Letters From Walt Reisch, 1931 – 1935
Farm & Brewery Excerpts
At the time of Walt’s first letters to his parents, he was only 29 years old. He had married Helen Shonka only a few months before, on February 10th, 1931. Prohibition had shut down the Reisch Brewery in 1918, thirteen years before he moved to Nebraska to manage the family farm and lumber business. The Great Depression had started on September 29, 1929, less than two years before. Times were tough, and they got worse as time went on. Walt kept an optimistic attitude in the face of all the adversity, while trying to objectively report to his father what problems he was facing.
While Walt wrote about all aspects of his life, these excerpts focus on the family farm, the difficult problems of making ends meet, his hopes for the repeal of Prohibition and, finally, on his hopes for getting the brewery started again.
Walt Reisch (Photograph courtesy of Joan B. Reisch.)
April 8, 1932. Have set a batch of my celebrated brew and hope that it turns out as usual and it will be ready for you when you come out.
April 14, 1932.…The evening before I washed bottles and filled and capped twenty five gallons of brew.
June 13, 1932. Can imagine that you were tickled when J.D. Rockefeller McAddoo, Sloan and some of the rest came out for repeal.
June 28, 1932. A little while ago I listened to the Demo. Convention. I am getting fairly disgusted. I bet the Democrats do the same as the Republicans on the prohibition question. They seem to do a lot of shouting for repeal and then vote the other way.
July 5, 1932. Am also anxious to hear what you thought of the Democratic Convention and their outright repeal plank. I did not think they would do it
although I hoped otherwise. Beer is coming back and it might not be far away. Am wondering what you plan in case the manufacture of beer is allowed and if you will go ahead with plans to reopen the brewery. It would certainly be a wonderful thing if father could again see the old brewery running and making money and I hope and pray that his may happen.
August 2, 1932. Had a letter from Carl yesterday telling me all about the brewery. Hope beer comes back soon tho I do not look for it before a year. Would certainly love to see the old plant operating busily once more.
August 4, 1932. The Columbus Telegram last night carried an article taken from the United Press which mentioned the Reisch Brewing Co. along with Pabst and some others as getting ready for beer…I would like you to send me any clippings that appeared in the Springfield papers. I did notice where [the president of] Pabst had been to Springfield in his plane but did not place much importance on the fact…
Oct. 14, 1932. Had another letter from Carl in which he stated the beer should be back my March 1st or perhaps sooner. Think he has turned a bit optimistic but I surely hope he is right. These brewery workers eat a lot of pork and beef…
Nov. 5, 1932. [It will be] two weeks before this [batch of beer] will be fit to drink and by that time the election will be over. Guess I will have to celebrate by drinking some wine in honor of
Nov. 15, 1932. Am just getting over the election. Boy was that a whipping and a victory for the Democrats. If they behave themselves now and show us some fairly good government they will have strengthened their party no end. One thing is certain, we will get beer back within a year which is making the Anti Salooners yowl and cringe which does my old heart good.
Nov. 25, 1932. Getting beer back will probably help the price of everything but it will be a year before we can hope for that. Speaking of beer, I note where the gangsters are trying to get a hold of the industry.
Feb. 20, 1933. Guess today the House will vote favorably on repeal and shortly the new president will take office. Think this will have a strengthening effect on the people and give them new hope at least…
March 16, 1933. Boy if we could only make some good beer again. Please let me know of any developments…
March 23, 1933. would be in favor of moving heaven and earth to get the old plant going again.
April 11, 1933. …Hope you can get the old brewery humming again. I will be satisfied tho if we can start and eventually make a little money. After all these years it will be almost an innovation. Here lately I’m just like an old fire horse, I am snorting to get into action and I wish that I could be there to help you all at this time…
May 23, 1933. We keep pulling for you out here to start the brewery and know that you will find some plan of starting if only very slowly.
June 14, 1933. Will continue to drink home brew until the brewery is started which does not look like it will be soon…
July 18, 1933. Can’t seem to resign myself to not having the brewery in operation and I think that some way must and could be found to get the required amount of money. It is my personal opinion that the brewery by being placed in operation is the only means we would have to liquidate our present debts. I am aware that our property is mostly mortgaged as far as possible.
Aug. 15, 1933. Received father’s letter today and was pleased to hear that there is a chance of starting the brewery. Let us hope and pray that we can get going again…
Nov. 6, 1933. Note what you had to say in regard to selling the brewery. It seems a good offer compared to what we have had and I always believe that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. I hope that we can realize something on the brewery either by running it or selling it soon…
March 29, 1934. Am glad to hear and read that the brewery will begin operations and I am sure that you will make a go of it.
July 21, 1934. Thanks for the pictures of the brewery. I enjoyed them very much. It is a good picture of Carl and Joe but John Bietch is not exactly a John Barrymore.
Sept. 18, 1934. …By the time you get this Gold Top [beer] will again be on the market. I want to add my congratulations to you all there and wish you all kinds of success for the future.
July 14, 1935. I miss the old Gold Top beer too and hope they sell lots of it now but not all of it as I want a taste or two when I get home again.
This is the end of the letters, although Walt continued to run the farm until 1938. Walt's father, George Reisch died in 1936, and perhaps his mother quit saving the letters at that time.
According to Walt's daughter Joan, Walt's brother Joe died in January, 1938, and Walt moved back to Springfield, Illinois, to take Joe's place in the brewery.