Thursday, October 22, 2020

California Kid/Midwestern Heart

I'm proud to announce that my daughter Nicole Fribourg is a romance novelist. I asked her to write a brief guest post about her motivation.

It's been wonderful to have a foot in one state and a toe in another. I've always been an observer of people, curious about what makes them do what they do and think what they think. The Michigan blizzard of 1979 drove my parents to leave the Detroit area for sunny San Diego. I grew up 2,400 miles away from Detroit, but Vernor's ginger ale was always in our fridge and I know what a Boston Cooler is.

When my family visited Michigan in the summers, we always went by car. We drove across the California mountains, the Southwestern deserts, the Great Plains, the Midwest, and the Great Lakes region--often on the back roads off the interstate. We'd have an adventure of the sites, sounds, smells, and tastes along the journey--not to mention the many people we encountered.

This treasure trove of memories and images I use to create my characters to make them more textured and relatable to readers. I write through the lens of the experiences and the diverse people I've met along the way. My wish is that my books take readers on an entertaining journey to better understand themselves and their personal relationships.


Check out my latest romance novel: "Fixing Flynn"

For a list of my current novels, see my Amazon Author page: 

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Thursday, October 8, 2020

Michigan Homegrown Terrorism of the 1930s--The Black Legion

I like to think I am well-versed in Michigan and Detroit history, but it wasn't until I recently read Tom Stanton's Terror in the City of Champions that I learned of the Black Legion, a splinter group of the Ku Klux Klan. The original group called the Black Guard was founded in the mid-1920's as a security force for Ohio Klan officers, many of whom held public office.

After being kicked out of the Klan for establishing a fiefdom, Dr. Billy Shephard from Lima, Ohio further radicalized the group. They became known as the Black Legion, an even more ruthless and reckless organization than the Klan. In 1931, a Michigan regiment was established by Arthur Lupp of Highland Park.

From there, Virgil "Bert" Effinger began to reorganize the group throughout the Midwest and became the group's spokesperson. Every new member had to repeat an oath "In the name of God and the Devil." They were given a .38 caliber bullet cartridge and told another one had their name on it if they violated their vow of secrecy.

Some people were tricked into joining by friends or family and soon discovered they were in over their heads. High-ranking officers wore black capes with gold trim and brandished weapons openly. The legion expanded aggressively through deception, threats, and brutality. Beatings and torture were used to keep errant members in line.
Policemen display captured Black Legion vestments and the tools of their trade.

The Black Legion boasted having over one million members nationwide. At its height in Michigan, there were 5 brigades, 16 regiments, 64 battalions, and 256 companies. Law enforcement estimated membership at 20,000 to 30,000 statewide. The Detroit area had 10,000 members. Michigan State Police investigator Ira Holloway Marmon discovered Black Legion strongholds in Highland Park, Ecorse, Wyandotte, Lincoln Park, Saline, Monroe, Irish Hills, Pontiac, Flint, Saginaw, and of course, Detroit. Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio also had active chapters.

Their members were primarily angry, white, Anglo-Saxon males who were transplants from the South during the boom years of the auto industry in what history marks as the Great Migration. Whites and Blacks with little or no industrial skills flooded into Detroit heeding Henry Ford's clarion call, "Jobs at $5 a day." Competition for work was fierce in the 1920s, but during the Great Depression, people were killed over jobs.

The Legion was frustrated by the economic and social instability of the 1930s. They felt alienated by Detroit's industrial landscape. One of their core beliefs was that Anglo-Saxon Protestants were being pushed aside in America because foreigners (Catholic and Jewish immigrants) and Blacks were taking their jobs they believed they were entitled to.

1937 Movie Lobby Card

Being in the Legion made members feel connected with something larger than themselves. Membership for many people increased their self-esteem and sense of white supremacy. They absolutely believed race mixing was destabilizing the American way of life leading to social degeneracy.

Legionnaires widened the scope of their wrath to include terrorizing and murdering welfare recipients, labor union organizers, and political opponents. Probably more than anything else, the Black Legion hated socialists and communists. The legionnaires were a homegrown, right-wing, secret terrorist society.

Using fronts like the Wayne County Rifle and Pistol Club (members honed their shooting skills in the club's backroom firing range) and the Wolverine Republican Club (where thinly disguised rallies and gatherings were staged), Legion-approved speakers would rail against their perceived enemies and rally the faithful. New recruits would hear lengthy diatribes whipping the crowd to a frenzy of hatred.

The Legion provided easy answers to the complex questions of their day. One of their political fliers read, "We will fight political Romanism (Catholics), Judaism (Jews), Communism (Socialists), and all 'isms' which our forefathers came to this country to avoid," all the while wrapping themselves in the American flag and patriotism. 

Charles Poole
Works Progress organizer Charles Poole (22- year-old Catholic) was shot five times at point blank range in Dearborn Township on May 13th, 1936. A number of key Legion members were arrested and convicted.

Investigators uncovered the organization's propaganda, their enrollment records, some Black Legion robes and hoods including the tools of their trade--guns, bludgeons, blackjacks, and whips. Dayton Dean was convicted of being the trigger-man in Poole's death. Once on the stand, Dean sang like a canary.

For more details on the Black Legion, view this link:

In 1937, Warner Bros. Pictures made a movie about the Black Legion starring Humphrey Bogart.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

FORNOLOGY Reaches One Million Hits

Photo credit: Nicole Fribourg

It took over nine years for my blog to reach one million hits at 2:45 pm, October 3, 2020. My first post was on May 3, 2011, since then I've written 460 posts on a variety of topics. My current goal is to reach 500 posts before I run out of sunlight. It should take me two or three more years.

Writing my Fornology blog over the past decade has been a joy. It has helped me build an audience for my books, establish my writing voice, and improve my editing skills. Another thing I like about blogging is it is a source of instant gratification when I get comments from readers.

But truthfully, the thing I most like about blogging is that it makes me appear smarter than I really am. I owe that to my wife Sue's proofreading help, and my ability to infinitely edit my posts to make them more correct.

Many thanks to all my readers. I appreciate everyone who reads and shares my posts. I could not have reached this milestone alone.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Detroit's Stroh's Brewing Company--With Its Days of Future Passed

Founder Bernhard Stroh
Avoiding the German Revolution of 1848, Bernhard Stroh emigrated to the United States with knowledge of the brewing trade from his father Georg Friedrich Stroh--landowner and inn keeper. He was taught the Pilzen method of brewing a light-lager beer. In 1850--at the age of twenty-eight--Stroh established his basement brewery operation in Detroit with a $150 investment. Immediately, he started brewing Bohemian-style lager beer in copper-clad kettles that promoted the carmelization of the wort--unfermented beer--that made the beer lighter without reducing the flavor.

Stroh's home and first brewery building
Stroh's beer was sold door-to-door in beer buckets from a wheelbarrow, but soon horse-drawn wagons would be delivering his authentic German beer across town in barrels. Bernhard Stroh expanded his business in 1865 and adopted the heraldic lion emblem from the Kyrburg Castle in Germany. The lion icon is still visible in Stroh's product labeling.

Oldest son Bernhard Stroh Jr. assumed leadership of the brewing business when his father died on June 28, 1882 at the age of 59. The company patriarch was buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit, Michigan. Bernhard Jr. introduced pasteurization and refrigerated rail cars which increased the shelf-life of their product and broadened their markets. Stroh's became the Detroit area's signature beer.

In 1908, Julius Stroh took over the family business from his brother. After a celebrated tour of Europe's finest breweries, Julius introduced direct flame--rather than steam--to heat the copper kettles. The company motto became "America's Only Fire-Brewed Beer" and part of the brand's labeling.

Prohibition was tough on the beer brewing industry and many breweries closed across the country. Rather than shut down and abandon their loyal workers, the company diversified and made near-beer (non-alcoholic), soft drinks, and ice cream. It is not unlikely that Stroh's Brewery may have made specially-ordered batches of the Real McCoy for Detroit's vast Speakeasy network. The country may have been dry, but Detroit was awash in booze. After Prohibition, the business grew and Stroh's became a regional favorite.

What Detroiters recognize as Stroh's.
A statewide strike halted beer production in 1958 which gave national brands a foothold in the Michigan beer market. In the 1960s, the Stroh family wanted to move the company into the national arena. They bought the Goebel Brewing Company--their rival across the street--in 1964. This increased Stroh's brewing capacity and solved the company's short term growing pains. Some twenty years later, Stroh's was sold in seventeen states. They needed even more brewing capacity, so they bought Schaefer Brewing Company--that had recently gone belly-up in the Miller beer advertising wars.

Then in 1982, Stroh's bought the Schlitz Brewing Company to become America's third-largest brewer--producing many well-known brands like Goebel, Schaefer, Schlitz, Old Milwaukee, Colt 45, and many others. In 1985, the 135-year-old-brewery on the East Side was simply outdated and had no room to expand. The following year it was imploded--a better fate than many of Detroit's factory ruins.

The Stroh's company business plan was to buy up struggling breweries and drive up the company's market share. Stroh's $500 million heavy debt load to buy Schlitz weakened the company's financial position and left them cash poor to compete with the onslaught of Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing Company's national marketing campaigns.

In 1990, Coors moved past Stroh's as America's #3 brewer. Stroh's market share dropped 50%. Beer analysts felt that Stroh's came to the light-beer party late. In 1973, Miller Brewing created Miller Lite beer and used macho football players and "tough guys" like pulp-fiction author Mickey Spillane. Miller's "Tastes Great/Less Filling" debate was a stroke of marketing genius. The Budweiser Clydesdales were a potent marketing image for Stroh's to compete with as well.

From the beginning of the company, Stroh's catered to working-class tastes at working-class prices. But Joe Six-Pack had moved on. Beer marketing shifted away from the product and onto the drinker. Advertising slogans like "This Bud's for You" and "It's Miller time--You earned it!" had great appeal to blue-collar beer drinkers. Coors' Silver Bullet promotion was the last straw.

In 1999--unable to compete in the twenty-first century--the 149 year-old brewer closed, and its assets were broken up and sold for the sum of their parts to Pabst Brewing and Miller Brewing companies. Many of the Stroh's brands were discontinued or sold off to other companies. Pabst acquired the well-known brands Colt 45, Schlitz, and Old Milwaukee--Miller got Mickey's Malt Liquor and the Henry Weinhard's line of beers.

Today's Stroh's is produced by Miller Brewing Company. They don't use the special open-flame copper kettles, and the taste reflects the difference. The traditional Stroh's label read "America's Only Fire-Brewed Beer," but now it reads "America's Premium Brewed Beer."

As for the Stroh's family legacy, somehow the seventh generation has managed to lose over $700 million. Forbes magazine reports that by 2008, the family fortune was completely tapped out.