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“Old Art” was the visionary; “Young Art” burnished the Storz family name.
So I'm having a cold one recently with my neighbor, retired mailman Dan Begley.
We sit on my front porch and talk the latest news, about a name that once was on half the cans of beer sold in this city and a third of all the cans sold in Nebraska. The name is making a comeback. It will soon adorn a restaurant and a brewery.
Mr. Begley, who is 75, knows the name well.
It is the name of a mansion on Farnam Street. The name that made Eppley Airfield what it is today. The name that helped get Strategic Air Command to Bellevue.
Mr. Begley saw this name in the headlines, went digging through his desk drawer and came across the street to see me.
“Here,” he says, handing me a red folder.
On the folder is a picture of an old brewery. And an old Omaha name: Storz.
* * *
Inside the folder is a sheaf of papers and a brief handwritten note to Mr. Begley and his late wife.
“Mary Kay and Dan,” the note reads, “this is what I put together for the Aviation Hall of Fame.”
The note is signed by Arthur C. Storz Jr., or “Young Art,” as Mr. Begley tells me.
Young Art was the grandson of brewing magnate Gottlieb Storz, who built Storz Brewing Co. on North 16th Street and the Jacobean Revival mansion on Farnam Street.
“3708 Farnam,” says Mr. Begley, who would know. He delivered mail there for years and drove “Old Art” — who would be Art Sr. — to the grocery store and Peony Park Ballroom and other places.
Young Art was old enough to be Mr. Begley's father. Old Art was old enough to be Mr. Begley's grandfather. The mailman became such a close friend of the family that when Old Art died in 1978, Mr. Begley helped carry his casket at the funeral at St. Cecilia.
Young Art told anyone who would listen the stories of his family. He had served as vice president of marketing for Storz beer, and he put those skills to work in compiling letters, news clippings and a brief biography of his father. He photocopied that, put it in a red folder and shared it with Mr. Begley.
Young Art died in 2009 at age 89.
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The folder has little to do with beer and everything to do with airplanes.
Old Art, whose first job was cleaning beer vats and beer kettles, never forgot a second job: serving as an airman in World War I.
Two of his sons, Robert and Young Art, followed their father and were airmen in World War II. Robert served with distinction and retired after the war as a colonel. Young Art was also called to duty during the Korean War and served in the Air Force Reserve for 29 years.
In the postwar years, Bellevue was a town without a big military presence, and the Strategic Air Command was a fledgling war tool without a solid home. SAC, which controlled the Air Force bomber fleet and nuclear arsenal, was based first in Colorado Springs, Colo., and then in Maryland.
Arthur C. Storz Sr. took a leading role in pressing for a move to what was then Fort Crook and Offutt Field. He prevailed upon friends in the Pentagon, including Lt. Gen. Curtis LeMay.
He enlisted the help of Nebraska's ranking Republican in Congress, U.S. Sen. Kenneth Wherry. Their argument during the Cold War went like this: Coastal Maryland was vulnerable; landlocked Nebraska was not.
In 1948, LeMay got command of SAC, and it moved to Bellevue.
Old Art became a charter member of a group called the SAC Consultation Committee, which was a way of keeping business leaders in the know about the base and giving military leaders local support for things like base housing.
The group helped get Offutt the land it needed. The committee also worked on ways of enhancing base life. It still exists, though SAC does not. It was replaced in 1992 by U.S. Strategic Command.
The military honored Arthur C. Storz Sr. for his service with a plaque that you can see at the Strategic Air & Space Museum in Ashland. There's also a plaque hanging at Eppley Airfield in Storz's honor. The next time you're there, you can say “Thank you” to Old Art.
Without him, we might still be waiting to catch a flight in a shabby brick building resembling a warehouse.
* * *
Old Art thought the Omaha Municipal Airport was terrible in 1955 and said as much.
Here was Old Art at a fancy dinner getting recognized for being named Air Force Association Man of the Year. Some might have said thank you, smiled and sat down.
Not Old Art. He used the occasion to tell 500 people that Omaha's airport was “totally inadequate” to handle future traffic and the new jet technology that would transform air travel.
He complained that Kansas City, Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, Des Moines and Sioux Falls had all improved their airports. Omaha's, he said, was “standing still.” He name-dropped LeMay. He talked about what was happening at Offutt.
“The city without good air transportation in this modern age will certainly go into a slump,” he said.
The next day, members of the Omaha Airport Commission said Old Art didn't know what he was talking about.
“When Mr. Storz pops off, it kind of burns me up,” Glenn Voyles, a local businessman and member of the Airport Commission, told The World-Herald. “I never cared much for second-guessers.”
Well, guess who in 1959 became the first chairman of the new Omaha Airport Authority and served on that governing body for 17 years?
Guess who in 1960 was the one turning dirt on a new $2.5 million airport terminal named for philanthropist Eugene C. Eppley?
Guess who left his hospital bed in 1968 for a photo op with stewardesses for a $5.4 million expansion at Eppley?
Guess who was in the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame, who won Mutual of Omaha's Good Neighbor Award and the Pentagon's Exceptional Service Award, whose name is on a plaque hanging at the airport, whose name is on the expressway that takes you to the airport, whose story has been recorded by a loving son who gave it to his old pal, the mailman, who dug it out of a drawer years later to share?
* * *
The obituary and accompanying editorial for Arthur C. Storz Sr. are flattering.
He was a gourmet who wrote a cookbook. He drove race cars and flew in high social circles.
I see their names at the bottom of all the letters that Young Art copied and shared.
Some names are locally famous: Leo Daly, the architect; Peter Kiewit, the builder; W. Dale Clark, the First National Bank president; Ed Zorinsky, the mayor.
|Columnists Michael Kelly, Erin Grace and Matthew Hansen write about people, places and events around Omaha. Read more of their work here.|
Some names are nationally famous: Eddie Rickenbacker, the World War I flying ace and race car driver; Gen. J.H. Doolittle, the World War II hero; J.F. McConnell, the U.S. Air Force chief of staff.
They all say the same thing: job well done.
Young Art sent Old Art's friend Jimmy Stewart a newspaper clipping. Stewart, in 1969, responded: “It must be very gratifying to you to see this recognition of your father's achievements. … It certainly is gratifying to his many, many friends everywhere.”
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Young Art flew planes like his dad, worked for the same brewing dynasty as his dad, lived in the same mansion as his dad and, as his parents aged, took care of his dad.
But Young Art led a very different life. The brewing business ended. His marriage ended in divorce. He built no airports.
One night in 1989, Young Art's friend Dan Begley picked him up at 3708 Farnam and drove him north to a three-mile stretch of freeway that cost $19.4 million to build. The street was “about 90 percent completed,” Mr. Begley told me.
I'll neither confirm nor deny that road barricades were moved so the two could zip down a street that would later be christened the Storz Expressway.
“Young Art was delighted,” Mr. Begley said.
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Neither Old Art nor Young Art is around to see the Storz name rise again in downtown Omaha.
A pair of former Omahans, including a Gottlieb Storz great-grandson, have announced plans to turn the former Rick's Cafe Boatyard into the Storz Trophy Room Grill & Brewery. Anheuser-Busch has agreed to be a distributor, making the beer available statewide.
But come November, when Storz beer again flows from a tap, tip a glass to a name that means more than beer.
Toast Old Art. Toast Young Art.
And toast their mailman.