a fellow worker, stopped by to pay his respects, he did it with class. “Auf wiedersehen,” said Putz, “auf wiedersehen.”
Thanks to John LaRose, Sr. for a xerox copy of this article many years ago, early on in my research of Pennsylvania breweries. He was a bottle digger who went through the City Directories to find out more information on the bottles he unearthed.