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  • Oberweis Dairy and the Politics of Patronage

    Post #1 - June 2nd, 2004, 2:39 pm
    Post #1 - June 2nd, 2004, 2:39 pm Post #1 - June 2nd, 2004, 2:39 pm
    Oberweis Dairy and the Politics of Patronage

    I notice Chowhound mods just stifled (perhaps with good reason) a discussion about Oberweis Dairy. Apparently, someone (anne) decided she shouldn't shop at the these well-known local ice cream stores because Jim Oberweis was a republican senatorial candidate (who recently came in second to Jack Ryan in the GOP primary).

    My feeling is, if the food is good, I'm going to shop there. I'm not saying that I'd drink at the Herman Goering Brewery and Bath House, but if you start taking into account all kinds of personal issues about the food service owners, then you might not eat anywhere ever again.

    For instance, what if I heard that Johnnie, when he isn't making beef, is drinking excessively and beating his wife? Do I stop patronizing the best Italian beef stand in the area?

    Or what if it turns out that the genial owners of Little Three Happiness are active voices in the push to revive the Cultural Revolution on the Mainland, do I deny myself their delicious shrimp with the edible shell?

    Why? What influence would that kind of personal boycott have on anything?

    There are limits, like I said, but overall, if the product is good, I'm there.

    Let food purveyors who "misbehave" in their private lives redeem themselves by offering worthy grub to the public.

    Anyway, that's my opinion, and I am David Hammond


    (Views expressed are not those of LTH Forum or affiliates)
  • Post #2 - June 2nd, 2004, 2:42 pm
    Post #2 - June 2nd, 2004, 2:42 pm Post #2 - June 2nd, 2004, 2:42 pm
    If I mix Oberweis milk with Heinz ketchup does it even out?
  • Post #3 - June 2nd, 2004, 3:50 pm
    Post #3 - June 2nd, 2004, 3:50 pm Post #3 - June 2nd, 2004, 3:50 pm
    By the way, you can joke about "The Hermann Goering Brewpub" but right around the corner from me used to be an old German bar. That had an upstairs private room. That eventually got some heat from the JDL or somebody for the decor. Especially the big portrait that was put up for a birthday celebration every April 20th. At least, that's the story told here in the neighborhood...
  • Post #4 - June 2nd, 2004, 4:07 pm
    Post #4 - June 2nd, 2004, 4:07 pm Post #4 - June 2nd, 2004, 4:07 pm
    Interesting question. I'm not saying I disagree with you. When I was in Columbia, South Carolina I ate at Maurice's Piggy Park, home of, I believe, the world's largest confederate flag where they distribute anti-Abe Lincoln pamphlets (among others) with their delicious BBQ. This place has a bit of novelty, and for this reason, along with the BBQ, I chose to eat there.

    Oberweis is another story. First, he is a very rich public figure running for office, not Joe Beefstand. Second, he isn't just a Republican (which isn't in itself a problem), but rather he ran his whole Senate campaign around a xenophobic fear of immigration and the supposed social and economic burdens it places on Illinois (and the U.S.). Some of his ideas were really out there. I found his arguments absurd and his campaign frightening. Third, I'm not a huge fan of Oberweis anyway. Thus, I think the campaign will influence my decision to buy their products.
  • Post #5 - June 2nd, 2004, 4:20 pm
    Post #5 - June 2nd, 2004, 4:20 pm Post #5 - June 2nd, 2004, 4:20 pm
    Hey Giallo,

    Well, it's also a question of personal comfort, isn't it? If I were to go, say, to some place that had signed pix of Klan members on the wall or some other overtly hateful paraphernalia, I probably wouldn't visit again just because the place would make me feel creepy. It wouldn't be so much a boycott as a question of just feeling weird being there.

    One the other hand, let's say you're a war-mongering, exploit-the-environment Imperialist S.O.B. I'm not sure it would make much sense to avoid buying a favorite pint of Ben and Jerry's Crunchy Monkey just because these two guys from Vermont wouldn't endorse your politics.

    Anti-Abe Lincoln pamphlets?!! What next: Elect Jeff Davis Honorary President in absentia?

    David
  • Post #6 - June 2nd, 2004, 4:31 pm
    Post #6 - June 2nd, 2004, 4:31 pm Post #6 - June 2nd, 2004, 4:31 pm
    Indeed, I feel sorry for any Marxists who have to boycott capitalist establishments. They should learn to bring the system down from inside and retire on the profits.

    This would be a case-by-case situation for me as well. I learned a few years ago that a musician I enjoyed, an alt-country/rockabilly revivalist, had made a series of racist comments to one club's staff during a performance there. Haven't seen him since and won't. I can deal with pompadours and taps on boots, but that level of return to the '50s isn't something I have any desire to encounter. The same would go for food emporiums or any other establishment for that matter -- it's a big world and there are lots of viewpoints, and accepting that they are out there is part of life, but if my discomfort is significant enough, I'm happy to take my business elsewhere.
  • Post #7 - June 2nd, 2004, 5:34 pm
    Post #7 - June 2nd, 2004, 5:34 pm Post #7 - June 2nd, 2004, 5:34 pm
    Mike, if I'm not mistaken, you're referring to the old Gasthaus zum Lowen on Damen and Roscoe. I lived in Roscoe Village in the early 90's, but never ventured in there (or in the Lady Luck across the street, which is now Mulligans (or was the last time I was in the neighborhood), but used to be a hillbilly hangout.) My understanding was that the Gasthaus prominently displayed a large picture of Hitler behind the bar. I think that pictues of der Fuhrer may be a good point to draw the line when selecting a place to hacve a cocktail or two.

    john m
  • Post #8 - June 2nd, 2004, 5:47 pm
    Post #8 - June 2nd, 2004, 5:47 pm Post #8 - June 2nd, 2004, 5:47 pm
    This puts me in mind of two things:

    First, there are times when I choose to be ignorant. For instance, for many years, I preferred to know as little as possible about authors so I could enjoy their writings for what was on the page and not any context their lives might provide. Woody Allen, as an auteur, has abundantly demonstrated the wisdom of this approach for me, though he has become tedious in any event.

    I think the same applies to the food - it is about what is on the plate. That does not mean the context cannot be so abhorrent as to make it impossible to stomach. We each have our limits and should show respect for each other's.

    Secondly, there have been a series of long (and pointless, IMO) exchanges in email of the listserv about parallel topics. To paraphrase, the subjects were:

    - Can bad people make good food? (my answer: of course!) And the converse.
    - How important is being treated well, and does that make a place worth going to? Which I relate to this because the way it is presented is that "they are really nice people at Joe's Bar..." (my short answer is: it is a bonus, but very secondary, very very secondary to what is on the plate).

    As I recall these discussions go on and on and on.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #9 - June 2nd, 2004, 5:53 pm
    Post #9 - June 2nd, 2004, 5:53 pm Post #9 - June 2nd, 2004, 5:53 pm
    Well, I'm still miffed about the British burning of Jeanne d'Arc, the illegal seizing of New Netherland, the Highland clearances and the Irish potato famine, not to mention the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, British support of the Confederacy and the enduring outrage of Britain
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #10 - June 2nd, 2004, 7:29 pm
    Post #10 - June 2nd, 2004, 7:29 pm Post #10 - June 2nd, 2004, 7:29 pm
    Giallo wrote:Interesting question. I'm not saying I disagree with you. When I was in Columbia, South Carolina I ate at Maurice's Piggy Park, home of, I believe, the world's largest confederate flag where they distribute anti-Abe Lincoln pamphlets (among others) with their delicious BBQ. This place has a bit of novelty, and for this reason, along with the BBQ, I chose to eat there.

    Oberweis is another story. First, he is a very rich public figure running for office, not Joe Beefstand. Second, he isn't just a Republican (which isn't in itself a problem), but rather he ran his whole Senate campaign around a xenophobic fear of immigration and the supposed social and economic burdens it places on Illinois (and the U.S.). Some of his ideas were really out there. I found his arguments absurd and his campaign frightening. Third, I'm not a huge fan of Oberweis anyway. Thus, I think the campaign will influence my decision to buy their products.


    We are all free to choose to frequent or not frequent establishments based upon the public actions of people associated with them. Personally, even though I'm not a republican, I wouldn't have any problem eating at Oberweis. I do find it difficult to reconcile your abhorrence of Oberweis and your acceptance of Maurice Bessinger. Mr. Bessinger ran for governor of SC on a segregationist platform, is the founder of the National Organization for the Preservation of White People, and refused to serve blacks in his main dining room until the Supreme Court ruled he had to. Further, Bessinger's restaurant handouts haven't been limited to attacks on Abe Lincoln - try perusing "The Biblical Justification for Slavery", the handout that resulted in Walmart and other distributors dropping him like a hot rock. He is not some confused sportscaster making unfortunate remarks - he is genuinely unapologetic for his past and continued blatantly racist policies.

    I'm not defending Jim Oberweis - I thought he ran a crackpot campaign, too. I just don't see how you can find one nutjob (Oberweis) so offensive that you couldn't eat there yet have no problem supporting what I think is an even more dangerous and offensive nutjob (Bessinger). Shrug.

    But - as I said - we are all free to vote with our feet and our wallets in supporting anybody's private enterprise and that's a right that's yet to have been taken away from us. I'm glad we all have the ability to exercise that as we each see fit.
  • Post #11 - June 2nd, 2004, 7:38 pm
    Post #11 - June 2nd, 2004, 7:38 pm Post #11 - June 2nd, 2004, 7:38 pm
    dicksond wrote:...there have been a series of long (and pointless, IMO) exchanges in email of the listserv about parallel topics. To paraphrase, the subjects were:

    - Can bad people make good food? (my answer: of course!) And the converse.
    - How important is being treated well, and does that make a place worth going to? Which I relate to this because the way it is presented is that "they are really nice people at Joe's Bar..." (my short answer is: it is a bonus, but very secondary, very very secondary to what is on the plate).

    As I recall these discussions go on and on and on.


    d, with all respect, I think you're misinterpreting. It's not a question of "Can bad people make good food?" (to which we both respond with a resounding "yes!"), but rather "Should we patronize establishments owned by allegedly bad people who make good food?" That's a political question.

    I'm not sure where you see the "service" issue here. This discussion, unlike others that I can remember, deals with the political decision to patronize establishments that are run by people whose politics you don't accept.

    That's different, is it not?

    Overall, though, I'm with you: it's the food that matters most (at least to us),

    David
  • Post #12 - June 2nd, 2004, 8:38 pm
    Post #12 - June 2nd, 2004, 8:38 pm Post #12 - June 2nd, 2004, 8:38 pm
    Kman wrote:I'm not defending Jim Oberweis - I thought he ran a crackpot campaign, too. I just don't see how you can find one nutjob (Oberweis) so offensive that you couldn't eat there yet have no problem supporting what I think is an even more dangerous and offensive nutjob (Bessinger). Shrug.


    They're both offensive nutjobs, but I'm willing to patronize a business if I can learn something from the experience. I was a visitor in SC, trying to get some sense of the place. Not that Piggy Park is representative of all South Carolina, but it is a bit of an institution there. I wanted to check it out. Interesting place. I found the literature quite disturbing, but the BBQ delicious. On the other hand, I'm from Chicago. I'm familiar with Oberwies. I didn't care much for the Dairy before Jim Oberweis ran for Senate, and I really don't care for it now. Plus, I don't see Oberweis Dairy having much cultural value to Chicago, good or bad. It's not an institution, just an OK dairy.
  • Post #13 - June 2nd, 2004, 9:07 pm
    Post #13 - June 2nd, 2004, 9:07 pm Post #13 - June 2nd, 2004, 9:07 pm
    Yes, it was Gasthaus zum Lowen. By the time I ever went there (and I used to pop in for a beer in its last days as an old German bar) Adolf was either long gone or at least moved upstairs.

    By the way, one of my perversely-proud possessions is a "Don't blame me, I voted for Jefferson Davis" bumpersticker. No, it never got anywhere near my car, believe me (though it would have looked nice next to the words "Land of Lincoln" on my license plate).

    It's all well and good to loftily say you wouldn't patronize businesses of dubious politics (though then we get into the whole twisted business of saying-- don't buy Entenmann's coffee cake because it's owned by a maker of cancer sticks, or do buy it because Altria has such enlightened domestic partner benefit policies for gays and lesbian employees?) But it's one thing to talk in the abstract. Let's get down to the real devil's dilemma.

    You're in a small town in the middle of the desert. You're famished. On the left, a restaurant called The Buckwheat Groat, whose multiply-pierced, Birkenstock-wearing, Nader-button-bearing staff eagerly proffers vegan, stoneground, biodynamic hemp dishes grown and cooked in a non-sexist, pro-Tibet atmosphere where all the profits are given to the workers.

    On the right, coming out of the cooker with the stickers that say "My president is Charlton Heston" and "Pave the whales" and "My honor student can beat up France," comes the best smelling barbecued milk-fed veal you've ever smelled (probably because of the rare rain forest hardwoods they smoke it with).

    Now where do you decide to eat?
  • Post #14 - June 2nd, 2004, 10:10 pm
    Post #14 - June 2nd, 2004, 10:10 pm Post #14 - June 2nd, 2004, 10:10 pm
    Giallo wrote:
    Kman wrote:I'm not defending Jim Oberweis - I thought he ran a crackpot campaign, too. I just don't see how you can find one nutjob (Oberweis) so offensive that you couldn't eat there yet have no problem supporting what I think is an even more dangerous and offensive nutjob (Bessinger). Shrug.


    They're both offensive nutjobs, but I'm willing to patronize a business if I can learn something from the experience. I was a visitor in SC, trying to get some sense of the place. Not that Piggy Park is representative of all South Carolina, but it is a bit of an institution there. I wanted to check it out. Interesting place. I found the literature quite disturbing, but the BBQ delicious. On the other hand, I'm from Chicago. I'm familiar with Oberwies. I didn't care much for the Dairy before Jim Oberweis ran for Senate, and I really don't care for it now. Plus, I don't see Oberweis Dairy having much cultural value to Chicago, good or bad. It's not an institution, just an OK dairy.


    Piggy Park is NOT an institution nor does it have cultural value. Please do not attempt to position this racist establishment as some type of "must-see SC". I was born in NC and went to JHS & HS in SC (and some HS in VA) and college in AL. I spent most of my early life in the Southeast and all of my surviving family still lives there. Most folks in SC will tell you that they find Mr. Bessinger AND his Piggy Park to be a source of embarrassment (and they would also disagree with your assessment of his BBQ, strongly). So - in short, xenophobes are really dangerous and to be avoided (can't say I disagree a whole lot there) but avowed racists are OK as long as they own a place that has some type of "cool" factor? For the record, I've never been to an Oberweis location and wouldn't even know where the closest one is. But in an attempt to be on-topic with Mr. Hammond's original post, until Oberweis flies giant confederate flags and hands out racist literature in their locations I wouldn't rule it out as a dining choice for me solely based on the owner's unsuccesful attempt at office, even though I disagreed with most of his campaign positions.
  • Post #15 - June 2nd, 2004, 10:20 pm
    Post #15 - June 2nd, 2004, 10:20 pm Post #15 - June 2nd, 2004, 10:20 pm
    David Hammond wrote:[
  • Post #16 - June 2nd, 2004, 10:21 pm
    Post #16 - June 2nd, 2004, 10:21 pm Post #16 - June 2nd, 2004, 10:21 pm
    Mike G wrote:
    On the right, coming out of the cooker with the stickers that say "My president is Charlton Heston" and "Pave the whales" and "My honor student can beat up France," comes the best smelling barbecued milk-fed veal you've ever smelled (probably because of the rare rain forest hardwoods they smoke it with).

    Now where do you decide to eat?


    The one on the right, of course (though you did choose that for the symbolism, "right"?) :lol: NRA doesn't bother me, though I haven't owned a gun in years and years (too easy to do something stupid before you realize it and then it's too late). Whales? I hear they are Good Eats(tm) and what do I care what the French think? I'm thinking BBQ veal might be a little on the tough side, though, what with the lack of fat content - but, to paraprhase Harold Ramis' character in "Stripes" . . . "I am willing to learn!". :twisted:

    Seriously, I think it's one of those "you know it when you see it" things. To my original post, we each get to make that decision ourselves for our own reasons.
  • Post #17 - June 2nd, 2004, 10:30 pm
    Post #17 - June 2nd, 2004, 10:30 pm Post #17 - June 2nd, 2004, 10:30 pm
    [quote="Joy's Sis"]

    'I'm a whore for a good donut'



    Have you met Vital Information, yet?
  • Post #18 - June 3rd, 2004, 12:49 am
    Post #18 - June 3rd, 2004, 12:49 am Post #18 - June 3rd, 2004, 12:49 am
    Kman wrote: Piggy Park is NOT an institution nor does it have cultural value. Please do not attempt to position this racist establishment as some type of "must-see SC". I was born in NC and went to JHS & HS in SC (and some HS in VA) and college in AL. I spent most of my early life in the Southeast and all of my surviving family still lives there. Most folks in SC will tell you that they find Mr. Bessinger AND his Piggy Park to be a source of embarrassment (and they would also disagree with your assessment of his BBQ, strongly). So - in short, xenophobes are really dangerous and to be avoided (can't say I disagree a whole lot there) but avowed racists are OK as long as they own a place that has some type of "cool" factor? For the record, I've never been to an Oberweis location and wouldn't even know where the closest one is. But in an attempt to be on-topic with Mr. Hammond's original post, until Oberweis flies giant confederate flags and hands out racist literature in their locations I wouldn't rule it out as a dining choice for me solely based on the owner's unsuccesful attempt at office, even though I disagreed with most of his campaign positions.


    We'll have to disagree on this. I was taken to Piggy Park by friends who were from Columbia. They weren't proud of it. They didn't take me there because it was "cool." Piggy Park is a very popular BBQ restaurant in the capital of South Carolina that claims to fly the world's largest confederate flag and hands out racist literature with it's BBQ. I'm sure this place is an embarassment for many folks from SC (as it was for my friends), but it still seemed pretty popular to me. Piggy Park troubled and fascinated me because overt racism and food were so closely intertwined at such a popular place. At Oberweis stores, there is no connection between politics and food. Perhaps Piggy Park is not a pleasant part of SC's culture, but I can't dismiss it as having no value.
  • Post #19 - June 3rd, 2004, 1:38 am
    Post #19 - June 3rd, 2004, 1:38 am Post #19 - June 3rd, 2004, 1:38 am
    You are correct - we disagree. You chose to willingly spend money at an operation owned by a known racist that would use those funds to continue his overt acts of racism. That is your right and I support your right to excercise that right. I still have difficulty in trying to resolve my original question, based upon your original post: how does Jim Oberweis, pursuing a candidacy for office that involves an quasi-xenophobic plank, make you state that you would never buy anything from his operations but you feel that patronizing and supplying operations of known, practicing, racists is acceptable? How is Maurice tolerable, to the point of giving him money, yet Jim is such an objectionable person that you couldn't spend a dime for any of his company's products? I don't mean this to be pejorative, I just simply don't comprehend how you view a relatively benign, misinformed, individual as reprehensible but are so willing to fund the operations of a known, blatant, racist. Again, back to topic, it was about the decisions we all make based upont political agendas of the owners/associates of potential food servers. You and I make very different decisions, and I respect that, yet I have a great deal of difficulty in understanding your specific decisions with regard to Mr. Bessinger and Mr. Oberweis.
  • Post #20 - June 3rd, 2004, 8:48 am
    Post #20 - June 3rd, 2004, 8:48 am Post #20 - June 3rd, 2004, 8:48 am
    Well, I can see a clear distinction between popping into a place while on vacation and who I support more regularly at home. I don't really expect to be able to affect the political scene in South Carolina, and consequently don't feel much responsibility there; where I do have responsibilities as an Illinois citizen and make decisions with more weight.

    There's also the fact that Bessinger is a bit of a freak show, a racist Ed Debevic's. I can see walking in there thinking, who cares if you give him some money, he's part of a past that's dying off fast (if not fast enough). Oberweis' platform is within the realistic political mainstream, which is a different thing.

    That said, I don't think I'd patronize Bessinger just because, well, screw him and the horse he rode in on. And, er, time to bring in my Oberweis milk...
  • Post #21 - June 3rd, 2004, 10:05 am
    Post #21 - June 3rd, 2004, 10:05 am Post #21 - June 3rd, 2004, 10:05 am
    If I may ask. What is the point of this discussion? He lost the primary and we won't be hearing from him for a while.

    On the topic of his dairy. For me milk is basically milk, although the glass bottles Oberwies uses, and the home delivery, are nice novelties. I must say the outlets serve some of the best sundaes. So given a choice between Baskin Robbins and Oberweis. Oberweis wins hands down.

    Flip
    "Beer is proof God loves us, and wants us to be Happy"
    -Ben Franklin-
  • Post #22 - June 3rd, 2004, 10:14 am
    Post #22 - June 3rd, 2004, 10:14 am Post #22 - June 3rd, 2004, 10:14 am
    Yeah, the appeal of Oberweis Dairy to me has always been in the fact that delivery means that I don't have to carry four glass bottles home every week from Whole Foods, not that it was way better than Dean's. Or even Howard Dean's.
  • Post #23 - June 3rd, 2004, 10:37 am
    Post #23 - June 3rd, 2004, 10:37 am Post #23 - June 3rd, 2004, 10:37 am
    Flip wrote:
    What is the point of this discussion? He lost the primary and we won't be hearing from him for a while.


    Well since he is a neighbor of ours, I guess it is whether his campaign changes the way we see him. Not me. He is an unabashed capitalist and that is all the campaign told me. I do not find that unacceptable, though I also do not agree much with his politics.

    The broader question is whether (or the point at which) the person behind the food affects your opinion of the place, if not the food. Though David H and I gently disagree (I think) about whether finding someone's beliefs repugnant is related to how we feel about the person. Personally, I think it is all part and parcel - there are behaviors each of us would reject in our hosts in a dining establishment. Those behaviors can be beliefs, attitude, level of service, or whatever. Where we each draw the line is a personal choice.

    The political issue is a little more sensitive, IMO, since it more clearly relates to good and evil for most people than whether the servers are rude. But it is interesting for me to hear where others draw the line and think about this so long as we can keep it good natured.

    Shall we take on foie gras next?
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #24 - June 3rd, 2004, 10:44 am
    Post #24 - June 3rd, 2004, 10:44 am Post #24 - June 3rd, 2004, 10:44 am
    dicksond wrote:Flip wrote:
    Though David H and I gently disagree (I think) about whether finding someone's beliefs repugnant is related to how we feel about the person.

    Shall we take on foie gras next?


    d,

    Sorry to disagree, but I fully endorse the idea that a person's beliefs are related to his/her likeability (of course!). The question is, should you boycott a food purveyor's location because you don't like his her beliefs, personality, political affiliations, past war crimes, etc.

    What do you mean foie gras? This is "non-food" talk. :wink:

    David
  • Post #25 - June 3rd, 2004, 11:49 am
    Post #25 - June 3rd, 2004, 11:49 am Post #25 - June 3rd, 2004, 11:49 am
    From the Reader . . .

    O U R T O W N
    Zum Deutschen Ick

    Author: Jeffrey Felshman Date: February 4, 2000 Appeared in Section 1 Word count: 1501


    By Jeffrey Felshman
    Lately it seems like every week another local institution goes under, and with each, something intangible is lost: an era ends, a dream dies. Zum Deutschen Eck went in January.
    The front-page report in the local Booster paper said that the owner, Albert Wirth Jr., had sprung the news on guests and staff during a speech at the end of a birthday party given for him. According to the story, he thanked the staff for their years of service, then announced that this was the last meal Zum Deutschen Eck would be serving. The property had been sold for condo development.
    The attitude behind the announcement didn't surprise me. I'd worked at the Zum off and on between 1986 and 1992. I'd always thought the place would go on forever, like some mean sonofa-bitch who outlives all his enemies.
    On the outside the Zum was a Black Forest music box, all wooden frills and curlicues. Hidden behind the gingerbread were speakers that frequently flooded Southport Avenue with marching tunes and Bavarian drinking songs. Inside, the place was huge: a restaurant, a bar, three banquet halls, dressing rooms for the musicians who performed on weekends. Upstairs were apartments, including the one where Wirth's aged mother lived.
    I lived directly across the street before I worked at the Zum. My neighbors didn't like the place. Those damn songs played late into the night, and you wouldn't want to make the mistake of leaving your car in their lot--they'd tow you, even after hours. And there were rumors that a second parking lot it shared with the neighboring church was illegal, that police and politicians gave the restaurant a pass on violations. When I started working there I heard other rumors from the employees, like that the liver dumplings were made with table scraps. I never saw evidence that any of the rumors were true. But I didn't try the dumplings either.
    I'd never seen any place like the Zum, except maybe on SCTV. A duo in lederhosen would play and sing German drinking songs in the restaurant, while back in the banquet rooms I distributed song sheets titled "Songs You Love to Sing." It was part of the back bartender's job to lead the sing-along: "OK everybody, turn to number 32. 'Auf Wiedersehn!'"
    Friends and relatives asked me repeatedly how a Jew could work in such a place. I was working parties, I answered, not joining the party. I wasn't prejudiced against Germans. It was a job, the location was perfect, and being a Jew didn't make any difference.
    Then one night in April 1992 I was heading for the banquet rooms when the front bartender called me over. "Have to talk to you," he said.
    "What's up?"
    "They gave a birthday party for Hitler in the Bavarian Room the other night."
    "Get out."
    "No, I'm serious," he said sadly. "There was a group in there with a bust of Hitler on the bar, and they sang and drank all night long. They even had a birthday cake."
    He swore he was telling the truth. If I didn't believe him, I should ask one of the banquet waitresses who'd worked the party.
    So I did.
    "Oh, ja," she said, nodding, adding that it had been a very distasteful event. Hitler's birthday was no occasion for celebration, she said, reminding me that among his many evil acts, the fuhrer had wrecked Austria, her homeland. "I don't understand why Americans would celebrate this man," she said. "They must be crazy."
    At that point I had only about an hour to set up for the evening's party, a wedding for which a portable bar had to be wheeled into the Oakdale Room and fully stocked. I was still debating whether to work or walk when the manager came in.
    He looked around and smiled when he saw me. "There was a birthday party for Hitler in the Bavarian Room the other night."
    "Yeah, I heard."
    "So, what are you going to do?" he said, smirking.
    That was the question. He didn't like me, and I didn't like him. He would have loved to see me walk out. I wouldn't give him the satisfaction. "I'm setting up, OK? Give me the key to the liquor room."
    I grabbed two fold-up tables and tablecloths, six racks of glasses, a full bar's worth of liquor, juices and mixes, two full CO2 tanks for sodas, limes, lemons, a cutting board and knife, clean bar mops, and a tip jar.
    The wedding party entered, and I showed the bride to the changing room upstairs, pointed out the gift table, and loaded the tape of Mendelssohn's wedding march into the tape player. I turned it on and played a few bars to make sure it was the right tape. A couple of years before, another bartender had grabbed a tape without checking its title. When the wedding party entered she punched the play button and out of the speakers blared "Daddy's Little Girl." Wirth had raced for the machine, yelling, "Shut that off! Her father died last week!" Such a thing, we all understood, must never happen again.
    My last bit of preparation involved setting up a microphone on the stage so that Wirth could run his usual spiel: "Good evening, meine Damen und Herren, and welcome to the Zum Deutschen Eck, home of good food and good service....Dining tonight will be family style, so forget about your diets, throw away your diet pills."
    I opened the door and let the guests in. It wasn't a big event, only about 100 people, so I was working the bar alone. The party was scheduled to start at 7, with a cocktail hour before dinner, liebfraumilch and champagne--J. Roget, about 99 cents a bottle then--served with the meal, and then an open bar until 3 AM.
    As usual, Wirth had informed the guests that all tips were included in the price of the party, and it was one of my jobs to disabuse them of this notion. I was paid only $35 cash for the shift--standard for shifts that run from 5:30 to 3 or 4 AM--and any tip noted on the final bill went to the restaurant.
    As soon as I had a moment I went to the bathroom, locked myself in a stall, lit a cigarette, and sat down. Piped-in music played softly while I equivocated. All right, give 'em the benefit of the doubt. Anyone can rent a banquet room under any name or for any legal purpose, and once the party is there, what are you going to do? I recalled working a party for a group named "The Lost Chords of Evanston." I thought it would be some kind of choir, but it turned out to be a group of people whose vocal cords had been removed. What, I wondered, had the Hitler's-birthday-party people called themselves? The Unhappy Wanderers?
    I felt pretty sure that Wirth had no political affiliations other than those that would benefit his restaurant. And I was positive that once any group was inside the restaurant and the manager had a check firmly in hand, nobody would be turned out into the street, no matter who they were.
    I stood up, tossed the cigarette butt into the toilet, and paused to listen to the piped-in music. "Those were the days, my friend. We thought they'd never end. We'd sing and dance, forever and a day..." Yeah, said a sardonic voice in my head, forever and a day--as in the thousand-year Reich.
    The voice of reason said the Hitler birthday party was probably an anomaly. The thought of bad publicity would be enough to persuade someone that it must never happen again.
    You can't bargain with Hitler, said the sardonic voice.
    Wirth isn't Hitler, said the voice of reason. Go back to work.
    The next day I called another bartender to tell her about the Hitler birthday party.
    "Oh yeah, they've done that before," she said. "I think this is the third year in a row."
    So I quit. I told friends and neighbors to avoid the place and told them why. I never formally resigned. I just signed up to work parties and then didn't show. I figured they'd get the message. They did.
    I didn't confront Wirth either, though sneaking out the back door wasn't like me. I said to myself, it wouldn't make any difference. But that wasn't the real reason. The real reason was that I was spooked. For the first time in my life I'd felt the fear that comes from being a Jew in a place where Jews aren't wanted.
    Now, I suppose, there's one fewer of those places. Hitler's birthday is in April, and it's a little late to go looking for a new site. I'm sure the party will go on, but I'm happier not knowing where.
  • Post #26 - June 3rd, 2004, 12:42 pm
    Post #26 - June 3rd, 2004, 12:42 pm Post #26 - June 3rd, 2004, 12:42 pm
    A friend of mine waited tables there for a time and can confirm the fascist-friendly features of the place first hand. I heard the stories before the Reader article came out.
    "Strange how potent cheap music is."
  • Post #27 - June 3rd, 2004, 1:40 pm
    Post #27 - June 3rd, 2004, 1:40 pm Post #27 - June 3rd, 2004, 1:40 pm
    dicksond wrote:Well since he is a neighbor of ours


    I didn't know that :?
    "Beer is proof God loves us, and wants us to be Happy"
    -Ben Franklin-
  • Post #28 - June 3rd, 2004, 6:00 pm
    Post #28 - June 3rd, 2004, 6:00 pm Post #28 - June 3rd, 2004, 6:00 pm
    i've always had a tough time figuring out what to do about oberweiss.

    given my socialist leanings, i am 180degrees away from jim as far as politics go.... but on the other hand, the dairy is a (relatively) small local business, they make a superior product, and conservationwise i adore re-using glass bottles.

    so, (hypocritically) i buy their milk, but avoid the other products.

    eve
  • Post #29 - June 4th, 2004, 10:28 am
    Post #29 - June 4th, 2004, 10:28 am Post #29 - June 4th, 2004, 10:28 am
    Do you know that light destroys vitamins and that when you purchase glass bottles from supermarkets the light of the store will destroy these vitamins. If you noticed the Oberweis stores store their milk in the dark as you would at home. So glass bottles are recycleable but the nutrition is not.
    Paulette
  • Post #30 - June 21st, 2004, 5:16 pm
    Post #30 - June 21st, 2004, 5:16 pm Post #30 - June 21st, 2004, 5:16 pm
    This is a really interesting thread that sets LTH apart from Chowhound interms of its depth of contribution. Oddly enough, I had this discussion with two of our own over dinner recently.

    I don't agree with the politics of Jim Oberweiss. Yet, Im not nearly as appallled as some of you. Oberweiss was a political candidate who built a campaign based on making himself the candidate of choice to a very narrow sliver of the Republican electorate. That's whay we have elections. The body of republican voters made a very clear atstement about Oberweiss and his politics despite the fact that oberweiss threw a substantial warchest of his personal assets at his election effort.

    If anything, the republican primary in which Oberweiss was soundly defeated says enough about the nature of his politics in the 21st Century. He lost badly. And that's a credit to those who used an appropriate means to show their disatisfaction with his political positions.

    By boycotting Oberweiss products, you're hurting Oberweiss employees more than you can ever hurt the old fat cat himself. Let's be honest, the old fat cat could probably live pretty comfortably the rest of his life without ever selling another gallon of milk or ice cream. His employees,on the other hand, may not last a month in the same predicament.

    I have to take umbrage at the comparison of Oberweiss to Maurice Bessinger. I grew up in South Carolina, attended college just a few miles from Bessinger's shrine to the old South and always, even as a young person, felt that Maurice bessinger was one of the poorer examples of my native south that I had ever seen.

    Jim Oberweiss is a political conservative with some pretty antiquated ideas about immigration. Maurice Bessinger, who I believe is now dead, was a monolithic racist who used his "library" in the front of his store more as much as a means of segregating his restaurant than as a profit center.

    From time to time, I have eaten at Bessinger's Piggy Park (not to be confused with other unrelated Bessinger Restaurants in Charleston and Holly Hill). My philosophy is this: If I took a political survey among the operators of other Barbeque joints in the city, I'd probably find more privately held opinions that are just as offensive as those of Bessinger.

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