Moments after stepping off the subway yesterday, I was jolted -- no lesser word would do -- to see a man sitting on a bench in McPherson Square reading a fresh copy of the Washington Times-Herald.
Hey, wait just one doggone minute. The Herald hasn't been around since St. Patrick's Day of 1954, when it was absorbed by The Washington Post. But . . .
What the man in the park was reading was a reprint of a Times-Herald advertising supplement, originally published June 6, 1940, saluting the 75th year of Washington brewery operation by Christian Heurich Sr., then 95. At that time, nobody could forecast that the capital's brewery would be out of business within 16 years.
The Herald reprint was distributed to promote Olde Heurich Amber Lager beer, just revived and now brewed in Pittsburgh under the auspices of one of the old man's grandsons, Gary F. Heurich, who was here yesterday to participate in a miniparade promoting his new product. We wish him well if he'll do just one thing -- junk the pompous "e" from "Olde" and let us have his version of granddad's plain Old brew.
A lot of longtime Washingtonians remember Heurich's "Old Vat" -- not, we pointedly note, "Olde Vat" -- the interim home of Arena Stage after the brewery closure, on part of what is now the Kennedy Center site.
Others, like Vermont Avenue pub keeper Stan Gimble, remember Heurich's for the gym he maintained on the Old Vat brewing premises and the sports teams he sponsored. Gimble, son of a Northeast storekeeper, remembers selling Heurich's Old Senate beer -- 10 cents a can, three for a quarter -- and is willing, if asked, to carry some on his present Vermont Avenue premises if only "for old time's sake."
What's especially interesting about the 1940 Herald reprint is the messages of some advertisers:
"We are proud that Senate Brewery Trucks ride on Dunlop Tires" -- Leeth Bros. "Public transportation when Heurich began 75 years ago was furnished on a few streets by small, uncomfortable horse-drawn street cars . . . . What a contrast with the present streamline electric trolley cars costing $17,000 and $10,000 buses" -- Capital Transit Co. "Mr. Heurich was among our earliest subscribers. His first listing phone number 377 appeared in a one-sheet directory which was published about 1883. He has remained a subscriber ever since . . . . " -- C&P Telephone Co. "We take pride . . . . that we have equipped all of the athletic teams of the Heurich Brewing Co." -- Lowe & Campbell Athletic Goods, 1004 Vermont Ave. NW, across from today's Stan's.
Time marches on, but beer is eternal. Constant Change
Another constant in Washington is that, sooner or later, any vacant lot or small old building will be replaced by a hole in the ground: a construction site.
So it is in the 1500 block of M Street NW, between the Metropolitan AME Church, which fronts on M Street, and the American Chemical Society, which fronts on 16th Street.
The hole now being excavated will become the site of a 12-story addition to the building of the chemical society, which plans to occupy the top two floors and rent the others. The society, said spokeswoman Mazzie Whitman, is taking great care to protect the environment of the adjacent church, regarded as the denomination's national cathedral.