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Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 


Alfred Fromm 

With an Introduction by 
Rabbi Brian Lurie 

Interviews Conducted by 

Elaine Dorfman and Caroline Crawford 

in 1986 and 1987 

And Including Interviews by 
Ruth Teiser Conducted in 1984 

Copyright (?) 1988 by The Regents of the University of California 
and the Trustees of the Judah L. Magnes Memorial Museum 

Since 1954 the Regional Oral History Office has been interviewing 
leading participants in or well -placed witnesses to major events in the 
development of Northern California, the West, and the Nation. Oral 
history is a modern research technique involving an interviewee and an 
informed interviewer in spontaneous conversation. The taped record is 
transcribed, lightly edited for continuity and clarity, and reviewed by 
the interviewee. The resulting manuscript is typed in final form, 
indexed, bound with photographs and illustrative materials, and placed in 
The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley and other 
research collections for scholarly use. Because it is primary material, 
oral history is not intended to present the final, verified, or complete 
narrative of events. It is a spoken account, offered by the interviewee 
in response to questioning, and as such it is reflective, partisan, 
deeply involved, and irreplaceable. 


All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal 
agreement between the University of California and 
Alfred Fromm dated 26 March 1986. The manuscript 
is thereby made available for research purposes. All 
literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to 
publish, are reserved to The Bancroft Library of the 
University of California, Berkeley and the Judah L. Magnes 
Memorial Museum. No part of the manuscript may be quoted 
for publication without the written permission of the 
Director of The Bancroft Library of the University of 
California, Berkeley. 

Request for permission to quote for publication should 
be addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 486 
Library, University of California, Berkeley 94720, and 
should include identification of the specific passages to be 
quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification 
of the user. The legal agreement with Alfred Fromm requires 
that he be notified of the request and allowed thirty days 
in which to respond. 

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as 

Alfred Fromm, "Wines, Music, and Lifelong 
Education," an oral history conducted in 
1986 and 1987 by Elaine Dorfman and 
Caroline Crawford, including interviews by 
Ruth Teiser conducted in 1984, Regional 
Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, 
University of California, Berkeley, 1988. 

Copy no. 



--_..- . ... . .-,,- . . 

Jewish Bulletin 

. . . : . 

'ir>ir r 7^^^^p^^^^^^. ; 

Wine pioneer 

"* -..-! -^ ,- ** Tf.jY ^*.*.L>*J" > ' 


Bulletin c ** rf * v ':4-sJ***Wj <~ 


^ ^ In .California, he foundea ; Fromm and Sichel Inc; 
"which as worldwide distributors of Christian Broth- 

As a young man, Alfred Fromm helped bring 37 
family members from Nazi Germany to safety in the 
United States. Fifty years later, the internationally 
known wine industry leader was a major donor to 
the campaign to help resettle Jews from the former 
Soviet Union in Israel. /. -v-^X ;-J 

"He saved a lot of Jewish lives, personally, as well as 
in a collective way? said his son-in-law Rabbi Brian 
Lurie." " :.'- l&'i&fi^':?'. . ',:, .-.,- : .'\, 

The dedicated philanthropist, who made both 
Christian Brothers and Paul Masson wineries house 
hold names, died at his San Francisco home July 2. 
He was 93. 

But San Francisco may 
remember Fromm best for 
founding, together with his 
wife Hanna, the Fromm 
Institute for Lifelong Learn 
ing at the University of San 
Francisco. The program of 
daytime university courses 
engages emeritus professors 
to teach retired people over 
age 50 and now has a student 
body of more than 950. 

* -. - -..-'-' . . 

For establishing the 
school, the .Frpnuns were 
granted an Honorary degree 
of doctor of public service by 
USF Jn lS>74That year, they 
'established a USF sister pro-' 

gram, the Fromm Institute, at . 

the Hebrew University. , Vi 
i "He was truly committed to Israel," Lurie 

Born in 1905 in Kitzingen, Bavaria, Fromm was 

the fourth generation of a family of vintners. He got 
-involved in the business as a teenager/After a three- 

ers wine and brandy, became one of A merica s largest 
distributors of fine wines. "/> r / ; f 

While deeply involved in the wine industry, he 
found time to dedicate himself to numerous charita 
ble and civic causes. Among many involvements, he 
served as director of the San Francisco Opera Asso 
ciation and as a trustee of the San Francisco Conser 
vatory of Music. & .".^L*Xf% i'-:- : . -'-- 

He founded thefWine Museum of San Francisco, 
co-founded the Jewish Museum San Francisco and 
was an ardent supporter of the Judah L. Magnes 
Museum in Berkeley. 

"He had a particular interest in Jewish art and cul 
ture," Lurie said. "He would 
say 'man 'does not live by 
bread alone: Art and culture 
makes one's life richer, better.'" 
A member of Congregation 
asEmanurEl in San Francisco, he 
_also served on the board of 
the Jewish National Fund. ' 

"He was just a truly won 
derful, great man," Lurie said. 
"What he. did, for anyone who 
came to^see; him -was make 
them feel important, worthy. 
You. left his presence feeling 

- Fromm, -in his autobiogra 
phy, -wrote that.] three things 
were important to incorporate 
Alfred Fromm : mto daily life: "the importance 

IW * J nwin !,--. 4 - ' ; ,' - . . . . - . -,T- -' - * - .. 

,K^.pf , learning, strong family 
JSJ bonds and charity." / i . : 
y his owh i measure;Alfred^Tprran i lei just ^uch 

a good life," said 'Robert Fordham, director of the 
Frdmm Institute. ^He _embodied those precepts he" 

year apprenticeship, he joined his family's firm, N.ty'y^Fromm is.survivw by bis wife'and two children, 
Fromm, and by 1930 was then- export manager, trav- David Fromm and Caroline Fromm-Lurie. He is also 
eling abroad extensively for the sale of -the firm's survived by fivet grandchildren ^-and, three great- 
Iwine. : '*_ *'- grandchildren; ?^ .J;7-^^ 

A private memorial service'fof Frbrrim was held 
Sunday. The family asks that contributions be made 

J In 1936, he married Hanna Grue'ribaurh; ahticipat- 

; ing a conventional life and career. As the politics of 

Germany changed, however, so did Fromm's Ufe.The 

couple moved to;this country and found backers to 

to the Fromm Institute of Lifelong Learning, Univer 
sity of San Frahcisco, 2130 Fulton St., S.F., CA 941 17, 

help thtrestof the family immigrate here. or the charity of one's choice. ^,; 

., ^-j-^t^^^,^. ^<t.^^.ntr,--ar->-.^->3 - .- : ' . *>oriv-v. ' /- ' :.'-. 


S.F. wine 


Alfred Fromm, a prominent 
wine merchant and philanthropist 
who founded the Fromm Institute 
for Lifelong Learning at the Uni 
versity of San Francisco, died at 
his San Francisco home last 
Thursday. He was 93. 

Mr. Fromm was born in Kitzin- 
gen, Bavaria, in 1905, into the 
fourth generation of a family of 
vintners. As a young man, he ap 
prenticed with 
the family firm, 
N. Fromm, and 
by 1930 was the 
company's ex 
port manager, 
traveling abroad 
to sell the fami 
ly's wine. 

In 1936 he 
married Hanna 
Gruenbaum. Alfred Fromm 

That same year, 

the couple fled to the United States 
to escape Nazi persecution in Ger 

The Fromms settled in San 
Francisco, and he founded Fromm 
& Sichel, Inc., which grew into one 
of this country's largest wine dis 
tributors, carrying Christian 
Brothers wine and brandy, among 
other labels. 

San Francisco Examiner 

July 7, 1998 

As his business became success 
ful, Mr. Fromm devoted himself 
increasingly to cultural and chari 
table work in the San Francisco 
Bay Area, focusing especially on 
education, Jewish causes and mu 
sic and art 

In 1976, the Fromms provided 
the funding to establish the 
Fromm Institute for Lifelong 
Learning at USF. The program, 
taught by emeritus professors, of 
fers university courses to retired 
people regardless of their educa 
tional background or financial sta 
tus. In 1979, the couple set up a 
sister program, the Fromm Insti 
tute at the Hebrew University of 

Over the past several decades, 
Mr. Fromm had served as a direc 
tor of the San Francisco Opera 
Association, a trustee of the San 
Francisco Conservatory of Musk 
and a founder of the Wine Museum 
of San Francisco. He was a gover 
nor of the Jewish National Fund, a 
co-founder of the San Francisco 
Jewish Community Museum and a 
supporter of the Judah Magnes 
Museum in Berkeley. 

Mr. Fromm was appointed a re 
gent at St Mary's College in Mora- 
ga, where he was awarded an hon 
orary doctor of humane letters. He 
established scholarships at Bran- 
deis University and Hastings Col 
lege of Law, and served on the 
Advisory Board of S f. State. He 
was a director of the Gleeson Li 
brary Association at USF and in 
1979 received an honorary Doctor 
of Public Service from that univer 

In addition to his wife, Mr. 
Fromm is survived by his son, Da 
vid; a daughter, Caroline Fromm- 
Lurie; and several grandchildren 
and great-grandchildren. 

Private services were held Sun 
day, and a memorial is planned for 
a later date. 

Memorial contributions may be 
made to the Fromm Institute for 
Lifelong Learning or any other 

San Francisco Chronicle 

July 7, 1998 

c L : A memorial service is planned 
for Alfred Fromm, a philanthro 
pist who was one of the pioneers of 

the modern California wine indus 
try. Mr. Fromm died at his San 
Francisco home Thursday at the 

ageof 93. 


; - 

Mr. Fromm had three careers 
in his long life: He was a winemak- 
er from a German Jewish family of 
distinguished vintners; he was a 
master of wine market ing who 
helped put California wines on the 
map; and he and his wife, Hanna, 
gave a fortune to educational and 
cultural organizations. 

His philosophy was contained 
in his autobiography. He believed, 
he wrote, in "the importance of 
learning, strong family bonds and 

He was a founder of the 
Fromm Institute for Lifelong 
Learning at the University of San 
Francisco, which uses emeritus 
professors to teach courses de 
signed for persons over the age of 
50. The Fromm Institute, which he 
set up in 1976, now has more than 
1,000 students. 

Mr. Fromm was born in Kitzin- 
gen, Germany, hi 1905, into a fami 
ly of vintners. He left school at 15 
to apprentice in the wine business 
and by 1930 was export manager 
for N. Fromm, the family's 200- 
year-old firm. 

Mr. Fromm married Hanna 
Gruenbaum in 1936 and left Nazi 
Germany for the United States. 
Eventually, he was able to bring 
his relatives to America. "I am hap 
py here," he said later. "This coun 
try has been good to me." 


He saw the possibilities for the 
domestic wine business when oth 
ers did not "When I first came to 
this country," he said later, "wine 
. . . was considered a sissy drink by 
people who consumed rotgut whis- 
, *y" e - I- taoftsif&T ;.. 

He made a careful study of the 
Sonoma and Napa valleys and be- 
came convinced that premium 
wines equal to those in Europe 
could be produced hi California. 
He and some partners obtained 
worldwide sales rights to Napa 
Valley wines produced by the 
Brothers of the Christian Schools, 

With Franz Sichel, his late part 
ner, he turned the small, strug 
gling Christian Brothers wine into 
a major brand, and in the process 
helped develop the market for 
good wine among middle-class 
American families. "I have been a 

missionary in that sense," he said. 

It was more than just a business 
to him. He drank half a bottle at 
dinner every night "Wine is my 
medicine," he said, "a better and 
more relaxing medicine." 

He marketed Paul Masson 
wines, and set up the Masson Music 
in the Vineyards program in Sara 
toga hi the 1950s. 

He also founded a wine muse 
um at Hyde and Beach Streets 
which flourished for many years. 
He was interested in education as 
well. The success of Christian 
Brothers wine was a windfall for 
St Mary's College in Moraga, 
which is operated by the Christian 
Brothers. Mr. Fromm helped the 
school with its academic programs 
and was a member of its board of 

Mr. Fromm retired as chair 
man of the board of Fromm and 
Sichel in 1978. Eventually, the 
- Christian Brothers wine brand was 
sold, most recently to Heublein, 
Inc., which closed its St. Helena 
wmeryml993.^ r V ., ; , 

Mr. Fromm' was more active 
than evetin retirement He was a 
, director of the San Francisco 
' Opera Association, a trustee of the 
San Francisco Conservatory of Mu 
sic, governor of the Jewish Nation 
al Fund, and a co-founder of the 

Con HVon/io/v\ TanrieK fnmmffni+tr 

Museum and chairman of its board 
of trustees. 

In all these roles, he urged oth 
ers to give to charities. When he 
asked others for help, he told, them 
giving "will do your heart good." 
According to Robert Fordham, di 
rector of the Fromm Institute, it 
was one of his favorite expres 

Mr. Fromm is survived by his 
wife, his son, Dr. David Fromm, 
chief of surgery at Wayne State 
University hi Ohio, his daughter, 
Caroline Fromm Lurie of Ross, a 
psychotherapist, and five grand 

Private services were held on 
Sunday. Memorial contributions 
may be made to the Fromm Insti 
tute for lifelong Learning, Uni 
versity of San Francisco, San Fran- 
cisco, 94117. ; ;C ,,.,* .:*::>- 
: i-r -,.:.-.- ':y; 


TABLE OF CONTENTS - - Alfred Fromm 


INTRODUCTION by Rabbi Brian Lurie 





German Jews ^ 

The Max Fromm Family 

The Role of Religion 


Brothers and Sisters 6 


Parents' Expectations and Values 

Added Reflections on Background and Family 
Advice From Rabbi Stephen Wise 

Marriage to Hanna Gruenbaum 

Life in New York City 22 

Living in San Francisco 

Plan and Design; Hanna Fromm 

The Future; Increased Education of Older Adults 
The Koret Living Library 

Comparison to San Francisco Program 


Judah Magnes Memorial Museum, Berkeley 
San Francisco Jewish Community Museum 


First Exhibit: "Fifty Treasures" 


Exhibit: "The Jews of Germany" 

"The Jews of Kaifeng, China" ^ 

Criteria in Accepting Gifts 

Sukkah Competition 

Personal Interest in Art 52 


Reorganizing Israeli Wine Exports 54 


National United Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society Council 57 

Jewish National Fund 59 

American Technion Society 64 
The Alfred and Hanna Fromm Scholarship Fund; Brandeis 

University, 1975 65 
Alfred and Hanna Fromm Professorship, Hastings College of Law, 

University of California, San Francisco 65 



Planning with Dr. Su Hua Newton 71 

Program Changes 75 

The Future 76 


Samuel Bronfman and the Seagram Company 79 

A Valued Business and Personal Relationship 79 
The Wine Museum, San Francisco; Now the Seagram Museum, 

Waterloo, Ontario, Canada 83 

More About the Wine Business 84 


California Medical Clinic for Psychotherapy; Vice Chairman 85 

St. Mary's College; Board of Regents 86 

Founding Member of the President's Club 87 

Honorary Alumnus, 1981; Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, 

May 1974 88 

Music in the Vineyards; Co-Founder 89 

Norman Fromm, Founder; San Francisco Chamber Music Society 91 
Paul Fromm, Founder; Fromm Music Foundation, Harvard 

University 92 

San Francisco Conservatory of Music; Board of Trustees 93 

San Francisco Opera Association; Board of Directors 94 

Awards 9 5 

Jefferson Award for Community Service; The American Institute 

of Public Service 97 

Wine Spectator: First Annual Distinguished Service Award 97 

Hebrew University; Torch of Learning 98 

Share Zedek Hospital, Israel; Founders' Stone Trophy 98 

Brandeis University Distinguished Community Service Award 98 

A Key to the City from Mayor Joseph Alioto, 1974 99 

Memories of Kurt Adler, General Director, San Francisco Opera 99 


An Important Business Experience in 1942 
Lengthy Partnership with Franz Sichel 
The Future 

Recognition of Social Change by Business 

On Contributions of Women 

Preparation for Successful Volunteerism 


Concluding Thoughts After Last Interview 




Childhood in Germany 
Religion in the Family 
Impact of Father's Death 

Life and Work in Paris 

A Frightening Episode in Germany, 1933 
Engagement to Alfred Fromm 
Life and Work in Palestine, 1935 
Marriage in Trieste, Prague, and New York 

Resettling Relatives Who Fled Germany 
Red Cross Driver and Instructor, World War II 

Fund Raising 
Skilled Listening 
More About Funding 
Honorary Doctor of Public Service, University of 

San Francisco, May 1979 
The Future 


Conductors and Artists; Friends and Guests 
Kurt Adler 
William Steinberg 

Children and Grandchildren 
Alfred Fromm 














A Longstanding Friendship: The Fromms and the Adlers 150 

Kurt Adler as Impresario 151 

Opera in San Francisco: Fund-Raising 153 

Serving on the Opera Board of Directors 155 

Dealing with the Unions 157 

Donors for the Future: "A Great Reservoir" 158 

The Fromm Family and the Arts 159 

The Adler Temperament and the Question of Retirement 160 

The Adler Legacy 161 



A. "Hocks and Moselles, How They are Growing and Ripening." 

House of Fromm, Germany. 165 

B. "Deutscher Wein: Wie er wachst und reift," N. Fromm, Bingen am Rheim, 
Germany. 174 

C. Wine labels of N. Fromm, Germany, 1929 and 1932. 193 

D. "Dean of Wine Tasters Sips For Three Hours Daily," San Francisco 
Examiner. June 8, 1953. Article about Max Fromm. 194 

E. Letter from Paul Fromm, October 20, 1986. 195 
Brief Biography of Paul Fromm. 196 
An Addition by Alfred Fromm about his brother, Paul Fromm. 198 
Obituary of Paul Fromm, New York Times. July 6, 1987. 199 

"New American Music: The Living Legacy of Paul Fromm." 

Chicago Tribune. July 9, 1987. 200 

F. Program of a concert honoring Herbert Fromm, January 30, 1977. 201 
INDEX 203 



The California Jewish Community Series is a collection of oral history 
interviews with persons who have contributed significantly to Jewish life and 
to the wider secular community. Sponsored by the Western Jewish History 
Center of the Judah L. Magnes Memorial Museum, the interviews have been 
produced by the Regional Oral History Office of The Bancroft Library. Moses 
Rischin, professor of history at California State University at San Francisco, 
is advisor to the series, and Ruth Rafael is Archivist. Serving as an 
advisory committee is the board of the Western Jewish History Center. Present 
members are co- chairs Norman Coliver and Daniel E. Stone, and Seymour Fromer, 
James D. Hart, Louis H. Heilbron, Rabbi Robert Kirschner, Elinor Mandelson, 
Esther Reutlinger, Jacques Reutlinger, John Rothmann, Dana Shapiro, and Sue 
Rayner Warburg. 

The California Jewish Community Series was inaugurated in 1967. During 
its first twenty years, former board members who served in an advisory 
capacity included Harold Edelstein, Cissie Geballe, James M. Gerstley, Douglas 
E. Goldman, Philip E. Lilienthal, Robert E. Sinton, Frank H. Sloss, Jacob H. 
Voorsanger, and Alma Lavenson Wahrhaftig. 

In the oral history process, the interviewer works closely with the 
memoirist in preliminary research and in setting up topics for discussion. 
The interviews are informal conversations which are tape recorded, 
transcribed, edited by the interviewer for continuity and clarity, checked and 
approved by the interviewee, and then final -typed. The resulting manuscripts, 
indexed and bound, are deposited in the library of the Western Jewish History 
Center, The Bancroft Library, and the University of California at Los Angeles. 
By special arrangement copies may be deposited in other manuscript 
repositories holding relevant collections. 

The Regional Oral History Office was established to tape record 
autobiographical interviews with persons prominent in recent California 
history. The Office, headed by Willa K. Baum, is under the administrative 
supervision of Professor James D. Hart, director of The Bancroft Library. 

Seymour Fromer 
Executive Director 

The Magnes Museum 

1 September 1988 
Berkeley, California 



Koshland, Lucile Heming (Mrs. Daniel E., Sr.), Citizen Participation in 
Government. 1970. 

Rinder, Rose (Mrs. Reuben R.), Music. Prayer, and Religious Leadership: 
Temple Emanu-El. 1913-1969. 1971. 

Koshland, Daniel E. , Sr. , The Principle of Sharing. 1971. 

Hilborn, Walter S., Reflections on Legal Practice and Jewish Community 
Leadership: New York and Los Angeles. 1907-1973. 1974. 

Magnin, Rabbi Edgar F. , Leader and Personality. 1975. 

Fleishhacker, Mortimer, and Janet Choynski (Mrs. Mortimer), Family. Business. 
and the San Francisco Community. 1975. 

Haas, Walter A. , Sr. , Civic. Philanthropic, and Business Leadership. 1975 
Haas, Elise Stern (Mrs. Walter, Sr.), The Appreciation of Quality. 1975. 

Salz, Helen Arnstein (Mrs. Ansley) , Sketches of an Improbable Ninety Years. 

Sinton, Edgar, Jewish and Community Service in San Francisco, a Family 
Tradition. 1978. 

Kuhn, Marshall H. , Marshall H. Kuhn: Catalyst and Teacher: San Francisco 
Jewish and Community Leader. 1934-1978. 1978. 

Hirsch, Marcel, The Responsibilities and Rewards of Involvement. 1981. 
Koshland, Robert J., Volunteer Community Service in Health and Welfare. 1983. 
Stone, Sylvia L. , Lifelong Volunteer in San Francisco. 1983. 
Schnier, Jacques, A Sculptor's Odyssey. 1987. 

Treguboff, Sanford M. , Administration of Jewish Philanthropy in San Francisco 

Fromm, Alfred, Alfred Fromm: Wines. Music, and Lifelong Education. 1988. 
Altman, Ludwig, A Musician's Journey Through Life. In process. 


INTRODUCTION by Rabbi Brian Lurie 

My intimate knowledge of Alfred Fromm only goes back three and one -half 
years. But my recollections are enriched by one who has known him almost 
forty years -- his daughter and my wife, Caroline. 

Few people are the same publicly and privately. How many men have been 
admired publicly only to be castigated by a son or daughter or wife for 
neglect, indifference and ill temper? Not Alfred Fromm. Always the gentleman, 
considerate, unspoiled, kind to family and the world at large. This is how 
Caroline described him when he was honored by the American Friends of Hebrew 

"The man who wrote children's stories for me when he 
had to go out of town so that I wouldn't be without an 
original bedtime story; or the man with whom I , as a 
child, rode all over San Francisco on a bus just to 
have the pleasure of speaking our own private 
gobbledygook in front of strangers; or the man who for 
hours helped me with my English essays when piles of 
his own work awaited him; or the man who always, 
always encouraged imagination mixed with reason, 
laughter with seriousness, adventure someness with 
practicality, generosity of spirit toward others with 
a degree of enlightened self-interest." 

Alfred Fromm elevated manners to an art form. Long before my son-in-law 
status, he had earned from me the deserved distinction of being the most 
civilized man I have ever known. 

Manners only embellish a razor-sharp mind. He has the innate ability to 
simplify the most complex problems. He thereby is able to express himself 
with great clarity and succinctness. Moreover, he is quick to see and 
acknowledge the insight of another and to learn from the ways of experience. 
Therefore, he is a man who is constantly learning as well as teaching. 

Alfred Fromm is also a grateful man. Places that have been kind and 
good to him are called "lucky." The country that allowed him to find a safe 
haven from Nazi persecution he calls "great." The life he has led is full and 
rich and for this he is "grateful." 

He sits in my "mind's eye" as he does in his livingroom after a family 
dinner, smoking a rich Havana cigar -- its smoke curling upward. A smile of 
total contentment fills his handsome, lined face. I feel my own luck -- the 
opportunity to see him in this relaxed way, feeling the respect and admiration 

I have for him. He is a model for me and for every man -- this Alfred Fromm. 

Rabbi Brian Lurie 
Executive Director 
San Francisco Jewish 
Community Federation 

II April 1986 

San Francisco, California 



The Regional Oral History Office of The Bancroft Library was 
commissioned by the Board of Trustees of the Western Jewish History Center, 
the Judah L. Magnes Museum, to interview Alfred Fromm for the California 
Jewish Community Oral History Series to round out the oral history of his 
business career, previously recorded in the California Winemen Series (this 
interview is reproduced as Part Two in this volume.) In addition, our 
charge was to document his significant contributions to the worlds of 
education, music, and the Jewish Community. Because of continued interest 
in this historical period, it became important to document not only Mr. 
Fromm's earlier life, but also that of his family who had been German 
citizens for over two hundred years. 

Mr. Fromm and I met for the first time early in 1985 at a preliminary 
planning session, which we arranged by telephone. On May 16, 1985 we began 
a series of seven interviews, each an average of one and one-half hours in 
length. On May 22, 1987, after Mr. Fromm had reviewed the transcript, we 
completed the final interview. In January 1988, we met twice for two 
hour editing conferences. All sessions took place in the offices of Alfred 
Fromm's firm. Brandy Associated, located at 655 Montgomery Street, San 
Francisco, usually from 10 am until noon. 

Alfred Fromm's seventeenth floor, substantial and contemporary suite of 
offices, with a noteworthy view from a wall of large windows, created an 
inviting place to work. During one editing meeting, we worked as we ate 
a tempting lunch ordered in by Mr. Fromm. We sat in comfortable, dark 
leather chairs that complement the round table at which we worked in Mr. 
Fromm's private office. A framed key to the city, presented by San 
Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto in 1974, a photograph of Alfred Fromm with 
Samuel Bronfman, Seagram's founder, and another of some family members are 
seen on the office walls. Degrees awarded Alfred Fromm are framed and hang 
here as well. 

Mr. Fromm was well-prepared and despite an obviously busy schedule, 
always prompt, and considerate. There were few interruptions, since the 
staff held all but the most urgent calls. Alfred Fromm was an eminently 
involved partner in the editing of his memoirs, taking much care to ensure 
the accuracy of dates, names, and clarity of his experiences. He 
subsequently chose to write out the concluding remarks which are included in 
the last interview with him. 

On reading his wife's interview, he told me that he found it much more 
interesting than his memoir. Smiling broadly, he said, "It reminds me of 
Our Hearts Were Young and Gay by Cornelia Otis Skinner. The difference," he 
said, "is that Mrs. Fromm is better at spoken English, I am better at 
writing. " 


Although flexible and open to discussion, Alfred Fromm was firm in his 
opinion that we omit discussion of events in which he felt he had not been 
significantly involved. In his warm and kindly way, he nonetheless made it 
clear that he considered such additions to be self-enhancing and without 
value. He was patient, pleasant, and at times, expressed himself with 
humor, but questioned decisions to include what he felt was "immaterial. 11 
Several times we discussed the distinction between the spoken word recorded 
in oral memoirs and the written word found in manuscripts. 

It was apparent from his interaction with his staff that Alfred Fromm 
is more than a figurehead. As he works at his desk early each weekday until 
late in the afternoon to fulfill a busy calendar, it was also evident that 
the attractive suite of offices is more than a symbol of power. 

In addition to interviewing Alfred Fromm, it also became important to 
document the creative woman whom he credits as the architect of the Fromm 
Institute For Lifelong Learning. Mrs. Alfred Fromm's work and contributions 
have increased the dimensions of both music and education. We needed to 
record her accomplishments as well as her earlier life in Germany where she 
was born and lived. 

Hanna Fromm greeted me at her front door on a sunny mid-afternoon in 
November 1985, our first meeting, and led me past book-lined walls into a 
lovely room with paintings by French and German impressionists. A 
sophisticated and busy person, she is a slender and graceful woman, well- 
groomed, softly and smartly dressed. She had just returned from her office 
at the Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning on the University of San 
Francisco campus, where she works three days each week, in addition to her 
other activities. We had spoken by telephone several times and arranged for 
this, our first planning meeting. Mrs. Fromm was considerate about the 
heavy traffic I might encounter as we set the time for conferences. 

During our planning session, we had coffee as we worked in Hanna 
Fromm's living room, facing a stunning view of the San Francisco Bay and the 
Golden Gate Bridge. She was forthright during our planning meeting and 
subsequent two hour interview and spoke with great sensitivity of people who 
endure suffering. The interview took place in the less formal of the home's 
two dining rooms, a room dominated by the view of the Bay. 

When telling of why, despite both of their children being married and 
living with their own families for sometime, she and Alfred Fromm still live 
in "such a large house" ("My husband says he needs space always space."), 
Mrs. Fromm told witty stories about why she has only part-time assistance in 
their home. How some experiences such as one with the man sent by an agency 
to fill the role of housekeeper made the decision easier. The man's 
superior manner peaked when he asked to see his quarters, which were, Mrs. 
Fromm said, "quite nice with generous closets." This applicant, who 
referred to himself in the third person, suggested that "Madam may need to 
move some of her clothing to make room for William's belongings." Despite 
her very busy schedule, Hanna Fromm said, "that did it." 


Upon the death of Kurt Herbert Adler some months ago. it became 
important to obtain information from those who had known and related closely 
with the man whose work had so significantly influenced the San Francisco 
Opera and the realm of music. Thus, this office decided to interview Alfred 
Fromm for details of his rememberances of Mr. Adler with whom he had a long 
and close friendship. The men shared an affiliation with the San Francisco 
Opera, which augmented their personal relationship. Caroline Crawford, our 
staff music interviewer, was selected to interview Mr. Fromm to document 
this information. 

One of Mr. Fromm's most recent contributions has been as a co-founder 
and president of the founding board of trustees of the San Francisco Jewish 
Community Museum, 1984. He is a continuing member and patron. 

Rabbi Brian Lurie, executive director of the San Francisco Jewish 
Community Federation and not incidentally, son-in-law to Alfred Fromm and a 
co-worker for the establishment of the museum, agreed to write the 
introduction. We thank Rabbi Lurie and Mrs. Fromm for the insights they 
have added to the character of this remarkable public citizen of California 
and the United States. 

Publications relating to this memoir are on deposit at The Bancroft 
Library; the Western Jewish History Center, the Judah Magnes Museum; the 
Koret Living Library, and the Gleeson Library at the University of San 

Elaine Dorftnan 

18 May 1988 

Regional Oral History Office 

486 The Bancroft Library 

University of California at Berkeley 


Born February 23, 1905 at Kitzingen, Germany, located in the Franconian wine 
district, into an old family of vintners and shippers. 

After attending grammar and high school, graduated from the Viticultural 
Academy in Geisenheim, Germany. 

Married in 1936 to Hanna Gruenbaum. Children: Dr. David George Fromm, born 
1939, Professor of Surgery at New York State University; daughter Carolynn Ann 
Fromm, born 1946, a psychiatric social worker and psychologist. 

Started career in the wine business as an apprentice at the age of 15 in 1920 
for a three year period. In 1924 he joined the family's firm, N. Fromm, Wine 
Growers and Shippers, in Kitzingen. The main seat was transferred in 1928 to 
Bingen- on -the -Rhine, where some of the largest cellars of Rhine and Moselle 
wines in Germany were maintained. 

Became Export Manager in 1930 of N. Fromm G.m.b.H. and traveled extensively 
abroad for the sale of the firm's German wines. 

First came to the United States in December 1933 to represent the family firm 
and traveled widely throughout the country. In 1936 emigrated to the United 
States, becoming a citizen in 1941. In 1937 became a partner in a small 
import firm of wines and spirits in New York. 

Convinced that the future of the wine business was in California's premium 
wine districts, and foreseeing that a war would eliminate foreign supplies, he 
obtained the exclusive representation of The Christian Brothers winery in 
Napa, California, in 1937 and has been connected with this organization ever 

In 1944, together with his friend Franz W. Sichel, founded the firm of Fromm 
and Sichel, Inc., with offices in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, 
Chicago and Atlanta, continuing the worldwide distribution of The Christian 
Brothers Wine, Champagne and Brandy. 

Franz Sichel died in 1967, and Alfred Fromm is now Chairman of the Board and 
Chief Executive Officer, retiring in August 1983. 

The ownership of The Christian Brothers vineyards and wineries is held 
entirely by The Brothers of the Christian Schools, commonly known as The 
Christian Brothers, a religious Order of the Catholic Church. The Christian 
Brothers maintain 105 schools and colleges throughout the United States. They 
are the third largest Teaching Order of men of the Catholic Church, with 
11,000 Brothers serving throughout the world and with schools all over the 
globe. Proceeds of their activities in the wine business are used by The 
Christian Brothers for the maintenance of their schools and colleges in the 
Western Province of the United States. 


The Christian Brothers wines and brandy are sold nationally in every state of 
the Union and are exported worldwide to sixty countries. 

In September 1974 Fromm and Sichel, Inc. moved into their new world 
headquarters building at 655 Beach Street on San Francisco's famous 
waterfront. Adjacent is The Wine Museum of San Francisco, which opened 
January 21, 1974. This first wine -in- the -arts Museum in the Western 
Hemisphere is devoted exclusively to praising the lore of wine through 
traditional and modern sculpture, artifacts, fine drawings and prints, rare 
books and drinking vessels. 

Mr. Fromm is the Founder of The Wine Museum of San Francisco; a Regent of 
Saint Mary's College in the San Francisco East Bay; Trustee of the San 
Francisco Conservatory of Music; a Director of the United HIAS , New York; a 
Governor of the Jewish National Fund; Director of the San Francisco Opera 
Association; Director of the American Society of Technion- Israel Institute of 
Technology, Inc. and many other charitable and cultural organizations. 

In 1975 Alfred and Hanna Fromm established the Fromm Institute for Lifelong 
Learning at the University of San Francisco. Mr. Fromm received a honorary 
Doctor of Humane Letters Degree at Saint Mary's College, in recognition of his 
interest in the college's educational program, as well as his interest in 
cultural education. 

September 1979 -- Alfred Fromm was awarded honorary Degree of Doctor of Public 

Service by the University of San Francisco for his 
contribution to the education of retired men and women. 

March 1981 -- Received the Jefferson Award for community service from the 

American Institute of Public Service 

October 1982 -- Recipient of the first annual "Distinguished Service Award" 

from the Wine Spectator 

October 1983 -- Fromm and Sichel, Inc. was sold to the Christian Brothers to 

consolidate production and marketing in one hand. 

1984 -- With the sale of the firms Real Property the Wine Museum 

will be discontinued. Most of the artifacts will be turned 

over to the new Seagram Museum in Waterloo, Ontario. 

The Franz Sichel Glass collection, one of the finest in the 

contents, will be exhibited in one of the leading museums 
in the country. 



[Interview 1: May 16. 1985] 


Frotnm : 



I understand that your family can be traced back at least four 
generations, some two hundred years in Germany. What stories do 
you recall of your family's beginning? 

Well, there is the founding of the wine business in our family by 
my great-grandfather Nathan. I think it is covered in the 
previous business interview with Mrs. Teiser. I did not know him, 
neither did I know my grandfather because he died very early, in 
his early forties. 

And your father became an apprentice, 
for him at such an early age. 

It must have been difficult 

Well, the business was small and my grandfather was apparently 
quite a wise man who insisted that my father get a good 
education and training in the wine business. After his father 
died, he was sent to Bingen-on-the-Rhine and served his 
apprenticeship in a very large firm, in fact the same firm where I 
served my apprenticeship. The name of the firm was Feist and 

After he had served a three-year apprenticeship, he started 
to develop the business. There were two older sisters and they 
were not married and needed a dowry. So my father did not marry 
until much later in his life because first, as was the custom in 
Jewish families in those days, the dowry had to be provided for 
his two sisters. After they were married, my father was married 
to my mother. 

#// This symbol indicates that a tape or segment of a tape has 
begun or ended. For a guide to the tapes, see page 163. 

Dorfman: What effect did your grandfather's death at such an early age have 
on your grandmother? 

Fremm: I didn't know her either. You know, in those days people didn't 
live as long as today. Many people died at forty-five or fifty 

Dorfman: Do you know whether there were agencies at that time to assist 

families where the husband had passed away, or groups that helped 
each other? 

Fromm: I do net know. And if there were, I'm sure that our family would 
not have applied to them. 

Dorfman: Why was that? 

German Jews 

Fromm: Well, the way German Jews lived, they were self-reliant and, in 

some ways, it was considered a shameful thing to ask for help from 
an agency. 

Dorfman: You were going to tell me of how your father met and married your 

Fromm: My mother was born in Fischach, which was a village near Augsburg. 
And it was a well-to-do family. They had a store in the farming 
country where all the farmers came to buy groceries and material 
for their clothes, which they made mostly themselves. Then my 
mother's brothers started a real estate business, and did quite 
well. The family name was Maier. 

Dorfman: Who introduced them? 
Fromm : I don 1 t know. 

Dorfman: In the previous interview, you spoke of some of the advantages of 
the German apprenticeship program. What were the disadvantages? 

Fromm: There was no particular disadvantage. You know, your family had 
to pay at the firm where you were apprenticed and you got a 
thorough education in wine production and then in wine marketing. 
When you had served your apprenticeship, you knew the business in 
which you were engagaed and you knew it quite well. No, you 
didn't have any life experience, but otherwise you had a good 
solid knowledge. You learn an awful lot in your young years that 
you don't learn later on. 


Dorf man: 






Do you know anything of your grandparents' experiences or your 
great-grandparents' experiences with anti-Semitism? 

I have no direct knowledge of that. At the time my grandfather 
and my great-grandfather lived, they could not move into the 
cities. There were a lot of restrictions on Jewish people. It 
was not until 1869 and 1870 that the Jews in Germany received the 
rights of full citizenship. Then, they could move freely around. 
For instance, in Bavaria where we lived it was in the province of 
Franconia and was part of the state of Bavaria. There were 
certain places before 1870 where only the first-born male member 
could marry because they didn't want a lot of Jewish children to 
increase the Jewish population. They had to go other places in 
order to get married. There were other restrictions at that time 
which were removed after 1870. 

The Jews of Germany were disadvantaged and had many 
difficulties in making a living. But then from 1870 on this was 
the year of the Prussian-French War, when Chancellor Bismarck ran 
the country things got considerably better. Between 1870 and 
1933 was really the time where the status of the German Jews 
developed. They made very large contributions to the German 
economy, to science and medicine and to the arts of all sorts: 
music, literature, the performing arts. And then, when the Nazis 
came in 1933, that all stopped. 

And your father in his early years before 1933? 

My father was born in 1870, which was already a better time for 
the Jewish people in Germany. There was always an undercurrent of 
anti-Semitism in Germany. It still exists today. But it had not 
that horrible form that later developed under the Nazis. 

Yes, you said that anti-Semitism always existed in Germany, but 
that you could live a decent life. 

Yes, I remember when we went to school, there was always on a 
Thursday, a special lesson on Jewish religion where the Jewish 
children went. We went down there and I remember it like today 
we had to pass a junk yard. It was owned by some miserable 
people, the lowest of the low. And they always taunted us. One 
day, at that time I think I was about thirteen years old, ene of 
those young rowdies attacked one of my friends. I got so enraged 
that I attacked him back even though he was much stronger and 
older than I. I had such fury in me that I wrestled him down and 
beat him up. I must have had the strength of three people because 
I was so furious. 

Fromm: From that time on when we passed by every Thursday, there never 
was another incident. But those things existed. 

Dorfman: And these attacks were not too frequent? 

Fromm: No. But there was always a separation, There was a certain 
Christian elite that did not socially associate with Jewish 
people. However, it did not exist that much in our case because 
our business had developed very fast and between 1920 and 1930 
became one of the largest wine businesses in Germany. My father 
was an active supervisor of the city of Kitzingen and highly 
regarded. We had a franchise as suppliers to the king of Bavaria. 
It was called Heflieferant and was given only to people who were 
very well thought of. Later on my father got the title of 
Commerzienrat (Councilor of Commerce), which was a high title 
given to Jewish people only if they had really contributed to the 
German economy and were of high repute. Of course, later on it 
didn't make any difference. I mean, a Jew was a Jew. 

Dorfman: What can you tell me about this letterhead? 
letterhead. ] 

[holds R Fromm 

Fromm: This is the letterhead of a letter which was written in 1918 by my 
father to his former partner, his widowed sister, Crete. On the 
top it says, "Wine shippers and Vintners." In the middle is our 
residence in the Bismarckstrasse, on the right. Then on the left 
it shows the larger building which were the offices and also where 
my aunt lived. The buildings in back were the shipping and 
storage facilities. And then underground were a few miles of 

Dorfman: A few miles? 

Fromm: Yes. As our business grew so rapidly, we leased quite a few 

additional underground cellars. On the left side, you have the 
cellars owned by a Catholic church organization. Then underneath, 
there is the shipping room. On the right side you have the main 
cellar which was under the building that is shown on the letter 
head. Underneath there was a big cellar, where very large 
quantities of bottled wines were stored. It says on the stationery 
that the firm of N. Fromm was a supplier to the king of Bavaria, 
that the firm was founded in 1864. That means it was registered 
in 1864. but the family was in the wine business long before. 

On the left side, it states the various places where we had 
cellars: in Kitzingen, in Gresslangheim which is Franconian wine 
country, and then in Buedesheim which is right next to Binge n in 
the Rhineland. It also states that we were supplier to the German 
Ministry for consumption in the then German Colonies. For a 
Jewish firm, this was quite a recognition, but we had the quality 
and the reputation. 






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The Max Fromm Family 

The Role of Religion 

Dorfman: What was the role of religion in your family? 

Fromm: Well, my mother came from an Orthodox family. My father did not. 
We did net keep, later, a kosher house, but there were certain 
things which never came to the house. That was pork or ham and it 
was not considered acceptable. But otherwise, we did not really 
have a very Jewish kitchen. 

Dorfman: Your family lived within an area populated mostly by Jews? 

Fromm: No, no. There was no ghetto in that sense any more. My father 
dealt with quite a few prominent gentile businessmen, because he 
had a fine reputation and had built a very high-class and large 
business. Our house was located in the best part of town. 

Were your parents members of Jewish organizations? 

Yes, they were members of the temple, of course. The only temple 
was Orthodox. It was a small town where we lived, Kitzingen. 
There were only about seven thousand people. However, the temple 
was completely destroyed in the Kristalnacht by the Nazis. 

Dorfman: Did your family attend services at the synogogue? 

Dorfman : 


Fromm: Yes, of course. We had Bar Mitzvah there. My twin brother and I, 
and my older brother, and my younger brother. That was 
understood we observed the High Holidays. My mother went more 
often to temple on Saturday, but it was an Orthodox temple and the 
women had to sit upstairs. 

Dorfman: How about observances at home? 

Fromm: Well, there was really no particular observance of Jewish law. My 
father travelled widely. However, on the High Holidays, of 
course, the business was closed. 

Dorfman: Did your mother light candles on Friday evenings? 

Fromm: Yes, she did. But in later years she did not any more. She died, 
unfortunately, at an early age. I think she was forty-three or 
forty-four. She died in 1920 on July 15. I was at that time 
fifteen years old. It was the same day when we graduated, my twin 
brother and I, from middle high school. 


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Fromm: Everything was prepared for graduation day. We had those pseudo 
student's outfits. Then, of course, we couldn't go. I did 
however give the valedictory speech at school thanking the 
teachers. It was a day before my mother's funeral, and we 
refrained from any other activities. At graduation time, we could 
invite a girl, even though we didn't know what to do with a girl 
we were fifteen years eld it was a different time. [laughter] 
So we missed the fun part of graduation. 


Fromm: She was a wonderful and very charitable woman. For many years we 
helped our mother to prepare baskets of food which were delivered 
to poor people, gentile and Jewish. My mother was highly regarded 
in the community as a very kind and fine person. She looked very 
German, blue- eyed and a natural blonde. 

Brothers and Sisters 

Fromm: My twin brother, Herbert he's about half a head taller than I 
am he was also blue-eyed and blond and looks very German, too. 
Nobody would ever think that he was Jewish by his looks. 

He later became a conductor, composer and organist. My 
father, however, insisted that he first serve an apprenticeship in 
the wine business because he felt to become a musician at that 
time was not a proper profession, particularly in a small town. 
However, he went with him to Munich to the Akademie der Musik, which 
was a very prominent institution in Germany, and talked to the 
head of the academy and said, "Well, if my son is really gifted 
then I will let him study music." And they told him, "Yes, he 
is." Then Herbert studied for a few years at the Academy of Music 
in Munich. But it was not until 1933 that his musical education 
was finished and after a little while, in 1934, he lost his job as 
a conductor. Then in 1935, he was the first one that I arranged 
to come to the United States. 

He first was musical director of the temple in Buffalo, New 
York, and for thirty-three years, until he retired, the musical 
director of the most prominent Temple Israel in Boston. And he 
has composed and published quite some liturgical and secular 
music, becoming a first rate organist. He is well known amongst 
Jewish composers, and was awarded the Ernest Bloch Award for his 
cantata, "Song of Miriam." He was awarded for his work an 
honorary doctor's degree from Lesley College in Cambridge, 

Mathilde Maier Froram 

Photograph by Gabriel Moulin Studios 


Fromm: Massachusetts, where he lived. He's now retired. However, they 
always call him on the High Holidays, and for aty special goings 
on. He's very highly thought of by the community in Boston and 
Jewish musical circles. 

Dorfman: The relationship between a pair of twins must have been very 
special. Were you very close? 

Fromm: Yes, we were. My brother is a very intelligent person. He had in 
school nothing but A's including gymnastics and singing. 
[laughter] He was very spunky, too. He was a good sportsman. If 
any one tried to attack us they were very careful because my 
brother could handle it very easily, much better than I, because I 
was in seme way handicapped. When I was thirteen years old, just 
before I was Bar Mitzvah, I broke my ankle completely and was on 
crutches for a long time. 

You know in those days, there wasn't much of an issue if a 
boy broke a leg or his ankle. I was incapacitated for about six 
months, but professors from the school where we went came to the 
house and I had private tutoring. However, when I was Bar Mitzvah 
in 1918, I still couldn't walk. An uncle of mine who was a 
lieutenant in the German army, this was during World War I, 
carried me up to the pulpit and I said what was called my parsha. 
Parsha. you know, is part of the To rah. So everybody was very 
much touched. 

Dorfman: I'm sure, but how did you feel about that? 

Fromm: Well, I took it in stride. I broke my ankle on the day where my 
mother said we shouldn't go sleigh riding. And then we hit a big 
rock and I had a complete severing of my ankle. My right foot is 
about an inch shorter. But when you are young, those things some 
how adjust themselves and it really didn't give me toe much trouble 
for a long time. I could go skiing later on and walk very easily. 
Even today, at eighty years old, I can walk for an hour or two in 
the mountains or anywhere else. So, I was quite lucky. As I get 
older it sometimes hurts me, and I have to restrict my walking. 

Dorfman: What else might you remember of your relationship with your twin 
brother, Herbert? 

Fromm: Well, he helped me very much in my school work. We had read a 

great deal of the German classics when we were young. You know, 
in those days there was no radio, no television. We played during 
the day and after school until dark. Then we went home and did 
our schoolwork. Even though I was very good in German, I had some 
trouble with geometry and physics. My twin brother always helped 
me. I had quite good grades, too, but not as good as my 
brother's. I always looked to him for help when needed. So, it 
was a very close relationship. 


Dorfman: And your other brothers? 

Fromm: My oldest brother was called Neander. But when he came to this 

country in 1937, he called himself Norman, because nobody had ever 
heard of the name of Neander, which was a Latin name. We twins 
went only to middle high school, and left school when we were 
fifteen. But my brother Norman went the full term to the 
gymnasium for another three years, and then later attended the 
university in Wuerzburg. He became a successful lawyer later on 
in Frankfurt. When the Nazis came, he came in 1938 over here with 
his family. He lived first in Hollywood for some time and was 
working in the film industry because his wife was born a Laemmle. 
Mr. Carl Laemmle was an uncle of hers, and was one of the great 
pioneers in the Hollywood movie business. But it wasn't what 
Norman really wanted to do. After some years in the shipping 
business in New York he came back later to San Francisco and 
joined me in the firm as an executive, and was of great help in 
the development of our business. 

Dorfman: And your younger brother? 

Fromm: My younger brother Paul, who is two years younger, was a very 

sensitive boy. He was highly intelligent, greatly interested in 
music and in art. When he immigrated to the United States in 
1937, too, he came to Chicago where I had arranged a place for him 
in the wine import business. He joined a firm there and later 
bought it. We pooled our resources and he became a successful 
wine importer. He founded, about twenty years ago, the Fromm 
Music Foundation which is now at Harvard University. It is the 
leading institute in the U.S.A. fostering only serious modern 
music and composers. Anyone who knows anything about serious 
modern music would know the name of Paul Fromm. 

He's new retired. He sold his business but still works there 
to give them a hand. But his main interest is modern music and he 
has done a great deal for it. He has written many articles and 
given dozens of interviews in the New York Times and other leading 
newspapers, because he is the leading force in modern music in the 
U.S. A. He has received two honorary doctorates for his work and 
is very well known. 


Fromm: I am particularly close to my younger brother Paul. He is an 
intellectual, the same as my brothers Herbert and Norman. 

Dorfman: Tell me about that. 

Fromm: He suffered particularly from my mother's death, at which time he 
was thirteen years old. Paul had in some way a tougher time than 
I because he was so very sensitive. I always tried to give him a 

Fromm: hand in the family because in a small town in those days, being so 
interested in music and the arts was considered a luxury. My 
father was not very happy about it. but this was. in those days, 
you know, a different thing than today. 

Dorfman: So. you were protective of your younger brother? 

Fromm: Yes. 

Dorfman: Where did your family's interest in music and art stem from? 

Fromm: I really don't know. My father, who had a limited formal 

education, was an unusually intelligent and well-informed man, a 
very hard worker. It was necessary in those days in Germany to 
make a success. My mother was, like most women, more open to the 
arts and music. But she didn't play any instruments. 

I was less interested because I always felt a little bit 
inferior to my brothers, because they knew things that I did not. 
Even when I was very young I always wanted to go into the wine 
business. It interested me greatly and I felt to make up for 
that, I had to be good in what I was doing in business. I think 
it was a great incentive to me to prove to myself and to others 
that I could accomplish something. 

Dorfman: That's interesting that you were competing with yourself as well 

Fromm: Yes, yes. Well, all my life, what little I have been able to do 
in my life, I really have done it to prove myself. I always said 
to myself, "I want to see if I can do it." It's like going up a 
big ladder. You always want to go up a few steps higher, higher 
to see how high you can go. That has been very important in my life. 

Dorfman: Did your family attend concerts? 

Fromm: Music was mostly performed in our home because we lived in a small 
town where very little was offered. In those days, the arts in 
small towns were not very much appreciated. But we had a great 
deal of it in our house, all good friends, quite a few of them 
non-Jewish. There was always music, and great discussions about 
philosophy, politics, the arts and paintings and about many books. 
We all are bookworms. Everyone in our family reads a great deal. 

I never listened in school in Germany to grammar because I 
knew it. We read most of the classics, and a lot f other books, 
too. Spelling and grammar were never any problem for me in 
German. It was considered a disgrace if you didn't know the 
proper grammar and the right spelling. Grammar in Germany is 
sometimes a little bit involved and difficult. We all were good 
at expressing ourselves writing in German. 


Dorfman: Which books were favorites of your family? 

Fremm: Well, they were all the classics, like Goethe, Schiller, Heinrich 
Heine. There were many others, Shakespeare, of course. We read 
them pretty solemnly and we had, I think, substantial knowledge 
for young people of the German classics. 

Dorfman: You said that you were one of seven brothers and sisters. 

Fromm: Yes, four brothers and one sister and then two step-sisters. 
Margaret Meyer and the other one of my step- sisters was Joan 

Dorfman: New, Margaret Meyer was married to Otto Meyer. 

Fromm: Otto was associated with me in the Fromm and Sichel, Incorporated, 
and he became the president of our subsidiary, Paul Masson in 
Saratoga, California. Under his guidance it grew to be an 
important factor in the California premium wine and champagne 
business. He has been retired since approximately 1977. 

Joan Maier was maried to Bernhardt Maier, who was my late 
mother's youngest brother. He was associated with my brother Paul 
in Chicago for many years and a star salesman. For my young years 
he introduced me to the art of selling fine wines in Germany. 
Both, unfortunately, are not alive any more, and neither is my 
blood sister Friedel. 


Fromm: Even though I left school when I was fifteen years old, I think I 
had in many ways a better education than many of the young people 
here of nineteen. There was no television, there was no radio in 
those days and our pleasure and endeavor was to read as much as 
possible. Besides the classics, we also read a lot of junk books, 
like the Indian books of Carl May. They were fabulous. He was a 
German school teacher, he never was in America, and he wrote the 
most fascinating books about American Indians. And these were 
read by all of us and our friends. 

We had a big house. So there were often interesting 
discussions, sometimes violent discussions, of whatever went on. 
And so, in this way, I think all of us were exposed to a lot of 
information and problems. 

Dorfman: Political problems? 

Fromm: Yes, political problems, and social and economic problems, too. 

Dorfman: And there was a great deal of music played in your home and in the 
garden by friends as well as your brothers. 


Fromm : 


Dorfman: In terms of the role of art. you said that you had many 

discussions at home. Did your family have an art collection in 
your home? 

Fromm: No, we didn't. We had some very good artworks that my father or 
mother had acquired over the years. It was a very busy house, a 
business house. 

Dorfman: And museum visits? 

Fromm: Yes. There was no museum in the town where we lived, but later en 
when we traveled throughout Germany and later abroad for the 
business, we also visited museums in London, in Paris, in Denmark, 
in Chechoslovakia, and wherever we were. 

Dorfman: To come back to your relationships within your family, tell me 
about your sister. 

Fromm: Well, we only had one sister. Her name was Friedel. When she, 
her husband, and two sons came to the United States, they had no 
money. She made hats for great society ladies in New York. She 
was very gifted. She had to contribute to the funds of the family 
because her husband had a hard time relocating. He came from one 
of the best known Jewish families in Berlin. 

Our sister lived with us when my mother died in 1920. She 
ran the house for a few years and then she got married. She was a 
beautiful and kind woman. In fact, she was almost a do-gooder, 
[laughter] When we had immigrated to the United States, she kept 
in touch with other parts of the family. She was the one who knew 
everybody. I must say, to my disadvantage, I was not particularly 
interested in the cousins and second cousins. But even so, we 
were able to help them sometimes when the need arose. That is 
self-understood in a Jewish family. 

Dorfman: And to whom was this sister married? 

Fromm: She was married to Bruno Israel in Berlin. The Israel family was 
the founder of that large department store, N. Israel. And they 
became immensely wealthy. My brother-in-law's father already 
became a gentleman farmer because there was a lot of money and 
they had a big farm right outside of Berlin. He grew up in great 
wealth. He later changed his name when he came to America to 
Fromm because he felt he would be more easily accepted. 

Dorfman: And speaking of cousins, I wanted, of course, to ask about your 
memories of your second cousin, Erich Fromm. 


Frocun : 

Well, my oldest brother Norman, who studied in Munich where Erich 
Fromm studied, too, was very close to him. We were not that close 
because when we came to the United States, he lived at that time 
in Mexico. But he visited with us in our home. 

I remember one day when Erich gave a lecture here, he came 
for dinner, in 1965. My son was, at that time, a resident at the 
medical school of University of California and he just had to see 
that famous man. He expected great things, and all Erich was 
asking was, "Well, how's cousin so-and-so? And what happened to 
aunt so-and-so? 11 So he really wanted to know what happened to the 
whele family. It was a very amusing thing. 

He gave a talk at San Francisco State University. At that 
time it wasn't yet called a university. There were a lot of young 
people and my wife took him by the arm. They were walking along 
and some young woman came and said, "Master, what is the 
ultimate?" And he said, "There is no ultimate." And she said, 
"Thank you master." [laughter] That was the answer. 

He was a psychologist of great repute and a very sensible 
person. I think he had a decided influence throughout the world 
and en a very sound basis. And yet, when we talked to him, he was 
a warm and regular person. His books made him world famous. 

Dorfman: Had you known each other well as children? 

Fromm: No, we didn't. His family lived in Frankfurt, which was some 

distance away. Today, we wouldn't consider this a distance but in 
those days it was. We knew his father and his mother. Our 
parents and his parents visited, but we really met him only later 
in life. They were in the apple wine business in Frankfurt. We 
were in the real wine business. So, there was some contact there 


Dorfman: Going on with your childhood in Germany, I would like to know what 
memories you have of how your home looked. 

Fromm: Well, we had a very nice house, at first in Kitzingen, with a 

large garden. Then in 1928, as our firm had rapidly developed, we 
bought one of the largest underground cellars in Germany in 
Bingen-on- the- Rhine. The main seat of the firm was moved from 
Kitzingen to Bingen-on- the- Rhine. I can show you a picture of our 
large home. Our family became quite wealthy because my father 
was, as I mentioned, a very excellent and far sighted businessman. 
When enormous inflation in Germany came, almost everybody was 



Fromm: wiped out. However, my father felt that we should start in the 
early 1930s in the export business, and we did. During 
inflationary years, we had a branch of the firm and a depot of our 
wines in Holland, in Amsterdam; in London; in Prague, 
Czechoslovakia, and Saarbrucken, which was in the German Saarland 
and was occupied by the French for some years in the 1930s. Our 
sales in foreign countries produced substantial earnings in 
foreign exchange, and when the German mark was stabilized, the 
firm of N. Fromm was financially very strong. 

Dorfman: Coming back to your home, what it was like to grow up in that 
house as a child in Kitzingen? 

Fromm: We had a happy home life when we grew up in Kitzingen. We had big 
gardens where we played. We had many friends from all over who 
went to school with us or from families we knew, Jewish and non- 
Jewish. It was a good way to grow up. We had a lot of fun. I 
would say there were no particular difficulties that I recall. 

Dorfman: Who helped your mother in the house? 

Fromm: Well, we always had a cook and a house maid, and someone came in 

for the washing. There was plenty of help. I know when I came to 
the United States and I had to take the garbage out, I would say 
to my wife, "What did we do in Germany with the garbage? I never 
saw it." 

Dorfman: And each child had his own bedroom? 

Fromm: When we were small we shared bedrooms. Of course, my sister had 
her own room and also my oldest brother. But my twin brother and 
I, we slept in one large room for some years and so did my 
youngest brother. But later on, we all had our own rooms. When 
we moved to Bingen, we had a very big house, a much bigger house 
than we had in Kitzingen, A beautiful view of the Rhine, it was 
really a very outstanding place. 

Dorfman: When you were young, did the family travel a great deal on trips 
or vacations? 

Fromm: My parents did and my father went every year to take the cure. 

This was a habit in Germany. Then later on when we grew up, when 
I served my apprenticeship and later on, all of us children 
independently travelled extensively. We went to Switzerland and 
to Italy and to many other places in Europe. 

Dorfman: When you were still at home, you said that life was very happy for 
a child growing up within your family. Were there many family 
parties and social events? 


Fromm: No, really not. There were, of course, the family parties, all 
the holidays, and on Sunday there was always a big meal. 
Everybody was there and there was something very special, 
particularly good food. So, it was very much enjoyed. We always 
had wine. As children we always got a little drop of wine with 
some water. Because we always were exposed to this, I think that 
none of us is a drinker. And well, if you are in the business as 
I was in all my life, then you know what it means to drink too 
much. This is something that has never bothered anyone in our 

Dorfman: So, with such a large family, it wasn't difficult for Sunday meals 
to become family events? 

Fromm: Yes, and then always some of our friends were invited. There were 
always twelve, fifteen people at the table. It was a very festive 
meal and everyone enjoyed it. 

Dorfman: During the week, were all meals eaten together? 

Fromm: No, breakfast we had by ourselves because we all had to go to 

school. But lunch was always taken together. That was really the 
big meal during the day. There was a lighter meal in the evening. 
but it was always done in the family circle. As long as we were 
all home, we always had our meals together with our parents. 

Parents' Expectations and Values 

Dorfman: What did your parents expect of you? 

Fromm: My father was sue cess- oriented, but as I mentioned before, he was 
also a very charitable man. He expected that we do well, whatever 
it was. After we served our apprenticeship, as I mentioned, I 
then came back to work in our family's firm and so did later my 
brother Paul, my younger brother. It was always expected that we 
would do a good job because my father was a pretty tough task 
master. He put quite some requirements on us because he was a man 
who had accomplished very much by himself under tremendous odds. 

And your mother. What was her expectation of you? 

My mother just wanted to see that everything went along well. She 
took great interest in our education when we were small and helped 
us where she could, and also showed us that one had to do things 
for other people. 

Dorfman: So, it was your mother who 

Dorfman : 



Fromm: was a generous person. My father was a very charitable man in a 
very large way, as soon as he could afford to do it. But my 
mother really instilled in all of us that idea that one had to do 
something for others, and that out of all the bounty and all of 
the fruits of our labors, there should be something for other 

Dorfman: How were your parents' expectations different for the other 
family members than they were for you? 

Fromm: I remember when I was about nineteen, twenty years old, I started 
to travel for the firm, all over the country. My father had 
certain ideas: Number one, we could not call on any old customers. 
We only could call on new customers, which was difficult. 
Secondly, we were paid a commission, but he thought according to 
German education principles we only were paid half of what other 
people got, because he thought his sons should not make that kind 
of money. However, I did make good money anyway. Of course, I 
really applied myself to it. 

Dorfman: What was important to your parents? 

Fromm: Well, it was important that we lead a respected and honorable 

life, that we would do a good job in whatever our profession was. 
That we should help other people where it made good sense. My 
father was not a do-gooder. But he spread his charities where he 
thought it would do some good. He helped many people to set up in 
business or made it possible for them to make a better living. He 
was the paterfamilias of the extended family. 

Dorfman: During World War I, were any of your family members in the German 

Fromm: Yes, some uncles of mine. Yes, one was a lieutenant. The other 
served in the army. My mother's youngest brother was killed in 
France during the First World War. 

Dorfman: What was the attitude of the family? 

Fromm: Well, we were probably better Germans than Jews at that time. 
Most of the Jews were very patriotic Germans. 

Dorfman: Do you recall stories about the experiences in the army of family 
members at that time? 

Fromm: I remember vividly when World War I started, one day I saw my 

mother on the steps of our house. She was crying bitterly, and I 
asked, "Well, what is it?" Look at all these big victories the 
Germans had. She said, "No, this will be the end of the world we 
know." I didn't understand this for many, many years. 


Added Reflections on Background and Family 

Derfman: Did anyone in your family speak or understand Yiddish? 

Fromm : No. 

Dorfman: Were there other languages in which your family was fluent? 

Fromm: Not fluent, but, of course, we were taught French and English, At 
the gymnasium, my oldest and youngest brother were taught Latin 
and Greek, however in a limited way. 

Dorfman: When you attended school, were you taught languages? 

Fromm: Yes,we were taught French and English. But before I came here, I 
went for a month to Cambridge in England and lived with a 
professor there. There was nothing but English spoken. So, when 
I came over here to do business at the time Prohibition was 
repealed in December, 1933, I had a working knowledge of English. 
I could get along. 

Advice From Rabbi Stephen Wise 

Derfman: I'd like to go on to the years of Hitler. You mentioned that you 
met Rabbi Stephen Wise when you were in this country. 

Fromm: Well, I arrived in New York on December 5, 1933, the day 
Prohibition was repealed. As I was the oldest son in the 
business, I was delegated to open the American market. 

I found out one thing, that if I wanted to ask someone for 
directions, I always addressed myself to well-dressed and nice 
looking people because they really gave me better information, and 
they talked to strangers more easily because many are people 
who've traveled. Whereas, if you talked to the average person, 
you know, he just had no time and ran away. 

So, I had quite some experiences because my English was very 
spotty, but I got along. I started to call on the large wholesale 
distributors in order to distribute our wines as was necessary 
under the license system that existed here. And a lot of the 
distributors here were Jewish and they wouldn't buy any German 
wine. They said, "We are not buying any German wine because this 
only helps the Nazis." So, I pleaded with them and said, "Well, 
you know that we are Jewish and the fact that we are exporting and 
bringing foreign exchange into Germany, that protects our family." 


Fromm: And in fact, it did, because some of the lowest class Nazis, the 

Brown Shirts,' took my father to a concentration camp in 1934 for a 
week. But then we intervened with the German Reichsbank, which 
was the same as the Federal Reserve Bank here. Dr. Schacht was 
the president of the Reichsbank. He was also the one who 
stabilized the German mark after the inflation. At his 
instruction, my father was released. He was so important because 
we had a fairly large export business of German wines. 

But in New York, I found it very difficult with so many 
distributors and I really got desperate. I said, well, what do I 
do, because they wouldn't buy anything from us because it was 
German goods. They said to me, "Alfred, you're a nice young man. 
Why don't you go into something else? But we don't buy German 
goods. " 

[Interview 2: July 19,1985] 

Fromm: So, I asked, "Who is the most prominent Jew in New York?" They 
told me the most prominent and the most influential Jew in New 
York was Rabbi Stephen Wise. I called him and he gave me an 

He was a very imposing man, and spoke beautiful German. And 
I told him my story. He said, "Alfred, I will give you one piece 
of advice. All the Jews in Germany will leave with a pack on 
their back. This is just the beginning. Get out as fast as you 
can. Take out whatever money you can." This was very dangerous. 
My father would never violate the law. He didn't permit us to 
take any money out. 

Dorfman: He didn't? 

Fromm: No, no, it was against the law. German Jews were very patriotic 
and very law abiding, as most Germans were. And Rabbi Wise said. 
"Take your family out as quickly as you can because this will be a 
horrible end in Germany." Now this was in January or February of 
1934. At that time, almost everybody thought that Nazi business 
would blow over and settle down to something reasonable. 

I took his advice and as I told you my twin brother came out 
first in 1935, and then all the rest of the family. When we 
immigrated, we brought out altogether, thirty- seven people, our 
immediate family. And we are one of the very few Jewish families 
whose immediate family all live in the United States. We are not 
dispersed all over the world. So, this is one of the reasons we 
are so grateful to the United States, for giving us a home and 
giving us a chance. 


Fromm: After I emigrated, I still sold quite a bit of German wine because 
my parents were still living there until I got them out. The same 
day my parents were out. I completely stopped any contact with 
Germany. That was finished for me. But as I told many of my 
friends who were in the same position as I, "You know you are 
making a great mistake. You have such tremendous hatred against 
the Nazis which I fully understand. But it eats you up. It's 
something destructive." I said, "I've made up my mind. I just 
despise the Nazis, but I do not permit myself this hatred because 
this will hinder me in what I need to do here, to get roots in 
American soil." 

Dorfman: That's a fine philosophy. 

Fromm: Well, it's also a practical philosophy. 

Dorfman: Did Rabbi Wise, when you consulted with him, assist you at all? 

Fromm: No, he just gave me that advice. And when we had been in the 

country for about four years I kept in touch with Rabbi Wise I 
sent him a thousand dollars because Rabbi Wise gave me such 
valuable counsel. I felt so strongly that I would like to show my 
appreciation and in those days this thousand dollars was like a 
fortune to me that I had to do something important to acknowledge 
his invaluable advice to me. 

Dorfman: Tell me about that relationship that you maintained with Rabbi 

Fromm: Well, I called on him from time to time and got advice from him. 

He was an outstanding, intelligent man. Then after he died, I had 
some contact with his daughter, Justice Wise Politzer. 

Dorfman: What was Rabbi Wise's role at the time that you knew him? 

Fromm: Well, he was the first Rabbi at the largest temple in New York 

City. He was very active politically. He was the most prominent 
Jew at that time in New York. That's why I called on him. 




Dorfman: I would like to return to your immigration to the United States. 

We know from previous interviews with you that you traveled to the 
United States between 1933 and 1936 and that in 1936, you decided 
to leave Germany to live here permanently. That decision was 
brought about, of course, by the 

Fromm: by the situation the Nazis created. We had made up our minds to 
immigrate as soon as we could, but I couldn't manage it before 

jjarriage to Hanna Gruenbaum 

Fromm: My wife and I came to this country in 1936. We were just married. 
Dorfman: Yes, tell me about the marriage. 

Fromm: Well, I wanted to get married earlier. My wife is about nine 
years younger than I am. However, I couldn't under the 
circumstances with the Nazis, because my wife had already 
immigrated and at that time she lived with her mother in 
Palestine. At the time, Israel was not yet a nation. 

We got married in 1936 and I sent her a cable to Jerusalem. 
I wanted to go there and then we would take our honeymoon on a 
trip down the Nile. However, then the riots broke out in 
Palestine: shooting between the English, Israelis and the Arabs. 
I cabled that she should meet me in Trieste, which she did. But 
when she arrived in Trieste, Italy, with her mother, I wasn't 
there because I couldn't get my passport. So, I came about a week 

We went to the rabbi and we were married in a religious 
ceremony. I went back to the United States on business and Hanna 
went back to London where she had an uncle with whom she lived. 


Fromm: Then we went t Prague to visit an uncle of hers who was a 

professor at the German university in Prague. He was an ultra- 
Orthodox Jew. When I arrived there he asked about our marriage 
ceremony. I hemmed and I hawed because there was no chupah at 
that time our marriage was not done in the Orthodox tradition. 
He said, "Veil, there is no blessing and no good fortune in a 
marriage like that for the granddaughter of Abraham Gruenbaum." 
My wife's grandfather was a very prominent Orthodox person. He 
was one of the main founders of Share Zedak Hospital in Jerusalem 
in the year 1890. 

So we got married again in a very Orthodox way. After that 
we went to New York. 


Fromm: As soon as I arrived, I wanted to file for my first papers to 

become a citizen. I went to an attorney and he asked, "Where is 
your marriage certificate?" So, I showed him those two scrolls in 
Hebrew. He said, "That's no good in New York. It's considered a 
common law marriage. You have to have a civil marriage. Other 
wise, for five years it will not have the same legal standing." 

I figured this was not very good. So, one day we went down 
to City Hall. There were maybe thirty couples in front of us and 
finally, our turn came. After it was over, the man who performed 
the ceremony looked at his list and said, "Hanna, how does it feel 
to be Mrs. Fromm?" And he said to me, "You can kiss the bride," 
which I did. It was no hardship. And he stuck his hand out. To 
me as a German, you know, to give an official a tip, I thought 
would be a criminal thing to do. But fortunately, my witness was 
an American boy who came forward with two dollars and gave it to 
him which in those days was a lot more money than it is today. So 
we were married actually three times. But now we are married 
fifty years. 

Dorfman: Congratulations on the success of your marriage. So, your 

brother, Herbert, and then you and your wife came to New York. 
Who followed? 

Fromm: My oldest brother, Norman, with his wife and his child followed. 
Then my brother-in-law. Otto Meyer, who married my step-sister 
Margaret and his child came. Afterwards, my sister and her 
husband and two boys came, one after the other. Between 1936 and 
1938, everybody came as quickly as they could get their visas. 
The ones who came last were my parents because for a long time my 
father resisted immigrating. He said, "That Nazi business cannot 
last for a long time." He was such a prominent man in our 
industry and so well known that he felt it could not be meant for 



Fromm: But then, of course, he saw what happened. We finally got them 
out, but we couldn't get them to the United States at that time 
because the war had already broken out in 1941. This was, I 
think, in 1940 or 1941. Then he and mother went to England and 
were there during the Blitz. Then they couldn't, however, cross 
the ocean because it was too dangerous en account of the German U- 
boats. They went from England to South America. And with quite 
some effort we got them out of South America to come here. At 
that time it was very difficult to get visas. But he was such an 
outstanding wine expert and the wine industry was very young. So, 
he came with a special visa as the wine expert that he really was. 

Dorfman: His expertise was really 

Fromm: very valuable and very helpful to us in the development of our 

Dorfman: And that was in 1940 that your parents first went to South 
America? Then in '41 they arrived in San Francisco? 

Fromm: No, they stayed in England for some time, and I think they arrived 
here in 1942. 

Dorfman: That arrival must have been a very joyous one. 

Fromm: Yes. My father couldn't take any money out of Germany, but by 

that time, my brothers and I were already settled to some extent. 
So, we saw to it that they had what they needed. He was a very 
frugal man, a very charitable man, but very frugal for himself. 

Dorfman: You made a statement that comes to mind at this point: that your 
education in Germany prepared you, in a way, to be financially 
conservative. What did you mean by that? 

Fromm: Well, the German way was, first, you don't buy anything if you 
don't have the cash. The second thing is, you don't incur any 
personal debt. You can do it in your business because you have to 
very often. Or if you buy a house you have a mortgage. But for 
other things you just don't. You don't buy a car on credit or 
anything of that sort. That was the way our family was run and I 
would say almost all the better Jewish families were run in this 
way in Germany. 

Germans basically, at that time, were very conservative 
people who saved. Money is not being spent in Germany like it is 
here. It took us a long time to acquire certain possessions here 
in the United States because we paid cash for them. It's 
different today with many of the young people here. They want 
everything and they want it now and toe early. But they miss, in 
some ways, the pleasure and satisfaction of having worked for 
something and finally getting it. 


Derfman: Previously you said, "No one does it all by himself." 

Fromm: Well. I feel very strongly about this. There are so many people 

who always say I, I, I have done this and they take all the credit 
for whatever they accomplish for themselves. I don't believe in 
that. I believe that you have to work very hard, that you have to 
know your business, that you have to be honorable and fair in your 
dealings. But this is only fifty percent. The other fifty 
percent you can interpret as you want. I feel that I had the 
blessings from above. Some people say it's good fortune or 
whatever it is. I don't ever say that I did this all by myself. 
It's being there, and at the right time. There are so many 
circumstances and I never have given my own efforts more than 
fifty percent of the credit. But this is my personal belief. 

After we, my wife and I, came to the U.S.A. at first, we had 
no money. So we lived in a very cheap apartment in New York. 
Then as we prospered a bit, we changed and we moved from New York 
to Los Angeles for a short time and then from Los Angeles to San 
Francisco. We first had an apartment here and then we bought a 
house. Then we built our own house later. So, altogether we 
moved eight times and unfortunately, some of the materials from 
home in Germany got lost. In my eagerness to have roots again in 
our new homeland, I did not understand then the importance of the 

Dorfman: You also spoke of a burning desire to become a United States 

Fromm: Yes, when we left Germany, we were completely uprooted. It was 

always my most important goal to have our family have their roots 
again here. The idea of the wandering Jew is a horrible one to 
me. We saw those poor people from Russia and Poland when they 
came to Germany to ask for alms. Later on, of course, this 
changed when many of those people came to Israel and had such an 
enormously large part as pioneers in the building of Israel. 

Life in New York City 

Dorfman: What was it like to live and work 

Fromm: On our arrival in New York, we took a very cheap apartment because 
we had no money. I found a j ob right away because I worked here a 
good part of the time bewteen 1933 and 1936. I found a job with a 
wine importer, and I started out with twenty-five dollars a week 
which in those days was not a bad salary, because there were many 
people who worked for eight or ten dollars a week. 



Fromm: After a year I became a small partner in this small wine import 

firm because I had many contacts throughout the country through my 
extensive travels before. 

Dorfman: The job and the import firm were both connected with wine importing? 

Fremm: Yes. I was the only one in the firm who knew something about wine 
because with fourteen years of Prohibition, of course, there were 
hardly any American wine experts around. So. I was sent to Europe 
for the firm to buy wine and make contacts with the wine shippers 
in Europe. I could see the preparations for war by the Nazis and 
told my partners that a war was coming, that one day we would be 
cut off from all our foreign sources and that we'd better look for 
a domestic source of supply. That's what got me into the 
California wine business. That was a very fortunate thing. 

Those are decisions you make. Whether it was smart or it was 
good luck this really is the blessing you receive if you do 
things right. 

Dorfman: Certainly that was visionary. You were living in a small 

apartment when you came to New York. Where was that apartment? 

Fromm: It was on East Fifty-Fifth Street, but it was in a horrible 
location. It was right next to the El, the elevated subway. 
Whenever the El came by, which was very frequently, everything 
shook in the house and you thought it went right through your 
bedroom. But it was all we could afford. The fact is, even when 
I made so little money, we always saved a few dollars each week. 

Well, we lived very frugally. We had brought from Germany 
all our clothes. We didn't buy anything for two or three years. 
It had to do. My wife had worked in haute couture in Paris 
before. She had beautiful clothes and she was a very pretty girl. 
So, we had access to very nice people who invited us and helped us 
with sound advice. The people were really very good to us. 
That's another reason why I'm such an enthusiastic American. We 
never asked for anything, of course. We wouldn't have accepted it 
either. We were complete strangers. Everything was different. 
You really needed to feel your way. We knew quite a few people 
who were prominent people in New York and they told us what was 
the right thing to do. 

Dorfman: How long were you in that small apartment? 

Fromm: We were there for about six months. And then, after I became a 
partner in the wine firm, I was making seventy-five dollars a 
week, which was a princely salary in those days. However, I 
didn't draw that money. We drew twenty-five, thirty dollars a 
week, and then maybe later on thirty-five because I wanted to 
increase my share in the business. 


Fremm: For years I drew the minimum to live on, and did accumulate a 

sizable amount of deferred salaries and from profits. With that I 
bought shares in the firm and ultimately became a fifty percent 
share holder, helped with some credit from the Bank of America. 
This is somehow an "un- American 11 way because, if many Americans 
make some money, most of them want to spend it. I felt I'm not 
going to be an employee, but a business owner. 

Dor f man: And that was your way out? 

Fremm: Yes. And we never felt poor, from the first day we arrived in the 
U.S. Never. 

Dorfman: Did you then move to Riverside Drive? 

Fromm: Yes. We had a better apartment and then our son David was born. 
We got a two year lease and there was quite some rent concession 
at that time. It was a fairly low rental. But after the two 
years were over, they wanted the full price. I didn't think that 
we could afford that so we moved far out to Riverdale which I 
liked very much because we had a view to the river. However, it 
was a tremendously long subway ride. I had to change a few times. 
It was almost an hour and during the summer at that time, the 
subway was net air-conditioned. You know, the way they shoved you 
in at Times Square, it was cruel. 

I said to my wife, "I wasn't born to be a subway rider. I'm 
going to make a hundred thousand dollars." I could have said I'll 
make a million or ten million. This was a fabulous amount in 
those days. [laughter] Because this was was net for me. I said, 
"I will do whatever is necessary to get out of that." And that was 
my incentive. I often say the miserable New York subway has done 
me a lot of good. 

Dorfman: [laughter] That's understandable. 

Living in San Francisco 

Derfman: And then, of course, we know from previous interviews what brought 
you to California, the wine industry and your activities in that 
industry. I would like to ask where you moved first when you came 
te San Francisco in 1941. 

Fromm: I spent a lot of time in San Francisco, and in California in order 
to build our California business. But we didn't live here at 



Fromm: We built our house at Seacliff in San Francisco about thirty years 
ago, and it's qui'e a little story of go.>d fortune and 
persistence. When I first came to California from New York, we 
started to take the agency for the world-wide distribution rights 
for the Christian Brothers Winery in Napa, California. It is 
owned by a Roman Catholic order in Rome. I was in San Francisco. 
I spent a few months in Napa at the winery, at the monastery, as 
we had not relocated to San Francisco. 

One day in 1940 I called my wife in New York and told her she 
should come out to San Francisco because it would be necessary 
that we move to San Francisco. Our business developed very 
rapidly and it was necessary for me to be here because this is 
where the product originates. So, she came out and I took her out 
to Seacliff. And there was an old broken down shack where our 
house is now. But it had the most fabulous view of the Golden 
Gate Bridge opposite the Golden Gate headlands. I said to her, 
"Sweetheart, this is where I'm going to build a house as soon as I 
have the money." About five years later, it was a Sunday and it 
was my birthday. The real estate broker said to me, "Alfred, you 
can buy that let now, but you have to sign on the dotted line 
because you're dealing with a real nut." 

So we signed. The lot was very expensive in those days. It 
was thirty-five thousand dollars which was a fortune for us. But 
we bought it. And this is where we built our house. So, what I 
said to my wife so many years ago finally came through. I sold 
some land to General Motors who wanted it for their plant. And 
then we started to build the house with the funds that we had 
acquired selling our old house, the money that I got from the sale 
of real estate, and some other funds that I had accumulated. 
After our house was finished, then I felt I'm an American 
citizen, although I had my citizenship papers many years before. 

Dorfman: What a feeling! 

Fromm: Yes. You see, I come from a land owning, home owning, vineyard 
owning family. And to me this means a great deal. I felt 
uncomfortable living in a rented place. 

Dorfman: When did you buy that first house? What was the year? 

Fromm: The first house at 845 El Camino Del Mar we bought, I think, in 

Dorfman: And you built your present home? 

Fromm: Our home we built in 1954. 

Dorfman: So you have been living in that home for some time now? 


Fromm : 

Yes. over thirty years. 

Dorfman: What was life like in San Francisco for you, your wife and your 

Fromm: Our son went to public school and did very well. My wife, during 
the war years, was a Red Cross instructor and a driver. She's an 
excellent driver. I'm not. We had some occasional help in the 
house, but she took care of the house, of whatever had to be done. 
Later on, in 1946 our daughter was born. 

Dorfman: And your son was born in 1939? 



Dorfman: What was the city like when you came in 1941? 

Fromm: Well, it was very much smaller and much more intimate. We didn't 
have all those skyscrapers, all those big buildings. The traffic 
was very normal. It was a very comfortable city. And as I knew 
the United States so well, San Francisco has been always a place 
where I felt it would be the best place for us to live. I 
wouldn't want to live in New Orleans which is a great tourist 
attraction, but I thought it was a very phoney place. And San 
Francisco was a very conservative town. We liked it right from 
the beginning. We liked the view of the Golden Gate Bridge 
because I grew up on Bingen- on- the- Rhine. We had a large house 
that overlooked the Rhine River and to me that meant a great deal. 
So, I felt that was something I really wanted. 

While we lived in those days rather frugally, I always felt a 
good, well built, and comfortable home is most important. When I 
come home, I don't want to go into some hovel. I feel like I 
deserve it because I worked so hard for it. This to me was very 
important: to build and to have my own home. 

Dorfman: What was going on in the city in those years, in 1940, politically? 

Fromm: Politically? 

Dorfman: Yes. Were you involved in politics? 

Fromm: No, I never was involved in politics. I've helped some people, 
but I have no direct involvements in politics. 

Dorfman: How about social activities in the city at that time? 

Fromm: Well, we knew quite a few of the people who had come from Germany 
or Austria, too. We became very friendly with some of them. We 
made some very good friends with some prominent Gentile Americans. 
Se. we had a nice social life. But I always told my wife, and she 



Frotnm: felt the same as I, the so-called upper crust, they have to come 
to us first. We are not to them. We have si.rictly stuck 
to that. We are not social climbers because I consider it 
complete nonsense and it means absolutely nothing to me. If you 
have some self-respect and if you want to live your own life, you 
don't care what other people do. 

Dorfman : Were you temple members at that time? 
Fromm: Yes, of the Temple Emanu-El. 
Dorfman: Who was the Rabbi at that time? 

Fromm: The first Rabbi when we came was Alvin Fine. But then Rabbi Asher 
came and we were very friendly with him. We knew him and Rabbi 
Fine quite well. 

Dorfman: Were you particularly impressed with the rabbis at the Temple 


Fromm: We are not religious Jews. And I must say, even though we were 
members, we generally went to the Temple only for the High 
Holidays. Otherwise we didn't, we were not active members. Now 
Hanna's mother, who lived here, too, she was much more religiously 
inclined and she went to Temple Emanu-El more often. 



Dorfman: I would like to ask you about a contribution of much significance, 
the Fromm Institute in San Francisco. 

Plan and Design; Hanna Fromm 

Dorfman: You told me that Mrs. Fromm was actually the principal architect 
of the Fromm Institute. Who designed the structure of the 

Fromm: Well, we took a lot of advice. My wife and I went to Washington 
and talked with the federal government the top people in the 
Department of Education. They told us if we would get ten or 
fifteen students to start out, that we would do well. Generally, 
when you get a lot of advice, people mostly tell you what you 
cannot do. 

We talked a great deal with people we knew and we found there 
was a tremendous need, that many older people had no place to go 
and were deteriorating very fast. And we talked to a number of 
professors and some outstanding educators. They all were very 
much interested in what we were endeavoring to do and gave us a 
lot of good advice. 

We were pretty much settled that something like that had to 
be done. This was quite new in those days. I'm talking now about 
twelve, thirteen years ago. We went to various locations and the 
University of San Francisco was the one that was best located. 
It's a Jesuit university that has full understanding for the 
social implication of what we want to do finding educational 
opportunities for older people. And they told us that they would 
assist us in every way, except we couldn't get any money from them 
whatsoever. But they would make available as their contribution 
the classrooms, an office, their cafeteria, their reception rooms, 



Fromm: and things of that sort which they have done ever all those years. 
But all cash expenses for the professors' salaries and the 
administration had to be paid by us right from the beginning. 

We can use the university's complete organization. For 
instance, we don't handle any money whatsoever. Everything is 
paid through the university. We use their computer, but, ef 
course, we have to provide the money. 

At that time, Father Mclnness was president of the University 
of San Francisco. We were very friendly with him. And finally he 
said to us, "You know, Alfred and Hanna, if you want to do it, 
stick your neck out and do it." 


Fromm: But the question was where does the money come from. So, we put 
in a sizable amount ourselves. Then I talked to some people I 
knew at Bank of America, some ether large companies, and some very 
wealthy individuals. So, altogether we raised about a hundred 
thousand dollars at the start, which, in those days, was quite a 
lot more than it is today. 

Dorfman: And that was in what year? 
Fromm: It was in '74. 

Then we started. There was one large article in the 
Chronicle on a Sunday about how important this could be, in all a 
very favorable article. It said there would be open house for 
people who were interested. When the open house was held two days 
later, between four and five hundred people came. 

It was bedlam. Nobody knew where to seat them. Nobody had 
anticipated such a response. About three hundred people 
registered for the courses but it was very difficult to take even 
seventy-six because we didn't have enough professors and we didn't 
have the necessary funds for a larger set-up. So, we finally 
accepted seventy-six people contrary to what the government people 
had advised that if we would take ten or fifteen t start, we 
would do well. 

It's not that we were smarter than other people. The time 
was just right for that. The people who helped us and put up the 
original money together with our own understood that this was 
important and should be supported. 

Dorfman: But that also was visionary. 


Fromm: Well, yes it was something that didn't exist, but we felt very 

strongly about it. We had some good friends who retired and after 
a year or two the men died or they got sick. Those people's lives 
ended because they felt completely useless and they were like fish 
out of water. People hadn't prepared for retirement. 

Dorfman: So, on one hand, an institute such as the Fromm Institute gives a 
gift to the individual, which the individual returns to the 

Fromm: Right. 

Derfman: The Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning; A Guide and a Model. 
1982, which you lent to me told much of the beginning. I wonder 
what else might come to mind. 

Fromm: At that time, Mrs. Mishkin, the wife of a professor in Berkeley, 
and my wife, they ran it together. Mrs, Mishkin was a very 
experienced and intelligent person. We started and we learned 
from our mistakes. We had people looking over our shoulders, but 
we did what we thought was right, and became successful. Today it 
is the largest institute of its kind in the United States. Many 
universities have introduced similar courses. 

I believe I told you already that we had over a hundred 
universities and colleges write to us over the last few years. 
They wanted to know how we did it. They learned about us through 
the journals of higher education in which the Institute was often 
mentioned. Of course, we couldn't respond in a letter, we 
wouldn't have had the personnel. So, that's the way this booklet 
was designed and it is still sent to everyone who is interested, 
because we don't take any pride in ownership in having had this 
idea first. We want it to spread because if it does, then it 
shows that we have done it right. 

Dorfman: It certainly is beautifully done. It's most specific. Were sites 
other than the University of San Francisco considered for that 

Fromm: We did look around, but when we came to the University of San Fran 
cisco, we saw that was the ideal place and they wanted us there 
very badly. So, we felt it would be a good home for us and over the 
eleven years that the institute has been active, it has proven so. 

Dorfman: Why did you feel it would be a good home? 

Preom: Well, it's easily accessible, and many of our students don't drive 
or don't have a car. So, that was important. The institute 
appealed to the university very much. So, we felt we would be in 
good hands even though we are completely independent. We are 
still on the campus they are our hosts. 


Fromm: So for those students who drive, there has been parking space at a 
very low rate. And we always have worked well with the top 
executives, particularly with Father John Le Schiavo, the 
university's president. 

Dorfman: How has the institute changed over the years? 

Fromm: It has. of course, increased its size since we began in 1976. We 
have added many more additional courses requested by our students. 
Today, the Fromm Institute is really a small university within a 
larger university because our courses are on a very high academic 
level and generally on a much higher level than those offered to 
the undergraduates. We are attracting an older intelligent group. 
Anybody can enter, and we have some outstanding people in our 
student body. So very many older people are lonely or all by 
themselves, but here, they make new acquaintances. They are 
together with their peers and they take care of each other. The 
most important thing to them is that they again lead a structured 
and meaningful life. 

One of the reasons that the institute has developed is the 
large pool of retired professors on which we can draw from 
Berkeley, Stanford, San Francisco State University, and others. 
We have outstanding master teachers, all emeriti professors. For 
instance, if anyone of the students is sick, then the students, 
who have their own association, they find out and visit the 
person. They share transportation wherever it's possible. They 
run their own affairs where they go on trips together. So, it's 
quite a social situation involved there, too. 

Dorfman: Sounds like a strong support system. 

Fromm: Yes. Well, you know, we have a lot of retired teachers who have 
been retired now for twenty, twenty-five years. Either they 
weren't married, or if they were, the husband had died. If they 
had children, their children often live in some ether place in the 
United States, in New Jersey, or God knows where. And quite a few 
times people have come up to my wife and said, "Mrs. Fremm, you 
saved my life." So she said, "Vhat did I do for you?" They would 
say, "I was ready to commit suicide. I had absolutely nothing to 
live for. I'm all by myself and why should I go on?" Now you 
should see how they really have blossomed out, how those elder 
people see life in an entirely different way. Of course, we have 
one problem that no one has yet solved: we have more women than men. 

Dorfman: Why is that a problem? 

Fromm: Well, we would like to have more men because since we have about 
one-third men, the ladies dress a little better. They put a 
little rouge on and they become women again which many really 
weren't for so many years. 


Dorfman: It's interesting, isn't it? 

Fromm: Yes, those are the little experiences, Mrs. Dorfman, that we have. 
You don't have to be a professor of psychology. You know, it's 
good common sense. That's what we try to employ. 

And they go on trips. They have been in Ashland at the 
Shakespeare Festival. They go down to the aquarium in Monterey. 
They go to the senate in Sacramento. There is always something 
going on. 

We have something that, I think, is unique not done by any 
other institution. We have what we call the Brown Bag Luncheons. 
They are a series of lectures by outstanding professors from the 
University of California Medical School for about an hour. We pay 
them a hundred dollars for the lectures. These are people who get 
many times more for a lecture but most of them send their fee back 
and send an additional check with it. 

The subjects of these lectures are particularly tailored to 
be of interest to older people. It was organized by a retired 
professor of medicine of the University of California Medical 
School, who is a student of the Institute. We have been doing 
this now for a few years. 

Dorfman: Whose innovation was that? 

Fromm: I think my wife had a lot to do with it because students would 
come to her and say, I have this ailment and that ailment. So, 
Hanna thought, maybe there is something that one can do. Those 
lectures are very well attended and there is no cost. People can 
eat their sandwich while the lectures go on. And the professors 
enjoy it, too. It has grown from Brown Bag Luncheons to a regular 

Dorfman: That's marvelous. 

Fromm: And then we had the same with legal courses. What is particularly 
important for older people? How to make a lease, or about 
insurance, or whatever is important for them to know: If you sell 
a house, or how to make a will, and all those kinds of things, 
because most of our students couldn't afford to go to an attorney. 
So, we give them this general information. 

We have had very many other lecturers like Clifton Fadiman 
and Art Hoppe and many other outstanding people, people in the art 
and music world, like Kurt Herbert Adler, the former General 
Director of the San Francisco Opera. Since we have some students 
who are also docents from the Fine Arts Museum and the De Young, 
they arre'ige student body visits to the museums and give a really 
good explanation of the exhibits and the museum. 


Fromm : 

Dor f man: 
Fromm : 

Fromm : 



There are a lot of activities. "From the Rooftop" is a weekly 
publication that tells the students everything that's going en at 
the Institute. It's mostly written by the students themselves. 
We are very anxious to create the feeling that this is a large 
family because that's what they don't have anymore, most of them. 

It certainly has provided a network. 

Yes, and there are really many people who have come to my wife. 
particularly, and to me, too, who said this was one of the 
greatest things that happened in their later years. 

That's understandable. Isn't it? 

Well, it has done them some good, 
had something to do with it. 

It makes us feel good that we 


It must be a great source of satisfaction to you and Mrs. Fromm. 
You told me that the Fromm Institute has been a model for ether 
institutes. Which institutes come to mind? 

All those institutes, all those universities and colleges which 
wrote to us and didn't know exactly how to go about it. We sent 
"The Fremm Institute for Lifelong Learning; A Guide and Model," 
(published at the University of San Francisco, San Francisco, 
California, 1982) to them. We get a lot of inquiries and people 
from all over the country and abroad, too, ask us for information. 

What university has an institute that most closely ? 

Almost every large university today has some sort of adult 
education. But not in the same structured way as we have. 

Now, for instance, we don't know absenteeism. Our students, 
almost dead or alive, they will come because it means so much to 
them. That was the reason, too, that we charge an annual fee of 
only a hundred and fifty dollars which is for twenty-four weeks of 
instruction. They can take four courses so you can take ninety- 
six classes for a hundred and fifty dollars. It's about one 
dollar and fifty cents per class. However, the amount it costs 
us, per student, is between nine-hundred and a thousand dollars. 
So that's what we have to make up per year. In 1987 we have to 
charge $200 to help our deficit. 

We have an annual fundraising dinner or we ask some 
foundations and some friends to help, but the financial burden is 
to the largest extent on us. 

Now, the Elder Hostels that we find on college campuses today, did 
they have their beginnings in the Fromm Institute? 


Fromm: I don't think so. We get quite a few students from there. For 
instance, we make available ten scholarships free to the Jewish 
Home for the Aged. They arrange for the transportation and well, 
whatever has to be done even though some of them come in on 
walkers. There are some, eighty or eighty-five years old, you 
know, absolutely amazing people. Their minds are as clear as can 
be, highly intelligent and a real inspiration. 

The Future; Increased Education of Older Adults 

Derfman: It really proves the point. Doesn't it? 

Fromm: Yes, that if you are old, or even if you have some physical 
disabilities that life has not ended. 

Dorfman: And what do you predict, from all of your experience, for the 
future in adult education? 

Fromm: There will be more and more, almost everywhere, because there are 
so many more older people. In 1984, we already had twenty-eight 
million people in America between sixty-five and eighty-five. By 
the year 2000, you'll have almost twice as many. Just look 
around, those people are here and something has to be done for 
them. This is gradually being recognized. The government, of 
course, often recognizes things late. Then they do a survey 
spending a tremendous amount of money to find out something we all 
knew al ready. 

But it is a tremendous social problem that has to be 
addressed. The people in Washington understand that something has 
to be done. But nothing has been done under the present 
administration. There is hardly any money available for things of 
that sort. 

We always felt that private enterprise had to carry the load. 
For instance, we never have asked nor have we ever accepted one 
penny of public funds. We could have gotten public funds from 
Washington or Sacramento, but we always felt it was a great 
mistake because if you get public funds, then politics comes into 
play. They tell you whom to take such and such a professor 
should be taken and all that kind of underhanded influence. 

Dorfman: Is there one thing that has impressed you most about the Fromm 
Institute en the University of San Francisco campus? 

Fremm: Well, that's hard to say. What impresses me is at those meetings, 
and I'm sometimes t'-ere, how happy the people are, and how many 
friendships have been formed, a very good racial and religious mix. 



Fromm: We have a small percentage of Jewish people, naturally. But the 
largest percentage of our students is non- Jewish. And they all 
get along very well. It's really a group of contented people that 
has become much happier than they were and really look forward te 
getting additional education. 

Of course, some of them are really challenged. The 
professors love it because they don't have te teach those often 
semi-literate undergraduates. The people who come to us are 
intelligent people and generally educated people. 

Dorfman: What about the racial mix? 

Fromm: Well, we have almost everybody. We have at present Chinese and 

Filipinos and people from all over. I don't think we have blacks 
right now even though they are most welcome. There is absolutely 
no barrier to anyone to join. 

Dorfman: So it could change from day te day? 

Fromm: Oh, yes. 

Dorfman: What are the future plans for the institute at this point? 

Fromm: The future plan is to maintain it if we are net here anymore. We 
are trying to make the necessary preparations in our wills so that 
the money, the cash is available to maintain the institute. We 
feel it is something of importance and will become more and more 
important. It is being realized that it is a national problem 
that something has to be done about, in fact it is worldwide. 

The Koret Living Library 

Dorfman: You lent me another book, Scenes From Our Lives which is a rich 

anthology. That's from materials in the Koret Library, published 
in 1983. 

Fromm: The Koret Foundation gave us some years back, a grant of a hundred 
thousand dollars. Mr. Koret was still alive at that time and 
almost our neighbor in Seacliff. I said te him, this was 
something that was very important and would carry his name. 

Then we had a small mention in the publication of the 
American Association of Retired People, AARP. It's a giant 
organization. It just said the Fromm Institute will accept 
unpublished manuscripts from people over fifty years. Now you 
wouldn't believe that in two months we got more than eleven 
thousand submissions including submissions from twenty-one foreign 


Fremm: countries, some of them behind the Iron Curtain, A lot of it is 
material that is not of value for our purpose, particularly seme 
poetry that some ladies thought was very important. But we have 
some real nuggets. 

That anthology that I gave you, those were all stories 
written by our students. Those eleven thousand submissions had to 
be read and classified. This has been done now. Now we will 
publish another anthology before too long, if we have some extra 
money, because we really have some gold nuggets. There are some 
interesting writings from people between fifty and ninety years 

Dorfman: That's wonderful. And all of those submissions are housed in the 
Koret Library? 

Fromm: In the University of San Francisco, yes. 

Dorfman: I'd like to ask you about the Koret Library again. What else does 
it contain in addition to the eleven thousand submissions? 

Fromm: That's all there is, but the library has grown to about 14,000 

Dorfman: And how does this come to be housed on the ? 

Fromm: Well, the Gleeson Library on the University of San Francisco 
campus is very large and we have some space there. 

This material will become, ultimately, a valuable source of 
information for psychologists, social scientists and 
gerontolo gists because it gives you the thinking and the 
experiences of older people. What we wanted particularly are 
their life histories. In seme ways it is a pity if this all gets 
lost. However, Mrs. Dorfman, I believe this might be more 
interesting to the grandchildren than it would be to the children 
of the authors because they often want to know their roots, where 
do they come from and all that. Now that we have it classified, 
it's available to the people who are interested in it. But this 
is all a fairly new thing in America. Ultimately, the Koret 
Living Library, which is part of the Fromm Institute, will become 
an important factor because it has hands-on information, you know. 
It's not a novel or anything, but these are actual people who 
write about their lives. 

Dorfman: Yes, the details of day-to-day life not available on library 

shelves today. What else can you add about the Fromm Institute? 

Fromm: Well, we would like to give additional classes. We don't want to 
see the institute become toe l-?.rge because one of the important 
factors of the institute is the personal contact with my wife and 



with Professor Dennis, who is the program director and a well known 
scholar. So many older people are lonely and want to talk to 
someone. My wife is there at least three days a week. She's the 
Executive Director of the institute. People come up and talk to 
her and tell her about their children or their grandchildren or 
the wars or whatever happens in daily life. The fact that they 
can talk to someone who is listening is sometimes ef great help. 
People often say to her, "You have dene so much for me." And my 
wife always says, "Well, I haven't done anything for you." But 
it's important for people. 

When we had our tenth annversary in February of 1985, the 
student body organized a big luncheon at the Officers' CLub in 
Fort Mason, a thank-you affair. We were given some pictures that 
some students had painted and other things. There were a lot of 
speeches and I spoke, too, and told them what our life experience 
was. When you do certain things, sometimes people think it all 
came, very easy. We didn't inherit any money and we had no money 
to start, as everything was taken away from us. Later on, after 
the war was over, my father got some restitution, but it was only 
a small percentage of what he had. He had been a very wealthy 

We do those things because we see the need for it and we were 
fortunate enough to be able to do it. 



Dorfman: What was the purpose of your recent trip with Mrs. Fromm? 

Fromm: My wife and I went to Jerusalem for the dedication of the Fromm 

Institute for Life- long Learning at the Martin Buber Institute for 
Adult Education at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. It was 
shortly after the sixtieth anniversary of the Hebrew University. 
They gave a luncheon attended by about eighty or ninety people. 
Quite a few people spoke who had attended the institute (where 
classes had already begun). There were about three hundred and 
fifty students at that time, and they estimated a thousand 
students within a year or two. 

The reason for that is that there are large numbers of older 
people in Israel and many of them want to work at developing a 
second career. This is being done. The lectures are in Hebrew 
and in English. There is a tremendous demand in Israel, even more 
so than in the United States because you have, percentage-wise, 
more older people in Israel than you have here the parents of the 
younger refugees who came over. 

In order to integrate them into the Israeli way of life, they 
are looking for something to do. There are jobs available. They 
do not pay much. For instance, in hospitals, in old age homes, in 
doing something in kindergartens, doing something for retarded 
children. There are a lot of things where older people, 
particularly women, can fit in very well and can do a very 
impressive job. With the economic situation in Israel very grim, 
if they can make fifty or a hundred dollars extra a month, it's of 
tremendous help to them. 

Derfman: How else does the purpose of the Fromm Institute in Israel differ 
from that of the Fromm Institute at the University of San 



June 15, 1984 


350 pay tribute to Fromms at Scopus dinner 

More than 350 people came to pay tri 
bute to Hanna and Alfred Fronun and 
Hebrew University Chancellor Avraham 
Harman at the Annual Scopus Dinner of 
American Friends of the Hebrew Univer 
sity on May 31 at the Hilton Hotel. 

The Fromms received the Torch of 
Learning Award for their support of the 
University, most notably for their establish 
ment of the Fromm Institute for Lifelong 

The Fromm Institute was modeled after 
a similar program the couple established at 
the University of San Francisco in 1975. 
The couple has been active in the Jewish 
community and in general philanthropy. 
Hanna Fromm chairs the Fromm Institute 
and Alfred Fromm chairs the new Jewish 
Community Museum. They also were the 
founders of the San Francisco Wine 

Harman, former Israeli Ambassador to 
the United States, was presented with an 
honorary doctorate of public service from 
USF. The chancellor has been instrumen 
tal in establishing joint programs with USF 
as well as relations between Vatican Jesuit 
institutions in Rome and Hebrew Univer 

USF's president, Father John LoSchiavo, 
outlined is university's links with the Jeru 
salem school, including joint summer pro 
grams and the Fromm Institutes. 

"USF is twice as old as Hebrew Univer 
sity," Harman said, "but we share one 
characteristic in common. I understand 
USF's first university in this area was 
rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake more 
powerful and stronger than before. 

"In the same way, Hebrew University 
was hit by a different 'earthquake' (the 
1948 War of Independence) and was 
deprived of its original building for many 

Honor** Avrsham Hacman (toft), Hanna Fromm, Tad Twos, Alfred Fromm and Carotins Fromm 
Lurto at trw Scopus Dinner awards presentation. 

"But both proved the university is not a 
physical facility; it is a community of 
scholars and students." 

Harman, too, paid tribute to the Fromms 
and "the new bond of USF and Hebrew 
University" in the Fromm Institute. 



. . 

Fromms give grant to Hebrew U. 
to open USF prototype school 

The establishment of the Fromm Institute 
for Lifelong Learning at the Martin Buber 
School for Adult Education has been 
established at the Hebrew University of 
Jerusalem, it was announced by Carl 
Pearlstein, president of the Northwestern 
State Region of the American Friends of 
Hebrew University. 

This development was made possible 
through a grant from Alfred and Hanna 
Fromm of San Francisco. 

The Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learn 
ing, under the directorship of Mrs. Fromm, 
has been in operation at the University of 
San Francisco for a number of years, enabl 
ing older and retired people to continue 
learning and self-improvement; to utilize 
leisure time in a constructive and creative 
way; to offer the opportunity to acquire 
skills and knowledge; and to further self- 
expression and fulfillment during the sec 
ond half of life. All courses are taught by 
professors emeriti. 

The Buber Institute focuses on stim 
ulating independent thinking and judge 
ment, assists in cultural absorption of 
newcomers and ethnic groups in Israel, 
works for good human relations between 

Jews and Arabs and encourages an on 
going dialogue between various groups, 
contributes to dosing the social and 
cultural gap between Israelis and en 
courages and fosters lifelong learning" in a 
changing society. 

The Institute carries out these aims by 
means of extension work in various areas 
of adult and continuing education. It con 
ducts summer courses and study groups 
for the general public, community leaden 
and professionals and organizes seminars 
for groups from abroad. It initiates research 
and pilot projects in adult education, runs 
an Arab- Jewish community center in Jeru 
salem and cooperates with various bodies 
interested and active in adult education. 

The work of the Institute is supervised by 
an Academic Committee comprising rep 
resentatives of the Hebrew University and 
the Ministry of Education and Culture. 

The Fromm Institute wiD develop and ex 
tend the Martin Buber School by 1,000 ad 
ditional students and an enriched cur 
riculum. Li recognition of the Fromms' 
commitment to the Hebrew University, 
they will be presented with the Torch of 
Learning Award at the Annual Scopus Din 
ner and Ball on Thursday, May 31. 

California Jewish Bulletin. April 27, 1984 


Fromm: The purpose is basically the same except that recently, they 

revised the age at which people can join the institute. At first, 
it was fifty years, the same as the Fromm Institute at the 
University of San Francisco. But now they have reduced it to age 
forty for the reasons that I just mentioned. That has worked out 
very well for them. 

Dorfman: And when did planning for the institute in Israel begin? 

Fromm: About 1983. 

Dorfman: And it opened for students in 1985. 

Fromm: Yes, yes. 

Dorfman: And how did the idea come about? 

Fromm: Well, when we were in Israel two years ago, my wife and I talked 
to a number of people and we could see there would be tremendous 
demand for the service we provide. And we talked to some of the 
people at the university and we talked to the president of the 
university, Don Pattinkin, and to Mr. Harmon, the chancellor and 
former president of the university. They strongly encouraged us 
and said the need was urgent. It's a great financial undertaking 
for us because they certainly don't have any money over there to 
run an institute of this kind. 

There is a large sum of money involved for us, in funding 
this which we have already done to a substantial extent. And 
we'll do the rest as quickly as we can. 

Dorfman: Was there anyone else involved? 

Fromm: The office of the Hebrew University in San Francisco. Mr. Roy 

Calder, the director here, was very instrumental in promoting this 
situation, talked to me and my wife a few times. Then when we 
came to Israel we saw how necessary it was to do something of that 

It was, for my wife and me, another important reason: we 
first founded and funded the Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning 
at the University of San Francisco, a Jesuit university. We felt 
this was a small way of repayment to the United States which has 
done so much for us to have the institution here. However, we 
always looked for a linkage. What should we do as American 
citizens and as Jews? And this was the right opportunity for us 
in Israel to fund this. And that has given us now that linkage 
between an American citizen and Jew. 


Comparison to San Francisco Program 

Dorfman: Does the structure of the institute in Israel differ from that of 
the structure of the institute in San Francisco? 

Fromm: In some ways it does. Conditions are different over there. But 
basically the idea is the same: to find a place where older 
people can get the ways and means to again lead constructive and 
structured lives, too. If people don't do anything, they 
deteriorate very fast mentally and physically, particularly over 
there, because the climate is so extreme. 

Israel is a very small country. The climate is very, very 
hot for a long time. So, people age quite fast there. And we 
could see that an institute would be of great help to many people. 

Dorfman: In what ways specifically would you say that the structure is 

Fromm: Well, an Israeli university is not exactly the same as a United 
States university. Basically, of course, it's all to give 
instruction to young people, in this case to older people. But 
our institute here has more social aspects than the one in Israel. 
In San Francisco at the university, we only have something like 
three hundred students who are taught exclusively by retired 
professors of very high standing. Our courses are on a very high 
academic level here. Now in Israel, the instruction is not given 
exclusively by emeriti professors, but by professors who are at 
the university who are not yet retired. That's probably the main 
difference. The courses given are in many ways for more practical 
purposes than the ones we do here. 

Dorfman: Yes, that's what I read. 
Fromm: Right. 

Dorfman: Now you did speak to me about more mature adults relating at USF 
with younger students within the cafeteria and other meeting 
places. How does that take place in Israel? 

Fromm: Well, it's the same. They can use all the facilities of the 
university as students of the Fromm Institute in Israel. We 
always thought that it was very important that older people 
interact with younger people because if you segregate older people 
then they really feel old. But the fact that they are surrounded 
by thousands of young students, it reminds them of their children 
or their grandchildren. Segregation is a very dangerous thing, 
particularly for old people. 

Dorfman: How did the cost and the financing differ? 


Fromm : 




Fromm : 

Fromm : 


Fromm : 



Well, in Israel they charge a limited amount f money to attend 
courses at the institute. There are some scholarships. Whereas 
in San Francisco, we have more than twenty percent of eur students 
on scholarships because we never turn anyone away for financial 
reasons. This is very important to many people. 

Anyone who wishes to join the institute in San Francisco for 
the joy of learning is welcome. We have all kinds of people. We 
have a retired butcher. We have a retired window washer. We have 
retired professors from the University of California, the Medical 
School. We have businessmen. We have a lot of retired teachers. 
And all that because there was really no place where instruction 
on such a high academic level as we provide was available at a 
very affordable cost to older and retired people. 

And what percentage of the students in Israel might be on 
financial scholarships? 

I don't know yet how much money will be available for 
scholarships. It will, I think, greatly depend on some help that 
we have to extend after the institute is completely funded. 

What about the issues involved in developing the institutes. 
did they differ from the issues in San Francisco? 


Well, some of them are more practical in Israel than the ones that 
we have here, as I mentioned before. So, many people in Israel 
joined the institute there at the Hebrew University because they 
wanted to learn some new skills.. This is less here in the United 

What were the problems that had to be overcome? 

There really were no problems after we discussed this with various 
professors who run the Martin Buber Institute at the Hebrew 
University. We quite easily came to an understanding. The 
problem was the financing which we have solved, too. 

In every successful enterprise as valuable as the Fromm Institute, 
there must be disappointments. What were the disappointments? 

Well, so far it is a young institute (in Israel), 
know of any yet. 

We really don't 

In your opinion, what has been the most important change or 
innovation in college or university education since the Fromm 
Institute was opened in San Francisco? 

The recognition that older people have a place and that this is a 
great national asset that should not be wasted. Older people can 
contribute a great deal. We see it particularly here in San 


Fromm: Francisco where our students and the young students 

undergraduates, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-two years old- 
how they interact with our students in a beautiful way. Older 
people have some life experience and if they have some sort of 
intelligence that is a relationship that young people certainly 
need. And they can profit by it. 

Now, for instance, at the University of San Francisco, here, 
our students can be guests at almost any course that the 
university gives as long as there is space without paying for it. 
Some of our students have achieved college degrees which they 
could not complete before because our students are of the 
Depression generation. And very many of them started college and 
never could finish because they had to go to work and make a 
living. We had at the institute some people that never received 
their high school diplomas because they had to go to work when they 
were thirteen or fourteen years old. We give them special 
instruction and make it posssible for them to get their high 
school diplomas. This was of enormous importance to them. 

We had one case, a butcher who sent his five children through 
college. And he said to my wife, "Well, Mrs. Fromm, I really need 
to get some education myself so I can talk to my children." 



[Interview 3: July 23, 1985] 

Judah Magnes Memorial Museum, Berkeley 

Dorfman: In 1982. Elinor Mandelson interviewed you at the Wine Museum about 
your involvement with the Judah L. Magnes Museum. You spoke of 
discussing various problems that confronted Seymour Fromer, its 
director, and of assisting him. Could you tell me more about that 
particular time? 

Fromm: Well, I've known Seymour Fromer for more than twenty-five years. 
He started the museum with nothing. He is an outstanding man in 
putting something together that very few people could. 

I have helped Magnes Museum in various ways, not only through 
financial contributions. In the beginning, they had moved into 
their building in Berkeley near the campus where they are now and 
the mortgage fell due. They would have been foreclosed and would 
have lost the building. So I went to a friend of mine, Mr. Daniel 
Koshland, the well-known philanthropist, and I asked him to go 
over there with me, which he did. Then Mr. Koshland, myself and 
Leo Helzel, we put jointly up the money as a donation so that the 
mortgage could be paid off. Afterwards, I have every year made a 
contribution to the Magnes Museum up to today. I felt what Fromer 
did was really outstanding work and something that was important. 
The Magnes Museum, of course, is in a location that is not very 
easily accessible and not very many people come to Berkeley. But 
they have over the years, as it was at that time the only Jewish 
museum in the Bay Area, really done an outstanding job by 
collecting a lot of Jewish art. When we opened the Jewish 
Community Museum here in San Francisco, in our first exhibit, 
"Fifty Treasures," the Magnes Museum lent us some outstanding 
artifacts that we showed at the museum in San Francisco. There is 
a very friendly, cooperative, and respectful attitude that I have 
toward Mr. Fromer and toward the Magnes Museum. 

Dorfman: It has been said that you left a stamp of your own on Magnes. 
What sort of problems did you assist with? 

Freom: Well, they are mostly financial problems, and I was a sounding 
board for the museum's director, Seymour Fromer. 

San Francisco Jewish Community Museum 


Dorfman: Let's go on now to the San Francisco Jewish Community Museum which 
opened its doors on October 10, 1984, with a memorable exhibit, 
"Fifty Treasures," of which you just spoke. The subtitle is 
"Judaica and Hebraica from Bay Area Collections." Why don't you 
begin by telling me how the idea for the museum began? 

Fromm: Well, early in 1984, Brian Lurie, who is Executive Director of the 
Jewish Welfare Federation, Richard Goldman who was at that time 
the president of the Federation, and Frances Geballe, the daughter 
of Dan Koshland, called me for a meeting. Even though I was very 
busy, I agreed to help found a Jewish museum in San Francisco. I 
felt this was something that had to be done- -something that did 
not exist in San Francisco. And we started to work. 

I have to mention especially Mr. Bernard Osher. He is the 
head of Butterfield and Butterfield, a leading auction house, and 
a very knowledgeable and charitable man who is doing a great job 
for the museum. Our board has given substantial amounts, 
including myself. You cannot ask other people if you cannot tell 
them that everyone on the board has made a contribution according 
to his or her means. 

Dorfman: The founding board really made double contributions in term of 
financial as well as their hours in their particular expertise. 
In what way, for example, did Mr. Osher make a contribution with 
his expertise? 

Fromm: Mr. Osher is a very good and flexible businessman who knows how to 
handle problems. He and I, we made the two largest financial 
contributions. He knows a lot of people, and was very 
instrumental in raising the funds. I would say, between my own 
contributions, and those of people I know, I raised about twenty- 
five percent of the present endowments so far. Bernard Osher 
accounted for an additional substantial part. Of course, the 
Koshland family has made a very large contribution for the 
construction of the Jewish Federation building. In fact, at the 

Alfred Fromm (seen left), vice president, and Daniel Koshland, (right) , a 
benefactor, greet Professor Norman Bentwich (center) at the Judah L. Magnes 
Museum, ca. 1962. 

Photograph by Alconeda County Weekender 


Fromm: entrance to the Federation building there is a plaque that 

recognizes that the Koshland fai ily has made a large contribution 
and that the museum is in honor of Daniel Koshland. 

I must have, in 1984, given probably between four and five 
hundred hours of working time to the museum and have continued to 
do so. I was retired already at that time, but I had many other 
things that I was doing. It was difficult because first there was 
the question of raising enough funds for an endowment. The 
interest income of an endowment would then help to defray the 
expenses of the museum. This was quite difficult, but we raised 
about a million, two-hundred thousand dollars. It is payable over 
a period of some years and we started a founders' group. The 
minimum contribution was ten thousand dollars that could be paid 
over three or five years in installments. 

We had many meetings to get organized and there was the need 
of finding the proper director for the museum. We finally 
selected Helaine Fort gang, a very good people-person and a very 
nice person, too. We set up the various committees and decided 
that we did not want to buy much because good Judaica is very 
expensive. We decided that we would in the future try to get some 
first-rate exhibits on loan, which we did, like "The Jews of 
Germany" and now 'The Jews of Kaifeng." 

Many other presentations took place. For instance, we built 
a sukkah on top of the Federation building. It was a great 
success and created tremendous interest. A let of people, Jewish 
and non-Jewish, visited it. Every year at the proper time we want 
to have the sukkah there because it is really a harvest festival. 
Sukkot. in my mind, is really the Jewish Thanksgiving to thank for 
the crops. So Thanksgiving was started by the Jews very many 
years before there ever was Thanksgiving in the Western world. 

Dorfman: The founding board substantially aided in the financing of the 
museum. In what other ways did they help? 

First Exhibit: "Fifty Treasures" 

Fromm: Well, there was a question: what should our first exhibit be. 

Now, one of our trustees is Joseph Goldyne who is an artist and an 
art expert. And he took it upon himself to ferret out fifty 
outstanding art objects. It was amazing, you know: some of the 
things that some of the Jewish families had, immigrants who came 
from Germany, from Austria, from Chechoslovakia, from Poland the 
Nazis let them take out those Judaica because they considered it 
junk. So we were able to show some really outstanding art works. 


Jewish Community Museum 


Alfred Fromm, President 

Guilty Azarpay 

Rena Bransten 

Diane B.Frankel 

Frances K. Geballe 

Marc E. Goldstein 

Joseph R. Goldyne 

Norman E. Grabstein 

Jane R. Lurie 

Victor L. Marcus 

Phyllis Moldaw 

Bernard Osher 

Alice Russell- Shapiro 

Alan L. Stein 

RoselyneC. Swig 

Steven L. Swig 

Mary Zlot 

Phyllis Cook, Consultant 

From Fifty Treasures 


THE rush of business and the pursuit of the ephemeral should always be 
tempered by consideration of the timeless. Ideally, therefore, shouldn't a 
museum of sorts be harbored in every office building? The Jewish 
Community Federation Building has taken that step. We are delighted to 
welcome the Jewish Community Museum to its first home. We are blessed by 
its presence in our midst, for it infuses the building with a sense of the eternal 
as it provides us with an atmosphere of learning. It should be a constant 
reminder to us that Judaism is a rich heritage of lands and faces, customs and 
ceremonies, intellectual triumphs and staggering setbacks. A way of life pro 
grammed for survival by virtue of its compelling reason, beauty and compas 
sion, it does not seek converts, but neither should it hesitate to reveal the 
splendor of its tradition. Over the coming years the Jewish Community 
Museum will have much to show and tell our Jewish and Gentile commu 
nities about that tradition about our Jewish way of life. 

Obviously, there would have been no museum without the belief, hard 
work and understanding of many individuals. At peril of offending some 
marvelous people who are too numerous to properly credit here, I must thank 
a precious few: the Koshland family, who gave birth to the museum to honor 
the memory of a unique and wonderful man, Daniel Koshland; his daughter, 
Cissie Geballe, who has been an inspiration to all; Alfred Fromm, a man of 
warmth and integrity and the Museum's first president; Bernard Osher who 
never says "no", may think "maybe", but always acts "yes"; Joseph Goldyne, 
for his creative ability and his unflagging energy as the curator of the exhibi 
tion celebrated in this, the Museum's first catalogue; Richarti Goldman, 
William Lowenberg and Ron Kaufman, the Federation presidents whose 
stewardship saw the Museum to its successful opening; Helaine Fortgang, the 
Director of the Jewish Community Museum, whose ability, patience and 
kindness have been demonstrated to all those who have worked with her in 
this exciting enterprise. Finally, I would like to credit those members of the 
Museum's first board who were called to serve an institution that did not exist. 
Thanks to them, it does now. Mazel Tov! 

Executive Director, Jewish Community Federation 


Fromm: This was a great success, the first. We got a let of publicity 

from it because the important thing in a Jewish musem. is to show 
the Jewish the non-Jewish people, too, our culture and tradition. 
In this way. I think, it contributes substantially to better 
understanding. And a better understanding is something which is 
very important because very many people don't know anything about 

A Jewish museum should make a contribution to the cultural 
life of the city for Jew and non-Jew alike. 


Fromm: Well, there were the usual obstacles. If you have to create 

something entirely new, there's a tremendous amount of work to 
setting it up properly, to distribute the work load, to ask people 
who are very conversant with Jewish art works to help. This is 
something where I have very limited knowledge. We have some very 
good people on the board who are art experts. But Joseph Goldyne 
was the one who almost singlehandedly put this first exhibit 
together, and did a tremendous amount of work. He and his family, 
in addition, have made some very sizable contributions of very 
valuable art works to the museum. 

Dorfman: According to the forward of the publication we just talked about, 
the goal of the founding board of trustees was to create a museum 
that presents exhibitions and creates programs which interpret 
Jewish values, beliefs, traditions and cultures. What are the 
specifics of implementing that goal? 

Exhibit: "The Jews of Germany" 

Fromm: Well, it's the various exhibits that we have shown, together with 
good catalogs. For instance, the largest exhibit that we've had 
so far was the "Jews of Germany" which was put together by a Dr. 
Roland KLemig, a gentile who was an officer in the German army, 
but was for five years a Russian prisoner. When he came back, he 
found out what had happened during the Holocaust and thought that 
was something that had to be aired in public. So he finally got 
the German government to finance this and he did this large 
catalog with the cooperation of the German government agencies, 
Jewish scholars in Israel and other countries. He was in Israel 
quite a few times to get information that he needed and with 
scholars from the United States and, in fact, the cooperation of 
scholars from all over the world. 




February 11, 1986 

Mr. Alfred Frcrm 

655 Montgomery Street, Suite 1720 

San Francisco, CA 94111 

Dear Mr. From: 

The Arts and Culture Council of the San Francisco Chamber of Cormerce is very 
pleased to inform you that you have been selected as the winner of the 1986 
award for outstanding achievement in behalf of the arts as an individual busi 
ness leader. Previous winners have included J. Gary Snansby, L. J. Tannenbaun, 
and Modesto Lanzone. 

You were nominated by the Jewish Corrranity Museum for your unfailing assistance 
in establishing the museum and for bringing the exhibition "Jews of Germany" to 
San Francisco. In addition, your steadfast support of the entire arts community 
was mentioned, including specifically your service on the boards of San Francisco 
Opera and the Conservatory of Music and the creation of the From Institute for 
Lifelong Learning. The jurors joined the nomination with numerous examples of 
your continuing and inspirational support to the arts and the enhanced quality 
of life in the Bay Area. 

The awards luncheon will be held on Thursday, Maxell 13, 1986, at the San Fran 
cisco Hilton Hotel. Each winner is asked to attend personally to accept the 
award and to make a brief acceptance speech not tc exceed one minute. We will 
also be honor ing several businesses, three arts organizations and our special 
guest of honor, Miss Cynthia Gregory of American Ballet Theatre. 

A reception for special guests will be held at 11:00 a.m. in the East Lounge at 
the hotel. You and your wife are invited to join us at that time. Members of 
the San Francisco press will also be invited. We ask that everyone be present 
by 11:45 as you will be seated at the head table. We will make arrangements 
for your wife and any other special guests to be seated in the luncheon audience. 

If you are unable to attenf., please designate a spokesperson to receive the award 
on your behalf. Vfe would appreciate knowing the name of this person as soon as 

While we hope you will share this news with close colleagues and family, please 
note that the winners are confidential and will be announced for the first tine 
publicly at the luncheon. 

Again, please accept our 1 congratulations. We look, forward to having you with 
us on the 13th. 


Ilichaela Cassidy, Chair 
Awards Cccmittee 

Nancy Meier, Manager 
Arts and Culture Council 

SAN FRANCISCO. CA 94104. (415)392-4511 


Fromm: The exhibit is a history of the Jews going back to the Crusades up 
to the Holocaust, about a thousand years. Jews always were 
persecuted, murdered, and driven out of their homes. It shows, 
too, that anti-Semitism was not invented by Hitler. It has 
existed for a thousand years. 

We invited quite a number of high schools to come in because 
we wanted the younger people who very often don't know anything 
about Jews, to see the exhibit. I think it had one good lesson 
that something like the Holocaust should not happen again, 
hopefully. It shows also the great contribution that the Jewish 
people made when they got full citizenship rights which was in 
1869. The Jews in Germany made tremendous contributions in 
medicine, in law, in science, in music, in the arts, and in 
business. And the emergence of Germany as a world power between 
1870 and 1933 was very much fostered by Jewish people. 

In one way, I have always felt if people have a better 
understanding of each other, that this is also some contribution 
ultimately to peace. 

Dorfman: I understand that the museum will have only a small permanent 

Fromm: So far we have. But ultimately we will have quite a number of 
bequests. Many of those art works that were shown in "Fifty 
Treasures" will hopefully end up with our museum as part of the 
permanent collection. 

But you cannot accumulate a permanent collection overnight. 
It takes years to get this done. One day we hope also to have 
some extra funds so that we can acquire certain artifacts that are 
not available otherwise. The Stuart Moldaw family donated a 
beautiful bronze statue of "Hagar" that stands at the entrance to 
the museum. It is one of the important works of Jacob Epstein and 
of great value. 

Dorfman: Yes, and you will have the space to house these materials? 
Fr omm : Ye s . 

"The Jews of Kaifeng, China" 

Dorfman: Tell me about "The Jews of Kaifeng" exhibit. 

Fromm: A most interesting story. It's really a Jewish tribe. They are 

Chinese. When you look at them, they look like any other Chinese. 
And they were there for a thousand years. There were two thousand 


Fromm: of them when it was flourishing and then today, it is a small 

community. But they are Jewish, and they had a temple and we will 
have a picture exhibit of their synagogue that we are getting from 
the Museum of the Diaspora in Tel Aviv. We are in close touch 
with the Chinese community, with the Chinese Cultural Center 
because that's a joint undertaking. What it should do is to 
encourage the Jewish community and the Chinese community to know 
each ether better and to enter into a joint project. Those are 
things that are very dear to my heart; I think I can do some good. 

Dorfman: That's a wonderful goal because that's something that has never 
been done before. 

Fromm: No, but I think it's necessary, and we will ultimately do it with 
other ethnic groups because the Jews are a minority and we need as 
many friends as we can get. I don't expect other people to do 
anything for us, but at least I don't want people to be against 
us. When you come from Germany, this is a philosophy which you 
can well understand. 

Dorfman: Yes. What other ethnic groups do you hope to ? 

Fromm: Well, we don't know yet. It has to have some Jewish connection 

because we are a Jewish museum. But, for now, we had "The Jews of 
Germany," now we are going to have "The Jews of China." And we 
are looking around to see what is available and then see if we can 
bring it ever. We have some plans to have exhibits that have 
great local interest. 

Dorfman: I would like to know more about the intergenerational docent 
program and how the candidates, both older and younger, are 

Fromm: I would say they are mostly teenagers. But they take to it like a 
duck to water. [laughter] It's interesting for them and if work 
can interest young people, then they will do something. 

This was something that Helaine Fortgang started very 
successfully where we have old and young people working together. 
Some of the foundations in California have given us some funds 
toward this effort because they feel that this is an important 

Dorfman: How are the participants recruited? 

Fromm: We have a number of docents, all are very well briefed. Before an 
exhibit opens they are always addressed for instance, in the case 
of "Fifty Treasures" Dr. Goldyne explained to the docents what it 
all meant. In the exhibit, The Jews of Germany," Dr. KLemig 
talked to them. I also did. Rabbi Joseph Asher gave a brilliant 










discourse. We give them a large amount of information so when 
they show people around, they really know what the exhibit 

How young are the docents in that program? 

They are mostly retired people with interest in the arts and lots 
of life experience. 

Helaine Fortgang wrote in "Fifty Treasures", "Alfred Fromm has 
chaired our board with dignity and wisdom. His thoughtful 
response to a difficult question has frequently averted crisis and 
inspired solutions." What did she mean by that? 

It is natural that there are always problems coming up. I have 
tried to help Helaine, of whom I think very highly, to see what 
could be done. When difficult matters came up, as they always do, 
and where she didn't know just which way to go, we sat together to 
find the answer. A museum director we are a new organization 
always needs some help. 

Is there anything in particular that comes to mind? 
in which you helped Helaine Fortgang? 

A situation 

There were personal questions very often, and of course, financial 
problems that came up continuously. 

Then in another quotation from that publication, mention is made 
of preservation of the past as an inspiration for our future. 
Will oral histories will be included? 

Fromm: We haven't planned on this yet. But we are young and it might 

develop. It's done over at Judah Magnes Museum and we don't want 
to be in competition with them. 

Criteria in Accepting Gifts 

Fromm: There's one situation which we have very strongly endorsed: that 
if we accept gifts or if we acquire something for any one of our 
exhibits, they have to be of the very highest quality. If they 
are not, it defeats the purpose of the museum. 

Dorfman: And included in the quality would be the aesthetic, the historic 

and also the condition? Mention is made that some pieces were not 
included simply because of the condition. 

Fromm: Yes, we rejected a number of art works that we felt would not be 
proper to exhibit because a Jewish museum is always looked upon 


Fronm: critically by ether people and we have to do a better job than 
just any new museum would otherwise do. 

Derfman: Were there pieces in particular that come to mind that might have 
been rejected because of condition that you would like very much 
to have had? 

Fromm: Joseph Goldyne made the selection and whatever he felt was not of 
the first quality as far as condition is concerned or as far as 
historical value, he rejected. [break] you can get twenty-five 
shabbas lamps. You can get many things of that sort that have no 
particular value. If you have one really good one, that's all you 
should have. 

Dorfman: It is said that you always saw the complex side of design and 

growth of the museum. How did you participate in the design of 
the museum and the growth? 

Fromm: The building for the Federation was opened a year earlier than the 
museum. The museum was built with experts from Skidmore, Owings, 
and Merrill. We had many meetings with them in order to get all 
the things the way they should be done. I would say that Joseph 
Goldyne was particularly helpful in this respect. A very helpful 
representative of Walter Shorenstein, the owner of Milton Meyer 
and Co., was available to us without cost. 

Sukkah Competition 

Dorfman: Earlier you mentioned the competition for the design of the 

sukkah, which was judged by a jury. The winning entry, of course, 
was submitted by the distinguished architect, Stanley Saitowitz. 
Whose idea was the competition? 

Fromm: I don't remember who mentioned it first, but it was discussed at 
great length in the board meetings. We had great help from Mark 
Goldstein who is one of the top partners of Skidmore, Owings, and 
Merrill, the architects. He was very helpful until recently when 
he retired from the board for health reasons. He supervised the 
construction and the physical layout of the museum, and also made 
a sizable financial contribution. 

Dorfman: Of the museum itself. I wondered in what way you related with 
Mr. Goldstein about The Sukkah Competition. 

Fromm: Well, we discussed it at great length and the prize was a trip to 
Israel for two which Mr. Saitowitz woa That worked out very 
well, and there was tremendous public interest shown. 



From Sukkdh Competition 

5 Ob 











* * 









The IDEA for the Sukkah is derived from an interpretation of the 

The DESIGN is a 'TREE' which branches into a 'STAR.' 

The people should dwell in booths for 
seven days so that your generations may 

know that I made the children of Israel STAR, which identifies 
to dwell in booths when I brought them out the childen of Israel. 
of the land of Egypt.' 

Take the fruit of goodly trees, bran 
ches of palm trees and boughs of thick TREE, the tree of life 
trees and willows of the brook, and etc. 
rejoice before the Lord.' 

The ROOF is discussed first because conceptually it is the 
critical feature of the Sukkah': 

'One should be able to view the stars from within the Sukkah.' 

The entire roof must be made of organic material. Remember to 
let the stars shine through.' 

The support structure for the branches is the STAR. The sechach 
(covering) is of palms marking the star, and eucalyptus. 

The WALLS are in the image of branches, supporting canvas, 
making a tentlike translucent enclosure. (More canvas may be 
added.) Fruit will be hung in bunches from the 'branches.' The images 
at the top of the drawing are indicative: alternating eggplant and red 
onions, a floret of grapes, topped with radishes. Decoration would be 
a collective celebration. 

The CONSTRUCTION will be 8" peeler core columns, bound with 
metal straps at the corners to the existing poles, standing on 8" con 
crete blocks. Timbers are 2x8's. All connections are with joist 
hangers and sheet metal brackets, screwed. Canvas walls are tied to 
columns. The sechach is supported by a rope mesh attached to the 
roof star. 


MODEL BY STANLEY SAITOWITZ, 11 *, x 18</ 2 14 % ,n. (excluding 




Fromm: Now, we've had ether events since. We asked Jewish artists to 

submit their works and we exhibited them and they were for sale. 
We sold about thirty- thousand dollars worth of art works and 
returned over twenty-five thousand dollars to the artists. So. it 
was not only that we gave them a chance to show their works to 
many people, but it was a great financial success to the artists 
because, you know, artists have not an easy life. [chuckle] 

Dorfman: Tell me, was that an unusual if not unique program? 

Fromm: I don't know if other people have done that. But it showed 

tremendous interest and we will do it again this year for Pesach. 

Dorfman: Was there any theme given to the artists? 

Fromm: Well, we had a seder table that was made by some artists and was 
beautifully set. Many people had never seen that, particularly 
non-Jews. Many Jewish people never had any idea what it was all 
about. So, in some way, it is a teaching situation, you know. 
It's to pass on information to those Jewish people who were not 
very much involved with Jewish life. 

Dorfman: As an educational tool as well as a cultural one, then. 

Fromm: Yes, and I include myself in that. 

Dorfman: What particularly do you remember about a sukkah from your past in 

Fromm: I don't come from an Orthodox family. But we grew up in an 

Orthodox community and, of course, there were in Germany, where we 
lived, many people who had a sukkah. It was always a very festive 

Dorfman: Were those sukkah symbolic as many are today, or were they more 

Fromm: They were more traditional, but it was a family affair. In the 

small town where we lived almost everybody had a garden. So, the 
sukkah was in a garden, and the meals were held there. It was a 
very nice festival. 

Dorfman: Your family did not have one. 

Fromm: No. 

Dorfman: So that the special meaning of sukkah to you ? 

Fromm: Well, we knew, of course, about it. So, we visited the sukkah in 
some of our friends homes. There was great competition to have 
the best sukkah and they were beautifully decorated. 


Dorfman: Is there anything else you would like to add about the museum? 

Fromm: We will have some very interesting exhibitions. When I was in 
Israel, we talked to the Hebrew Museum in Jerusalem and we will 
contact the leading Jewish museums in the United States like the 
Jewish museum in New York, the Skirball Museum in Los Angeles and 
the Maurice Spertus Museum in Chicago and others. We'll find out 
what they have so that we can put an exhibit together from art 
works that are held by other Jewish museums and ultimately, of 
course, we would be very happy to loan out whatever we have. 

Dorfman: Do you plan traveling exhibits, then? 

Fromm: Ultimately, yes. For the time being, we don't have enough 
material yet. 

Personal Interest In Art 

Dorfman: This seems a good point to ask about your personal interest in 
art and how that developed. 

Fromm: The arts were always a subject of great interest when we grew up. 
Later on, of course, we visited museums and art exhibits, and, in 
fact, collected a lot of art books. My wife and I, we must have 
at least a hundred and fifty outstanding art books from all over 
the world. 

Dorfman: Is there a particular artist to whom you are especially drawn? 

Fromm: There are some artists which I personally like very much and we 
acquired for our home some very good pictures of French 
impressionists and of German impressionists which we bought many 
years ago, or had inherited from my wife's parents. We didn't buy 
art as an investment. We bought it because we loved it and 
enjoyed it. Of course, today those art works are worth many, many 
times more than what we paid. 

Dorfman: Whose work in particular do you favor? 

Fromm: My wife's parents were art collectors and we have some of their 

pictures, like a beautiful Heckel. We bought a very good Nolde, a 
German impressionist, Liebermanns, and Floch. And we have some 
that we acquired from Hanna's parents, as well as a Schmidt 
Rotluff. Moll is not as well known in America. We also acquired 
quite a few French impressionists, like Vlaminck, Utrillo, Bonnard, 
Chagall, Dufy, Vuillard, and a beautiful Aubusson hanging from 


Fromm: As I have collected wine antiques for many years that were shown 
in the Wine Museum of San Francisco, we have quite a number of 
interesting and valuable wine antiques in our home. 

Dorfman: What do you look for when you look at a painting? 

Fromm: My wife and I look at how it impresses us. I have, however, no 

understanding of real modern art. If you look at a painting or an 
artwork it has to give you something. For instance, if you go up 
to the Legion of Honor here and you look at the Rodins, they are 
absolutely beautiful. They tell you something and so do some of 
the pictures. I get a great sense of enjoyment out of looking at 
things. And as they say, I have some very decided opinions based 
on ignorance. [laughter] 

Dorfman: Do you have anything else that you'd like to add to your feelings 
about your interest in art and collection? 

Fromm: I look sometimes at art books when I'm very tired or when I have 
some problems. It gives me a lift. Our house only has so many 
walls and many art works are not affordable for us, and in recent 
years we have not added much to our collection. 

Dorfman: So, your home then would contain, for the most part it seems, 

Fromm: Yes, French and German impressionists. We also have some very 
good clay, wood and bronze statues of Chinese and Japanese art. 
When we were in Japan many years ago we bought quite a few art 
works there that today are rare. At that time, one could still 
buy them. So, we have quite an assortment, but it is all 
distributed in our house wherever it fits best. 



Reorganizing Israeli Wine Exports 

Dorfman: Can we talk now about your relationship to Israel? 

Fromm: I went to Israel in, the first time, in 1953. I was asked to 

reorganize the export of Israeli wines to the United States which 
was in very bad shape. They hardly did any business. Their wines 
were cloudy and bad. Well, they just didn't know how at that 

So, I went over and was offered a substantial fee and my 
expenses. I said, "No, I will do it at my own expense. But I 
want to put in a fair report of what I find, and I don't want any 
politics involved in this." I called then on the Israeli Minister 
of Agriculture and told him that. I spent about four weeks there. 
At that time there was no air-conditioning, and it was miserably 
hot. It was in July, but this was the time when the grapes started 
to come in. 

I went every day at six o'clock in the morning to the Richon 
le Zion winery. It was in a very run down shape and very much 
neglected. The first thing we had to do was to clean it up. I 
insisted on that. 

It was started originally by Baron de Rothschild of Paris. 
The equipment was in horrible shape. Quite a few wines were not 
suitable to be sold at all. I tasted every barrel of wine and 
there were hundreds of them, it was a tremendous job. Then we 
made the blends and came out with Carmel wine, which was then 
introduced in the United States. 

After I came back from Israel, I went to my friend Samuel 
Bronfman, the founder of Seagrams, and I said, "Sam, what do I do 
new? How do we get the orders?" So, he said to me, it was on a 
Monday "Come to my office on Thursday at four o'clock, I will 


Fromm: have all the distributers in New York at my office." Of course. 
i.~ Samuel Bronfman asked the distributers, they came. [laughter] 
We got tremendous orders and that's the way it started. 

Later on, in the last one and a half years, I have been a 
consultant to some kibbutzim on the Golan Heights. They put out a 
good wine, Yarden. made from grapes grown on the Golan Heights, 
not in that hot climate you have in the valley. It's a quality 
wine that, however, is produced so far in very small quantities. 
It's only sold in the United States, except for one place. That's 
the King David Hotel in Jerusalem because so many Americans go 
there. The wine can compete with fine California wines. 

Dorfman: Is it a white wine? 
Fromm: A white wine, yes. 
Dorfman: What kind of grape is it? 

Fromm: It's sauvignon blanc. It's made from selected grapes and from 

grapes that are grown high up. So it's not so hot. You know, if 
you grow grapes in a very hot climate, they get very high in 
sugar, that means ultimately very high in alcohol. And you don't 
have the flavor any more. It's the same as if you take an apple 
that is grown in Fresno in the hot climate. It might be 
beautiful, big, and nice looking, but it tastes like a potato. 

Dorfman: Ernest Nathan, who in 1954 was the Executive Director, Palestine 
Economic Corporation, credited you at that time with the rebirth 
of Israel's wine industry. In a letter dated 1956 from the then 
Israeli Consul to the United States, a Mr. Siven writes of the 
advice on wine that you gave to Israel. 

Fromm: When I left Israel at that time, they gave me a beautiful Bible in 
a silver cover with some semi-precious stones, and they said this 
in the dedication, "To Alfred Fromm, a souvenir of his most 
valuable visit to Israel which may mark the beginning of a new era 
in the life and future of our wine cellars." But I don't take any 
particular credit for that, it was just honest work. 

Dorfman: In 1970, Golda Meir invited you to a meeting with her minister of 
defense, foreign affairs and finances, and the chairman of the 
Jewish agency. What happened at that meeting? 

Fromm: I couldn't go to that meeting. 

My relationship with Israel is maybe on a somewhat different 
basis. I have a very simplistic attitude towards this. The first 
one is: if you don't help your fellow Jew, nobody else will. 
Secondly: by the grace of God, I am here and am able to help. 
Those are the two basic thoughts that I have. Then, of course, I 

THE NOTED American wine taster 
poured from the unmarked bottle, 
inhaled the aroma, took a sip and let 
the wine roll around his tongue. 
Then he savoured the delicate after 

"This is a fine California wine of 
the first quality," he told the Israeli 
winegrower. Then he went through 
the same procedure with the second 
unmarked bottle. 

"Your wine is very good," jie told 
the visitor, ''but it just can't stand up 
again*! this premium vintage." 

He was in for a surprise. When the 
wrappings were taken off the bot 
tles, lo and behold, the taster found 
that it was the Israeli wine which he 
had found superior. It is a testimonial 
to his integrity and professional 
standing that he reported his find 
ings in a respected American wine 

Israeli wines are not generally 
known for their excellence. When 
the average American wine-lover 
hears the words kosher wine, he 
thinks of something sweet and 
syrupy that sells well in poor black 
neighbourhoods. A premium wine 
from Israel not only has to prove its 
worth; it also has to overcome all the 
built-in prejudice in the wine indus 
Taking on this monumental task is 
Shimshon Welner, a dynamic kib- 
butznik from the Golan Heights, 
who admits that until a few years ago 
he had not the .vaguest idea of how a 
fine wine tasted. Now he displays all 
the symptoms of a wine fanatic. 

WELNER MIGHT have remained 
an average kibbutznik, happy to 
take a sip of sweet wine on a Friday 
night, had it not been for Dr. Corne 
lius Ough, who visited Israel in 1972 
;o advise local wineries on behalf of 
the UN Food and Agriculture Orga 
nization (FAO). A professor at the 
University of California at Davis and_ 
isn miernaiioiiaiiy renowned wine 
expert, Ough found that the best 
area for white wine was in the Golan . 

One of the factors which led him 
to this conclusion is a rather compli 
cated system by which the mean 
monthly temperature above 50" 1 
Fahrenheit between April 1 and 
October 31 is added up. The lower 
the resulting figure, the better the 
area is for white wine grapes. The 
Moselle area in Germany and Santa 
Barbara, California, both fall into 
the first regional classification with 
2,500 degrees or less. . . 

Among the areas in the second 
regional classification are the Napa 
Valley, also in California, while the 
Golan, with between 3,000 and 
3,500*' is in the third regional divi. 
sion. In Italy, Florence lies in the 
heart of a fourth division, while the 
Tel Aviv area belongs to the fifth 
group of regions. 

According to the experts, the best 
white wines come from the first three 
groups of regions. But the Golan is 

even better than its third-grade clas 
sification indicates, largely because 
its daytime temperature:;, even in 
midsummer, are not v ;ry high. Thus 
the mean is not the re:.:.- It of intense 
heat during the day and ;1cep chills at 
night, but overall cool weather. 

Following the visit, {KeGolan set 
tlements convinced the World Zion 
ist Organization to back them in 
setting up a few experimental 
vineyards. But the grapes were sold 
in bulk to local wineries, and the 
settlers had no indication of what 
kind of wine they wer<; making. In 
1982, they asked one of the smaller 
wineries to produce siven tons of 
sauvignon grapes separately. 

"I KNOW NOW that they made the 
wine under terrible -renditions," 
Welner says, but it w:is still the best 
white sauvignoc in :he country. 
Then I went to the U.S. wilh some 
wine to try tc sell it. When ! realized 
what I was up against, i threw it out." 
But he did make . oatact with 
Alfred Fromm, scion cf a family of 
vinters from the Franc-cmia wine dis 
trict of Germany. Fron::n, who came 
to the U.S. in the 1930s, was for 
many years the exclusive representa 
tive of The Christian Bro!hers._win-' 
ery in" thc'Napa Valley. He" ic-id 
Welner that if he wanted to sell wine 
in the U.S., he would have to acquire 
American know-how. 

This was not as easy as it might 
sound. The local rabbis insisted that 
everyone working a! the winery must 
be Jewish and there are not tha: 
many U.S. Jewish oenologists an 
xious to LO off to the Golan Heights.' 

Finally they found Philip Stein- 
schreiber, a good-natured -Califor- 
nian who freely admits that before 
coming to the Golan he wouldn't 
have thought of drinking kosher 
wine. And they kept sending sample 
bottles to Fromm, whose comments 
progressed from "good" to "very 
good" to "excellent." 

AT LAST they were ready to bottle. 
They sent Fromm a list of almost 300 
possible names, from which he chose 
"Yardcn." He also approved the 
classically simp!-: label, designed by 
Yaacov Shilo. Instead of the. large 

kosher markings one usually sees on 
wine, Y.' .den has only a tiny symbol 
in the corner, indicating that it is 
cerfifie'. as koshe'i 5y~the Union of 
Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, 
the largest U.S. kashrut supervision 

Then Welner returned to the U.S. 
with his wine. Before going out with 
him, Fromm insisted that Welner 
dress the part. "They made me 
spend $350 on a suit and tie, shirt - 
even shoes and socks,' he says with a 
look of injured innocence. But wine 
sellers were still wary of any wine 
from Israel or any kosher wine. 

Now, with ever-increasing clamps 
on government spending, it seems 
highly unlikely that the S35m. re 
quested will be allocated, even if the 
expected annual turnover is $30m. If 
he can't get help from the govern 
ment, Welner says, he will not hesi 
tate to,turn to private investors. 
. Meanwhile, the site stands on a 
hilltop with a magnificent view. Wel 
ner is already visualizing the bus 
loads of tourists who will drive 
through the vineyard to taste the 
wine and eat lunch in the adjacent 

One prominent Jewish wine se'.'.e. 
refuiwci point-blank to taste Wel- 
ncr's product and had to be tricked 
by his' sen into tasting a glass, which 
he then pronounced worthy. Now, 
with a pilot production of only 
250,000 bottles, the winery is hard 
pressed to fill its orders. 

With an estimated retail price 
approaching $10 in the U.S. , Welner 
sees little market for his product in 
Israel. The winery is, however, con 
sidering granting exclusive selling 
riahts to Je/usalem's Kina David 
Hotel. Here Welner feels it will get 
the kind of exposure it needs with 
wealthy and sophisticated foreign 
tourists, who will, he hopes, look for 
the wine when they return home. 

(continued next page) 

HAIM SHAPIRO visits a new winery 
on the Golan Heights ? 

IT WAS THUS that, on a crisp 
1 autumn morning, I found myself in 
the yard of a Golan packing house, 
lasting wine with Welner, Stein- 
schreiber and Yosef Kruvi, assistant 
genera! manager of the King David. 
Since neither Welner r.>r Stein- 
schreiber is observant, the wi;:e was 
poure'd for us by a mmber of a 
religion Golan settlemenr. 

In addition to the natural charac 
teristics of the grapes, the white 
wines in particular benefit from a 
long, slow fermentation process that 
can last for up to 28 days. This is 
accomplished by keeping i!ie wine at 
a low temperature through refrigera 
tion while it is fermenting, and it 
results in a ric'n, full b.-uquet. A 
special lightness, which makes the 
wine seem almost to dance on one's 
tongue, evidently comes from the 
volcanic soil in which the grapes ;>re 

Stressing that the wines were not 
yet ready, Stcinschreiber led us 
through a tasting session '.hat was a 
real pleasure, with the aroma almost 
seeming to jump out at us. An i mer; 
aid rcisling from Yonatan had, he 
told us, the aroma of peaches, while 
a Semillon from the same kibbur/ 
was "very gra.ssy." A French Col- 
ombard from Geshcr wa-. reminis 
cent of "tropical fruit," while a 
Cabernet Sauvignon from lh.\t kib 
butz had a hint of spinach with 

NOR COULD WE miss a visit 10 the 
vineyards, even though the vines 
have all but settled dowr, for the 
winter. At El Rom, 1,100 metres 
above sea level, we coulo sec Mt. 
Hermon in one direction and the 
rebuiii Syrian town \>! Y.uiiciira i:i 
the other. 

Not too far away is one of the 
possible sites of what could bj the 
new Golan winery - if the settle 
ments get the hacking they want 
from the government. Their lest 
tor government help has not been 
easy. During his tenure, former agri 
culture minister Pessah Grunper, 
himself u winegrower, did ui! he 
could to squelch the project. 


The Jerusalem Post Magazine 
December 7, 1984 


Two great authorities who have 
pratuitously contributed th.e_benefit of 
their invaluable advice to the local 
wine industry .are .Professor HaroH 
Berg and Mr. Alfred Fromm. Profes 
sor Berg, of the University of Cali 
fornia, spent some wes in this coun 
try at the end of 1955 at te invitation 
of Carmel Oriental, studying the problem of- 
the local industry. According to his report he 
was favourably impressed with the high stan 
dard of Israel wines, anc* irtdeed surprised to 
find them to be at least as good as the better 
California or French wines. Professor",Berg 
advised the enterprise on how to overcome 
one of the great obstacles in the way ftf ex 
panding its exports in the past, which was the 
fact that Israel wines were not sufficienlty 
stabilized and in some cases produced a sedi 
ment. Since then special equipment has been 
installed which is sen-ing the purpose of in 
creased stabilization. Professor Berg has left 
a number of recommendations, all of which 
have been followed up with a view to raising 
still further the standard of local products. 
Mr. Alfred Fromm, who is a world renowned 
expert in wines, and who heads one of the 
largest wine concerns in the United States, is 
advising the Carmel Wine Company in New 
York on ways and means of increasing dis 

It is felt that if a better rate of exchange could 
be obtained, the export of wine would expand 
rapidly, because this would enable the pro 
ducers to offer local wines at competitive 

The Israel Export Journal 
March, 1956 


Fromm: have been in Israel at various times, and when you see what has 
been done there I must say, when I came back from Israel, I 
became a proud Jew, much more than I was before. Nothing, I 
think, will further the cause of Israel more than to have people 
go over there and visit. 

Dorfman: Why is that? 

Fromm: Well, when they see what has been accomplished there when you 
compare it with the Arab countries, there is just a world of 
difference. The Israelis have made the desert bloom and had great 
success in the use of water which is very scarce over there. They 
invented a sprinkling system for vineyards and for other crops 
which is today used almost all over the world. 

Israel can make a great contribution to arid African countries 
if they are ever asked. 

We send money or a lot of food to the underdeveloped African 
countries. A lot of it is being misused. Corruption is prevalent 
and transportation is very difficult. But so many other 
problems overpopulation have to be attacked. The important 
thing is to create a set-up where people can feed themselves. And 
that the Israelis certainly have shown to the world. 


[Interview A: July 31. 1985] ## 

National United Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society Council 

Dorfman: On the 18th of April you received a letter from President Bob 

Israelof f of United HIAS, advising you of your membership in the 
National United HIAS Council. Please, tell me how you became 
involved in HIAS. 

Fromm: Well, I became involved with HIAS many years ago because I could 
see the necessity. In those days there were not too many 
organizations that were ready to do something for refugees and 
immigrants. I have represented HIAS with the Jewish Welfare 
Federation for a number of years because I feel the work is very 
important. It goes back for at least twenty years. 

Dorfman: And who drew you to HIAS? 

Fromm: I don't remember, but, of course, I knew about HIAS and I thought 
it was something that one should give as much help as one could. 

Dorfman: Why was that? 

Fromm: Those uprooted people come to the United States and other 

countries, and there is nothing for them. They need jobs. They 
need sustenance. Generally, the people who are cared for by HIAS 
come without any means. So, I felt it was important that there be 
an organization that would extend some help. 

Dorfman: How has your particular expertise been used by HIAS? 

Fromm: I have no particular expertise in those things except that I am a 
refugee myself and I know how it is, although I came under 
different circumstance and a different background. But I was very 
anxious to talk to the committee of the San Francisco Jewish 
Welfare Federation who decides on contributions and explains what 
is sorely needed. 


Dorfman: With whom did you relate in these matters at the Jewish Welfare 

Fromm: Well, there was the Joint Distribution Committee. There were 
quite a number of people en it and they change every year. 

Dorfman: How has the organization changed in the twenty years you've been 

Fromm: It has been very active in bringing in Jewish people from Soviet 
Russia. But this has trickled down tremendously and hopefully 
this will open up again. We had rather complete information of 
what has been done for refugees from all over the world. I 
studied the materials that they send us, and according to that we 
made our presentation to the Distribution Committee. 

Dorfman: What is the relationship between United HIAS and the Council of 
Jewish Federations? 

Fromm: I know that HIAS received substantial amounts from Jewish welfare 
federations, particularly in New York. They underwrite a good 
part of their budget. But then, of course, other Jewish 
federations in the United States are being asked to help too 
because that money was very badly needed. So, the Jewish Welfare 
Federation in San Francisco always has been very open handed with 
HIAS and has every year given them, very often not what they asked 
for, but they tried to come as close as they could. This was the 
main job of those of us who were on that committee. Ron Kaufman 
was on that and Annette Dobbs. We try to get the federation to be 
as generous as possible. 

Dorfman: And where are the efforts being placed now that the flow of 
Russian immigrant Jews has diminished? 

Fromm: Well, they are coming from all over the world. Now, of course, 

the Ethiopian Jews have come in and there is a yearly request from 
HIAS, New York, to the Welfare Federation that we represent here. 
We receive from New York substantial material that we use in our 

Dorfman: Now as I understand, the goal of HIAS is to aid immigrant Jews who 
plan to immigrate to other places than Israel. What else can you 
tell me about your work with HIAS over the last twenty years? 

Fromm: It's very little, except that I represented them together with 
some other people or sometimes alone, with the Jewish Welfare 
Federation here to see that they would get the help they needed. 
This was really my main activity. 

Dorfman: As liaison? 



Fronm: As liaison. Since I knew quite a few people on the Distribution 
Committee cf the Jewish Welfare Federation and many knew me too. 
it was felt that I could be of help and I think I have been. But 
this is really all I did. 

Jewish National Fund 

Dorfman: Let's move on to your work with the Jewish National Fund. 

Fromm: In the Jewish National Fund, I have been for many years a 
director, and for a few years a governor ef the Northern 
California Jewish National Fund. I have been active particularly 
in their annual dinners, and quite a few times have been either 
the chairman of the dinner, or introduced the guest speakers, who 
were always outstanding people of national reknown. Of course, I 
financially helped as much as I possibly could. 

Notable Speakers: Chief Justice Earl Warren, Senator Daniel 
Inouye, Senator Hubert Humphrey, Danny Kaye, Senator Frank Church 

Dorfman: You gave the introduction at the 1965 Hanukkah Banquet at the 

Fairmont Hotel which honored the then Chief Justice Earl Warren, 
over twenty years ago. What do you remember about that dinner and 
Chief Justice Earl Warren? 

Fromm: I was very honored that I could introduce him. I had great 

admiration for the man. The dinner was very well attended and 
Earl Warren spoke very well. He was really a great friend of the 
Jewish people and of Israel. That, of course, was the whole 
purpose of the dinner, besides raising a substantial amount of 
money. And I think we were successful in this. 

Dorfman: And who was it initially who invited your membership to the Jewish 
National Fund? 

Fromm: I think it was Charles Steiner, who was the Director of the 
Northwest Region of the Jewish National Fund. 

Dorfman: At that time around 1965? 

Fromm: Yes, and for quite some years afterwards. He always approached me 
whenever he had something to be done. And I was very friendly 
with Charles. He was a very good man. He's retired now. 


Derfman: You've been an integral part of so many of the Hanukkah banquets 
over the years. Can you tell me how you related with the very 
honored guests? For example, did you have an opportunity to 
meet with Chief Justice Earl Warren? 

Fromm: Really not because there were so many people who knew him. I'm 
not an important member of the Jewish society here. The one 
person we became quite friendly with, my wife and I, was Senator 
Daniel Inouye from Hawaii, and also Tom McCall, governor of 
Oregon, for whom we gave a reception at the wine museum. 

Dorfman: How did you relate with him? 

Fromm: He was very outspoken and I thought, a very fair man. A good 

administrator. We discussed things that were of mutual interest. 
He was interested, too, in what I was doing in the wine business. 
So, we talked about this too. But I had no further contact 
afterwards with him. But while he was here and while he was at 
the dinner and while we gave the reception at the wine museum, it 
was all done on a very friendly and intimate basis. 

Dorfman: That was 1974, the year he was honored by the Jewish National 

Fromm: Yes, that would have been that year, yes. 

Dorfman: Well, tell me how you related with Senator Daniel Inouye from 

Fromm: We met him at the dinner and we talked a great deal during the 

dinner. I was very much interested in his story being Japanese. 
If you were a German and became a U.S. senator, it would have been 
a very unusual thing, and I think it was in this case too. He was 
a very outstanding person who did a great job for Hawaii. He was, 
I felt very strongly, a good American, a man who really had the 
interest of the country at heart. He served in the U. S. Army and 
lost an arm. 

Did you continue your relationship with the senator? 

Well, we wrote him from time to time, and if anything came up in 
which we thought he would be particularly interested, we sent it 
to him. He wrote us back but I haven't seen him for quite some 

Dorfman: What, in particular, might you have written him about that would 
have been of interest to him? 

Fromm: There was the Fromm Institute that something had to be done for 
retired people. He was interested in things of that sort that 
were very important to me. 




Dorfman: I see. And Senator Hubert H. Humphrey? 

Fromm: Yes, we met him a few times, and after a few years when we met him 
again I was amazed that he knew me by my name, [laughter] and 
asked me about the wine business. Of course, this is one of the 
things that are very important for politicians, that they have a 
tremendous call back on names and on faces. 

Dorfman: Was Danny Kaye on the program in 1977? 

Fromm: Yes, I was chairman of that dinner. Afterwards Danny Kaye visited 
me a few times. We became quite friendly. He was greatly 
interested in wine and came up to my office. We talked for hours. 
After I had introduced him at the dinner he said, "Thank You, Mr. 
Kissinger." [laughter] And the reason was that Mr. Kissinger and 
I, we come almost from the same neighborhood and we both have that 
real German, Bavarian accent. [laughter] So, everybody laughed. 
Danny Kaye gave at that time an outstanding speech. 

Dorfman: He seems to be much more than a comedian. 
Fromm: Oh, yes, it was a very very serious speech. 
Dorfman: What was the topic of his speech? 

Fromm: Well, he talked about the many things that happen to people, bad 
things. Then in the end he said, this all has happened to the 
Jewish people and something has to be done about it. But he 
brought it out in a beautiful way in an outstanding address. 

Dorfman: You must have worked in some way with other public figures. How 
about Milton Marks? He was on the program with you more than 

Fromm: I knew Milton for many years and have helped him financially 

wherever I could when he'd run for election. He's a very nice 
fellow who represented San Francisco very well. He had the 
interest of the city at heart. We knew his wife too. 

Dorfman: And a United States Senator, Frank Church? 
Fromm: That's the one I wanted to talk about 1 

Well, Frank Church and his wife and my wife and I, became 
very friendly. They came to our house for dinner and we have seen 
him a few times. I thought he was a very outstanding man, a very 
sensible and reasonable man. When he was in San Francisco he 
generally called us and we met him for lunch or in some ether way. 

Dorfman: What was central to your conversations with Senator Church? 


Frcmm: Well, we talked about the general political situation, the foreign 
political situation. Of course, he was very well versed and very 
influential in it. We tried to give him our ideas, and he 
listened carefully, as they all do. If it ever has any value you 
really don't knew, but at least you had a chance to discuss things 
with him en a very friendly and open basis. 

Derfman: What particular suggestions did you make to him? 

Fromm: I know that we were very concerned about the development of 

nuclear weapons. We hoped that some way could be found to sit 
down with the Soviets, to see if one couldn't come to some 
arrangement that would take away that distrust that exists on the 
Soviet side against America and en the American side against the 
Soviets. I think this is what's wrong with our total 
relationship. If the Soviets and the Americans could sit down and 
say here this is what we need and we would know that their word is 
good, but nobody really is sure about it. It's a very difficult 
question because our present administration feels that the Soviets 
are cheating and that they want to mislead us. This could be but 
I always felt that it is better when you can talk to people. And 
if you talk to people, you might find out really where the 
problems are. But I always felt the basic situation was that the 
Soviets did not trust us and we didn't trust them. 

Dorfman: And Senator Church's attitude toward Israel and in support of 

Fromm: It was very favorable. He had been there. And he understands 

very well the needs of Israel and the needs of the United States 

to have reliable allies in the Middle East. Because how far one 
can trust the Arabs nobody really knows. 

Dorfman: Did your discussions with regard to Israel cover military aid and 
economic aid in terms of industry assistance? 

Fromm: No, we didn't talk about military aid. I don't talk about things 
I know little about. We talked about the general situation over 
there and what could be done. I told him that in my own small 
way, I had tried to 1 help by organizing their wine export. As I 
have often said, it's very easy to give money when you have it. 
But it's just as important and sometimes more important that you 
give something of your self, of your time and experience and 
create something that will go on. So, that was what I had 
particularly in mind as far as the wine export of Israeli wines 
was concerned. 

Dorfman: Then your function and your duties as an officer of the Jewish 
National Fund? 



Fromm: I had few organizing duties because I always have been very busy. 
I attended as many of the meetings as I could. There Wets always 
the question of raising money, which I certainly helped to do n 
my own, and then to organize the dinners. The Hanukkah dinner is 
the f undraising effort of the Jewish National Fund. I was amazed 
hew many people were there that I never had met before. It's an 
entirely different group than the one you meet at some of the 
other Jewish organizations. 

Dorfman : Why is that, do you think? 

Fromm: I don't know. Well, there is something with the blue boxes, you 
know, that the children are instructed to use. There were many 
people whom I felt were of limited means, but they came and some 
of them gave surprising amounts. Sometimes people in lesser 
circumstances, if they give you two hundred or five hundred 
dollars, it might be more than five thousand dollars or ten 
thousand dollars from someone else. So, I was always very much 
impressed by the wide following they had throughout all parts of 
the Jewish community here and in the East Bay. 

Dorfman: The major goal of the Jewish National Fund? 

Fromm: Their major goal is to reclaim land in Israel so that the people 
who come over there can work on the land. 

Dorfman: Do you have anything else that you want to add to your years with 
the Fund? 

Fromm: I never have played an important role except that I have assisted 
where I could. Also, where they sometimes needed someone who was 
fairly well-known in the Jewish community, and had a good name. 
That's about all I could contribute, that and some financial help 
which I have religiously given every year. 

Dorfman: There is a photo of you with Baron Evelyne de Rothschild, in your 
home in 1973. 

Fromm: Yes, he came to our house for dinner and we tried to be as 

hospitable to those people as we can, if they take the time and 
are glad to come. 

Dorfman: Was that in conjunction with a meeting? 

Fromm: It was in conj unction with an Israel Bond affair. 

Dorfman: There is a photo of you with Baron de Rothschild at Madeleine 
Russell's home. The date was 1975. 


Fromm: We met Baron de Rothschild. I introduced him at the Israel Bond 

Dinner. It was a fundraising dinner and he was the speaker. He's 
a very personable man. 

Derfman: What do you remember about him? 

Fromm: He's a tall, good-looking man and very polished, like all the old 
aristocratic Jews. They know how to deal with people and people 
came and wanted to be introduced to him, particularly some old 
ladies. He had a very nice word for them and they were absolutely 

Dorfman: Did he speak at the dinner? 

Fromm: Yes, he was the main speaker. 

Dorfman: Had you related previously with him? 

Fromm: No, I hadn't and I had no contact with him afterwards. 

American Technion Society 

Dorfman: Let us go on to your work on the National Board of Directors for 

the American Technion Society. You've been with that organization 
at least since 1973, possibly before. 

Fromm: Oh, yes, probably before. When we were in Israel a few years ago, 
we visited the campus. I was highly impressed with it, so was my 
wife. We saw the great need there is for educating technical 
people not only on account of the war situation in Israel, but in 
order to provide the manpower for the high-tech industries which 
Israel needs very badly and which is a great article of export for 
them. Hopefully, we'll develop it much further because that can 
solve some of their problems, which are very great. 

That was really my involvement in this. Then over the years 
and after we came back from Israel, we have substantially increased 
our contributions because we could see the need of what had to be 

Dorfman: Did you chair a committee for that? 

Fromm: No, I don't think so. I have generally refrained from getting 
involved in those things because I just don't have the time. I 
help where I can and in matters where I can and where I have some 
contacts or connections and, of course, with sometimes substantial 
money donations. But in the daily operations of these 
organizations I had very little hand in it. 



Dorfman: In 1979, you attended the installation of Bill Shapiro. 

Fromm: Yes, I introduced him. He is the son-in-law of Madeleine Russell. 
We knew Madeleine Russell for many years and we have known Alice. 
Bill's wife and the children for many years too. So, I was very 
pleased to do that. When Bill was installed as president of the 
San Francisco chapter, we started to take a larger financial 
interest in Technion than we had before. 

Dorfman: While your involvement has been on the national board? 
Fromm: Yes. 

The Alfred and Hanna Fromm Scholarship Fund; Brandeis University. 

Dorfman: And then in 1975, the Alfred and Hanna Fromm Scholarship Fund at 
Brandeis University was started. Tell me about that. 

Fromm: Well, we were asked to be the honorees, which we at first refused, 
But then Madeleine Russell and Ben Swig talked to us at various 
times and we couldn't refuse anymore because we had known both of 
them very well for many years. There was a dinner, a fund was 
established to which we contributed each year. 

But all these activities, Mrs. Dorfman, really were of very 
little importance and of very little interest, I think, to anyone 
but us. I have done what I can, in the way I could do it. But I 
haven't given it more time because I always have been a busy 
person running our busines, and quite a few other things in which 
I'm directly involved. So, I wasn't able to do a let. I tell 
you these things because you ask, but to me they are of no 
particular significance. It's something I do because it's the 
right thing to do. 

Dorfman: Historians are interested in what, how, and why busy people 
volunteer and donate. 

Alfred and Hanna Fromm Professorship. Hastings College of Law. 
University of California. San Francisco 

Dorfman: How did the Alfred and Hanna Fromm Professorship at Hastings 
College of Law come about? 


Fromm : 

Dorfman ; 








Dorfman ; 




It was established by my nephew, Peter Maier, who is a professor 
of tax law at Hastings. He is a tax attorney and is also a 
professor at Boalt Hall in Berkeley. My wife and I have also made 
contributions. This professorship was established about 1978. 

Earlier, you mentioned your relationship with Ben Swig, 
have known him for seme years. 

You must 

Yes, I knew him for many years. I had the highest regard for him. 
Ben was a marvelous money raiser. Whenever he asked me, I 
complied with whatever I could because I had such respect for him. 
He was himself a very great giver and I always felt that if a man 
like that does something, then I who was not in the same financial 
position that I should do my share. So, we were very friendly 
and he called on me very often. I was always glad to help. 

Fundraising, of course, is a very special skill. 
Yes, well, Ben certainly had it. 

What was it about him that permitted him to raise funds with such 

It was the way he explained things and the example that he set 
himself. It wasn't just someone who asked you to do something, 
but he did it himself and did it in a very big way. I had great 
admiration for that. 

You also worked for a number of years with Cyril Magnin. 
kind of a man would you say he is? 


Well, he is a very capable man. I think he has a great ego and 
this is what makes him so effective in many ways. We knew his 
daughter, Ellen, and his son-in-law, Walter Newman, quite well for 
many years. We've had social contact with the Magnin family for a 
long time. 

You worked for the National Jewish Hospital and Research Center in 
Denver as the greetings book chairman in 1981. 

I have known the people from this Denver hospital for many years. 
It is an ecumenical interfaith institution. I always have helped 
them and we have given them rather substantial amounts every year 
because I think they are doing a very outstanding and needed job. 

You've had contact with the present mayor of San Francisco, Dianne 
Feinstein, over the years. What impact have those contacts had? 

We have known Dianne Feinstein since she was a little girl. We 
k"ew her father quite well. In fact, he was Professor Goldman, 
chief of surgery at the University of California Medical School. 


Fromm: He was a teacher of our son who is now professor and chief of 
surgery at the medical campus of New York State University in 
Syracuse, New York. We've known the Goldman-Feinstein family for 
many years. We are on a personal and very friendly basis. 

Dorfman: What can you tell me about her? 

Fromm: I believe she's an immensely capable and ambitious person a 

tremendous workhorse, which in this job is necessary. She has a 
very good political instinct. I was very happy that she recently 
didn't run on the Democratic ticket for vice-president because I 
felt that the Democrats had really no chance. 

And what she will do after her second term as mayor. I don't 
know. We know each other very well socially, but politically we 
have very little contact. Although, I have helped Dianne when 
there was a need to do some financing or put up some money for her 
campaign. But it's really more a personal friendship. 

Dorfman: How effective a mayor do you feel she has been? 

Fromm: I think she has been quite effective, has done a lot for the city. 
You know, it's very easy to criticize, but with our whole system 
of supervisors and commissions, it's not very easy to do it. I 
think she has done, under the circumstances, a very credible job. 



Dorfman: What is your relationship with Walter Hoadley of Bank of America? 
Fromm: Walter Hoadley is a great personal friend of mine. 
Dorfman: In what way did you relate with Mr. Hoadley? 

Fromm: Socially, and I have done business with the Bank of America since 
I've been in this country. They were the only ones who helped us 
when we started our business! We had nothing but a good name and 
a knowledge of the business. But very little money. The Bank of 
America at that time came forward and made it possible for us to 
expand our business. So, over the years I have known almost every 
one of the top people in the Bank of America. I have personal 
friendships with most of the presidents of the Bank, the latest was 
W. [Tom] Clausen, and Sam [Samuel] Armacost and the top people 
before them. 

I have done all of my personal business with the Bank of 
America and our firm has also done a lot of business with the 
Bank. We are for them a good and a very safe account. And they 
like to talk to me sometimes to get the feelings and opinions of 
someone who is not in the billion dollar class, but with a good 
medium sized business. Particularly they want our opinion about 
the wine industry, about grape growing, because I could give them 
some firsthand information. 

Dorfman: Based on some solid experience. 

Fromm: Yes, because this is the business I know something about. I met 
Walter Hoadley there, too. He was the chief economist of the 
bank. He's a good personal friend of mine, he has been at our 
home quite often. We have been at his home or at parties with 
him. He's a particularly open-minded, nice man, and I think, a 
great friend of the Jews too. 

Dorfman: And you met him at the bank? 


Fromm: Yes. 

Dorfman: With whom did you relate at the Bank of America when they were so 
responsive to your expansion? 

Fromm: Originally, it was Fred Ferroggiaro. He was chairman of the 

finance committee and was the executive vice president. He was an 
old style banker who was not a "collateral only" man when 
considering a loan. This is different today because those days. 
I'm talking about 1936. 1937. the bank was by far not as big as it 
is today. 

We became very friendly and I met Fred Ferroggiaro many times 
over at St. Mary's College. He was a regent of St. Mary's College 
and so was I. We had great mutual respect and liking for each 
other and whenever I needed something, if I went to him, the bank 
really cooperated with us. Of course, we paid every loan very 
promptly too. [laughter] 

Dorfman: Well, that goes a long way. 

Fromm: Then later our firm grew substantially. We had rather substantial 
credits in the bank, but they were short term credits because we 
needed money in the fall when all the grapes come in at one time. 
Then the federal tax on brandy had to be paid during the big 
shipping season in the fall. So there were very large amounts of 
money required. We borrowed this from the Bank of America, but 
generally, after three or four months it was all paid off. 

Dorfman: To whom was that tax paid? Which government agency? 
Fromm: The Internal Revenue for liquor tax. 
Dorfman: Not the State Franchise Tax Board? 

Fromm: No, that was paid by the wholesaler. The federal tax had to be 
paid before you could take the brandy out of bond. When I 
acquired the majority of the firm of Picker-Linz Importers, Inc., 
in New York, I needed a few hundred thousand dollars in 1945, to 
buy out the other partners. I went to Mr. Ferroggiaro and he 
arranged a credit for three or five years at a very low rate of 
interest. And I argued with him continuously about the interest 
rate, and he said to me, "Well, Alfred. I will give it to you 
because anyone who argues with me so much about the rate of 
interest rate is going to pay." [laughter] That's good old-style 
banking! People who don't pay don't care what the interest rate 

Dorfman: Yes. I wonder if the Bank of America could operate that way 


Fromm: No, today it's a giant bank with lots of problems. It's net the 

same as it was back when I got my first credit at Bank of America. 
Mr. Gianinni was still alive and I met him. He was an amazing 
man. When I came to the bank to call on Mr. Ferroggiare it was 
always at eight o'clock in the morning. That was a period when he 
had time. And the second time I came there, it was maybe two, 
three months later, I saw Mr. Gianinni. I said hello to him and 
he said to me, 'Veil, Alfred, how are you and how is the wine 
business?" The man had tremendous recall, too. You know those 
public figures need to have this gift. Why would he know my name? 
I was at that time a small businessman. 

Dorfman: Apparently not to the Bank of America. 

Fromm: Not at that time. We were not big customers. But we always had a 
nice relationship. I think I told you that to me the most 
important thing in any business relationship and in personal 
relationships too, the first thing is that people respect you and 
know that your word is good. If they like you that's very nice, 
but if they only like you and don't respect you, you have nothing. 



Dorfman: This leads us to the work that you did in wine marketing at the 
University of San Francisco. 

Fromm: Well, the really top quality wines in California are generally 

produced by very small wineries which we call boutique wineries. 
They produce and sell small quantities, very often just a few 
thousand cases a year. And with the tremendous increase in 
competition, many of these wineries are in a difficult financial 
situation because they don't have the ways and means to market 
their product. And regardless of how good a product is, if you 
cannot sell it, it doesn't do you any good. 

So, with the large firms in our industry, like Gallc. and the 
spirits firms like Seagram and Heublein, National Distillers, and 
Schenley, the wine business has taken an entirely different turn, 
Those giant producers make a very acceptable wine, better than the 
daily wines in Europe. It's absolutely a fact. But the small 
wineries are gradually being pushed out of business because the 
large wineries spend fifteen, twenty, twenty-five million dollars 
and more a year and more on television, which, of course, a small 
winery cannot afford. They have no marketing person. 

A friend of mine, Dr. Su Hua Newton who, together with her 
husband, owned Sterling Vineyards before it was sold, talked to 
me. Now they own Newton Vineyards, a small premium winery in Napa 
Valley. She came to me one day and asked, "Well, can we do 
anything about this?" 

Planning with Dr. Su Hua Newton 

Fromm: So, we put our heads together. She's a very inventive woman, very 
capable, and with a lot of good ideas, but she hardly knew anyone 
in the industry. So, we devised a plan which I said was the only 
way it could be done: to invite the president of the University 

7 la 



Fromm: of San Francisco and the leading heads ef the premium wineries in 
California to come to my office for lunch. We told them that we 
want to educate young people who are at the University of San 
Francisco or in other places to learn about wine marketing and 
also product knowledge. They are wine makers, but if you are a 
good wine maker and you don't sell your product, what good is it? 

So, we got the owners of the best premium wineries and ef the 
largest wineries to be our lecturers and we told them right from 
the beginning that we wouldn't pay them anything. But they were 
very glad to do this and this has developed into a very good 
organization that is known throughout the United States in wine 
circles. We have quite a few people from very prestigious 
wineries that send their people to get this additional education 
because it's very necessary. 

When I first came to California in 1934, 1935, there were 
probably twenty-five or thirty wineries here. Today you have over 
six hundred. So, the competition is fierce. And I always felt 
that it was very important that the small top premium wine be 
maintained because this is where the reputation is being built. 
The same as the French reputation came from Chateau Laf itte, 
Mouton Rothschild and all the ether top first growth wines of 
France. They built a reputation and then the mass wines came in. 
For instance, the Italians have not been able to do that, but they 
hardly have any wines of that outstanding character. 

The French get enormously high prices for their top wines. 
Five hundred, six hundred dollars a case and more for young wines. 
When the wines are a few years old, they sometimes sell for a few 
thousand dollars for a case of twelve bottles. It's overdone but 
there is so little of it and it is sent all over the world. So, 
they can get that price. The wine is certainly not worth that 
kind of money. There is no wine that is worth that kind of money, 
but it is a rarity. 

The Wine Marketing Center now has an accredited course of 
study at the University of San Francisco, which has cooperated 
very well with us. We have personally. Dr. Newton and I, given 
most of the money that it took to start this. It always is, you 
know, hard to get money from other people. But we both have put 
real money into this, and felt that it was an important 
contribution that we could make to an industry that has been very 
good to us. Now the large firms see it too, and they understand 
the existence of the small boutique wineries is just as important 
to them too. If everything is mass produced, then we are losing 
an advantage that we have in California where we really can 
produce wines of world class. 

Dorfman: That began on what date? 


Fromm: We started this about two and a half years ago, 1982. I have 
given considerable time to it, and I have been very actively 
involved by calling on the people whom we wanted to speak, and we 
get almost everyone that we wanted. I told them, "Look, the 
industry has been good to us. So, give something back." And en 
that basis, I don't think I ever had a refusal. 

Dorfman: It's a very tightly knit community, isn't it? 

Fromm: Yes, but you have to know the people. And Dr. Newton hardly knew 
anyone and most people, even if they didn't know me personally, 
they knew who I was. I had been the head of Fromm and Sichel for 
so many years. We were the world-wide distributors of the 
Christian Brothers, a very successful firm. So, it wasn't 
difficult to make these contacts. 

Then, the next thing was to get the people for the wine 
product knowledge classes. We have good contacts at the 
University of California at Davis which is the leading 
viticulture! school in the world today. We got some of their 
professors to give courses on wine production. We got people from 
large wineries, small wineries. Their wine makers came and gave 
courses. We had a host of outstanding speakers and we didn't pay 
anything for it. But we needed this help. 

Our classes are completely filled. And whenever our students 
graduate, many of them go back to the wineries where they worked 
before. Now they have this additional knowledge: how to sell 
wine. Others like Safeway, Liquor Barn, which are very large 
outfits, each time take six or eight of our students that have 
graduated because they want someone who knows something about 


Dorfman: How does the marketing of wine differ from the marketing of other 
beverages and food products? 

Fromm: Well, ether beverages and food products have simple marketing 

goals. For example, with Coca-Cola there is not very much that 
you have to know about the product. But wine has such a 
diversity. There are hundreds of imported wines. And it's 
important that we spread the good word of the quality of the top 
California wines which are really world class. To see to it that 
the retailer, who very often is not educated about wine, 
particularly the smaller retailer of imported wine it is also 
important that the people who have come from our wine marketing 
course can impart some knowledge to those retailers, and therefore 
build a relationship of confidence with the consumer. You know, 
if you just sell a retailer something and he doesn't know what to 
do with it, you haven't accomplished anything. 



Frotnm: The old idea that if you were a crack salesman you could sell an 
icebox to the Eskimos is outmoded. This is not being done this 
way anymore. First, it's important to establish the human 
relationship between seller and buyer. 

When you have that, you get him interested and then explain 
the product to him and show him that he can have a wine department 
instead of wine being displayed among all the liquor and decorate 
it nicely and display the wines in cases. So, we showed this to 
the students. The promotion department of the large firms give us 
all their knowledge, because they too have an interest in keeping 
those small wineries in existence. The smaller wineries are not 
taking anything away from them. The large wineries sell through 
television. They are giant organizations. It's an entirely 
different business. 

Dorfman: What positions do the graduates of your program go on to take? 

Fromm: Some in large liquor stores who want people who have knowledge and 
can advise the consumer. Then there are quite a few who were in 
wine production, engaged in small wineries, but had absolutely no 
knowledge about marketing. And this was the most important goal 
we had: to get these people to understand that wine has to be 
sold. They couldn't afford to have any extra marketing person. 
They were too small for that. 

Dorfman: So that there is this bridge of information between production and 


Fromm: Yes. You see, many of the production people have no idea about 
marketing and don't think much about it. They think if the wine 
is good it will sell. Well, often it doesn't. Secondly, the 
marketing people very often have no appreciation of the pitfalls 
and the difficulties in producing a fine product. So, it's 
important that those two sectors get together, and that's what 
we're trying to do. 

Dorfman: So, some of the graduates of your program, those not directly 

selling to the retailer, would be involved in a peripheral way? 

Fromm: Quite a number of small quality wineries have many visitors. And 
they should know how to treat them without overwhelming them. How 
to do it in the proper way so that the customer doesn't feel 
pressured. And some of those winemakers now go out and call 
together with their salesmen, when they have the time. So, they 
take on that additional function of being helpful in the marketing 
end of the business. 

Dorfman: How many graduates of the program are selling full time to the 


Fromm: They are net only selling to the retailers. Some of them are now 
employed by some of the large firms in their advertising 
department. You know, if you want to advertise a wine you are 
supposed to know something about it. It's to me an un-American 
attitude to disregard product knowledge. 

Program Changes 

Dorfman: The program is so new how has it changed since it began? 

Fromm: Yes. We learned certain things that were more important than 
others. We got additional people to give the lectures, people 
from different parts of the industry, and some wine writers. But 
the program has been very well accepted. If the university could 
give us more classrooms, and if we had more money, we could have 
five times as many students. There is such a demand for the 
program from all over the country. 

There are some marketing programs at the University of 
California at Davis and at ether places, in Fresno State 
University, for example, but they're not really thorough programs. 
They are somewhat superficial, whereas we go into the details and 
specifics and say, "This is the way you set up a display. This 
the way where it should be seen. Let's say you have a few boxes 
of wine next to a refrigerator case." They're all those things 
that one has learned over many years. The people who send us 
those students, they generally don't advertise. So, it has to be 
sold in an entirely different way. They learn how to make up a 
nice sales brochure. Most of those people don't know when they 
received a gold medal, how to hang a replica on the bottle. There 
are hundreds of techniques being taught by people who have had 
great experience, who have been in this industry for many years, 
and have found what has been successful. 

Dorfman: So, the course includes theory, but certainly goes beyond ? 

Fromm: Oh, yes. Mostly the practical things because that's what the 

people need. Of course, the one thing in selling which we always 
tell our students is, you have to work very hard, and you have to 
be willing very often to take some bad days with the good days, 
and you need a certain aggressiveness to want to succeed. Your 
psychological attitude is very important in selling. It's not 
only knowledge. You can have a professor with the greatest 
knowledge in something, who can be the greatest dud when you talk 
to him because he cannot relate. 



The Future 

Dorfman: What are the future plans? 

Fromm: Well, we want to continue this. And what I would like is for the 
Wine Marketing Center to ultimately become the marketing center 
for most of the agricultural products of California We have 
almonds; we have all sorts of fruits; we have everything in 
California. We try to show the agricultural community that they 
need better educated people, that marketing is very important. 

Dorfman: And how to tap into the experience of those who have been 

Fromm: Yes. We are not that far yet, but that's ultimately what I would 
like to see. 

Dorfman: Are there plans for that in the future? 

Fromm: Yes. We are talking about it, but it's a matter of money, too. 
Agriculture doesn't pay much and it's very difficult to get any 
money from those people. But there are large producers. When you 
look at pistachio nuts, many people never have heard of them. 
Well, we produce them now here in California. Look at kiwi fruit. 
They are being produced now here. Many things of that sort that 
are small, items, in the total picture, but very important items to 
the people who produce them, and can be very profitable. They 
don't have an organization. They don't have anyone. Really, they 
might have an agent who sells it, or so. But the agent has fifty 
other things. 

Dorfman: So, a marketing program then would help to make a more cohesive 
community among them as well. 

Fromm: Yes, that's what we would ultimately like to see. I hope I would 
be around long enough to see it. 

Dorfman: Do you have a projected date? 

Fromm: No, this has to develop. You knew, in my long business life, I 

often have seen that if you make definite plans that something has 
to be done by a certain date, very often, it doesn't work. It has 
to develop in a natural way. 

Dorfman: Are there other parallel programs? 

Fromm: Not in the same way, no. Ours is the most complete program of 
wine marketing and to my knowledge, product knowledge. 

Dorfman: Did you and Dr. Newton pattern the program after another program? 


Fremm: No, we worked it out ourselves. 
Dorfman: What else would you like to add? 

Fromm: Well, there's not much else. I gave it considerable time and 
still do. and have a real involvement. But I hope this will 
develop the way we want. I always felt the industry was very good 
to me. I worked hard for it, naturally, but we were fortunate. 
So, I would like to give something back, and see that the industry 
develops in a normal and proper way, instead of just ending up as 
a few giant firms who will produce millions and millions of cases 
of an average, good drinkable wine, but not of real qualilty wine. 
This has to be maintained and it is something that people in 
America often don't understand. The wine industry, of course, is 
a new business with fourteen years of prohibition. There was no 
wine business when we came over. A number of us began to create 




Dorfman: I saw a photograph of you in an ad for Barren's, the publication. 
It was October of 1977 in Dun's Review. Why don't you tell me 
about that? 

Fromm: Well, Barren's contacted me and asked me if I would be willing to 
be in an ad. I said, "I will be if you feature our product. And 
it will cost you a contribution of a few hundred dollars to the 
Fromm Institute For Lifelong Learning. I will not personally 
accept any money from you." And they did. [laughter] It was in 
Barren's and in quite a few other magazines. 

Dorfman: Yes, it was a very well done ad. How much time did that take to 

Fromm: It took a day or so. 
Dorfman: That's very interesting. 

Fromm: But those are all very little things, Mrs. Dorfman. I would never 
have considered this as anything that would interest anyone. 

Dorfman: You are a member of the advisory board of the California State 
University at San Francisco. 

Fromm: Yes, we knew the various presidents of the state university very 
well. And my late brother, Norman, had particularly good 
connections to the art department, music and other art forms. And 
we have continued on that. The last president was Dr. Paul 
Romberg. He just died a few months ago. He was a very close 
personal friend of ours and he was one of the founding directors 
of the Fromm Institute, too. We asked him to help us to recruit 
the proper professors for us, which he did. And his predecessors, 
the first two or three before him, we all knew quite well. Glenn 
Dumke, who was the chancellor of the whole university system, is a 
personal friend of ours. 

Dorfman: And what contribution have you made in an advisory capacity? 


Fromm: Well, there were a number of problems which came up at that 

university, particularly housing, for others, money, of course. 
And they are discussed at great lengths by this advisory board, 
and we gave our opinions and tried to come to a solution. I 
personally have recruited a few members to join. I have given 
seme financial assistance. We know the new President, Dr. Chiu 
Wei, a very intelligent man. In fact, he was present at the last 
dinner of the Fromm Institute. We always had a very nice 
relationship net only with the top people but were involved with 
a number of things that were dene there, but all of it, Mrs. 
Dorfman, I don't think it's even worthwhile for anyone to know. 

Dorfman: It will give researchers an idea of how things work. 

Samuel Bronfman and the Seagram Company 

Dorfman: I know that you admired Samuel Bronfman. Please tell me why. 

Fromm: Samuel Bronfman was an outstanding business man. He had 

tremendous foresight, and knew or anticipated things long before 
anyone else. And my late partner, Franz Sichel, knew Samuel 
Bronfman quite well. He had visited him with his wife when my 
partner, at that time, lived in Berlin. When Franz Sichel came to 
the United States, Samuel Bronfman gave him a job. Then later 
Franz Sichel and I formed the partnership of Fromm and Sichel 
Importers, Inc., and I was introduced to Sam. I had great 
admiration for him because he was absolutely insistent that 
everything had to be of the highest quality. 

Sometimes people thought he was in the bootleg business. 
Well, he really wasn't. In Canada, he sold to people who 
bootlegged it later, but in Canada it was perfectly legal to sell 
liquor. He was an extremely smart man and after I dealt with him 
for a year or so, I felt that the man started to respect me. Then 
we became very good friends. He was very helpful to me whenever 
we needed something because Seagram became the largest partner in 
our firm. Whatever we suggested to him, he'd say go ahead and do 

A Valued Business and Personal Relationship 

Fromm: He helped me enormously with good advice. He always was a very 

busy man, and ours was a comparatively small business. He always 
had time and if he didn't have time during the day, he'd say to 
me, "Alfred, come over to the St. Regis Hotel." He had a big 



Fromm: apartment there. "Have dinner with me and we can talk." Then 

we'd talk for three, four hours which was very strenuous because 
he was extremely sharp and intelligent. You had to be careful ef 
what you told him because he never forgot anything. 

Here is his picture. [pointing at a photograph on office 
wall] In the middle, this is Samuel Bronfman. He gave this to me 
with a very nice dedication and I have some other mementos from 
him. I always have been on very friendly terms with the Bronfman 
family and with the sons, Edgar and Charles. Edgar in New York, 
and Charles in Montreal. They head the worldwide Seagram 

Dorfman: You say his most important traits were his intelligence and his 
demand that everything be ef the highest quality? 

Fromm: Yes. 

Dorfman: Can you give me some examples? 

Fromm: Well, when I first met him, I was very unsure of myself. I never 
had talked to a man of that importance. It was many years ago and 
we were still a small firm. I was prepared to tell him everything 
about our firm. After we sat down he had invited us for lunch 
he said to me, "Well, Alfred, what can I do to help you make 
better wine?" That sold the man to me. He never asked me how 
much money do you make, and what you think you can make in the 
future. He knew that Franz Sichel and I would do the right thing. 
He had a great feeling about people. You know that certain people 
instinctively have the feeling that they are or are not dealing 
with the right kind of persons. 

So, I told him what he could do to assist us and they sent us 
out some of their experts. When we went into the Christian 
Brother's Brandy business we had the same old stills as everyone 
else. And Sam said to us, "You need different and better stills." 
I said, "There's nobody to build them. There's nobody who knows 
anything about it." He said, "We have the people who build them." 
And he sent his top experts out from the distilling business and 
they designed a still for the Christian Brothers which is still a 
unique still in California. It's probably the reason why Christian 
Brother's Brandy was always a leading brandy in the country. We 
made a better product. 

Things of that sort which he did for us, and how to blend 
brandies and other matters were of invaluable advice. I listened 
very carefully to what he had to say. But there was a very close 
personal relationship. Unfortunately, he died some years ago and 
I was a pallbearer at his funeral. 


Dorfman: That's too bad. When he gave you advice, were you then affiliated 
in the business sense? 

Fromm: Yes, before we were affiliated with him, and then after we were 
affiliated with him. But, of course, he saw the balance sheets 
and then we talked about it. He said, "You know, you are doing 
okay. " That was all he said and that was good enough. [laughter] 

Dorfman: Well, he was a man, then, who gathered his information first, and a 
great visionary. 

Fromm: Yes, yes, he was. I had the greatest admiration and respect for 
that man. 

Dorfman: What other experiences did you have with him? 

Fromm: I told you, Sam asked me what he could do to help. When I made my 
will, I asked him how I should do certain things. He gave me some 
invaluable advice. One was that if one of the spouses is 
financially not in the same class as the other, be sure in your 
will that you leave a bequest to the other spouse, too. So, if 
the wife is the one who has more money, and the man has much less 
or visaversa, this can lead to great complications. I have told 
this to many people and they have been grateful. We have always 
included this in our own wills. Money is a very good thing, but 
can be a very bad thing, too. 

Dorfman: So, that is a good way then to use money as an enabler. 

Fromm: Yes. Sam was a very charitable person. He was the President of 
the World Jewish Congress for many years. His son Edgar is now, 
and Sam involved me in that. We had a few meetings on that in our 
home and raised quite some money. There was a dinner given by the 
World Jewish Congress in my honor. I received a beautiful silver 
kiddush cup with a very nice inscription and Samuel Bronfman's 
signature embossed on it. Whenever I was in New York, he always 
would see me although there were sometimes many people waiting for 


Dorfman: Obviously, the relationship had a great deal of meaning to him 


Fromm: One thing I can say about Sam was you know, a man who had such a 
tremendous amount of money and power, can become very suspicious. 
Many people have some intention of asking for something or involve 
them in something which I never did. And I knew Sam trusted me. 
That took a few years to build such a relationship, naturally. 
That's why whatever we wanted that was reasonable, and I didn't 
ask for anything that wasn't, he would just say, go ahead and do it. 



Fromm: So, I ran this firm for the last twenty, thirty years. Even 

though Seagram's was the majority stockholder, Fromm and Sichel 
was run completely autonomously. And I think we were the only 
firm in this giant Seagram's concern that had that privilege. 

Dorfman: As a result of the relationship-? 

Fromm: Of the relationship with Sam, and then later with his sons. It 

was a relationship of complete trust and confidence. We did well 
too, which didn't hurt. You know, most of the large firms, they 
interfere in almost everything. Large firms are the killers of 
small business very often. But Seagram's did not interfere 
whatsoever, until I retired. And then the firm was sold. One of 
the good reasons why the firm was sold was the fact that I was 
retiring and I was 79 years old. Because I was retiring, there 
was no one in the Seagram organization to deal with a religious 
Catholic order like the Christian Brothers. 

Dorfman: How did Mr. Bronfman's sons differ? 

Fromm: Well, Edgar who is Seagram's Chairman of the Board in New York is 
a very intelligent man, a good personal friend, too. His other 
son, Charles, who lives in Montreal, handles the Canadian and 
other business and a good personal friend of ours, too. We get 
along very well. I must say in those almost forty years that we 
were with Seagram's, we never had a cross word either with any one 
of the Bronfman family or with any one of their top executives. 
But I made it my business only to discuss things with their top 
executives and not get involved en the lower level, because that's 
where the trouble mostly starts. And of course, the lower level 
didn't like it at all that I, who owned much less of the firm than 
Seagram did, had such complete autonomy. 

Dorfman: Who didn't like it? 

Fromm: The lower level people: the insurance people and the financial 

people. In fact, we did many things better than they did. But we 
had to. [laughter] 

Dorfman: And so the relationship with the sons, Edgar and Charles, 
continues to this day. Do you still see them? 

Fromm: Oh, yes. We maintain our contact with them. We know Sam's wife 
Sadie who lives in Montreal. She has had her ninetieth birthday. 
Our families know each other well. 




March 12, 197L 

Mr. Alfred Fromm, 

Fromm & Sichel, Inc. , 

1255 Post Street, 

San Francisco, California 94109. 

My dear Alfred, 

I am looking at your heartwarming letter 

of February 25th, I have not been able to reply to it sooner 
because as you know I was in New York and then have had a 
string of birthday parties culminating in a large Industry Party 
at Ottawa the day before yesterday so today I am back at the 

As I approached my 80th Birthday it gave me 
a great deal of food for thought of what has happened in our 
world in the past 80 years of my life and reminiscing my own 
life in relationship to what has happened in the world, I have 
some wonderful memories of my associations in the development 
of my personal life, my family life and my business life. In all 
three I have been a most fortunate man. I have enjoyed in my 
business life many friendships - yea romances - and one of the 
outstanding business romances in my life has been my happy 
relationship with Franz and yourself. Let us pray that we con 
tinue in good health and that we may enjoy our very pleasant 
relationships and continue to be happy with our families and 
with our good deeds. 

"With my warmest regards to Hanna and yourself 
and family, I am 




1891 - 1971 

On July 13, 1971, Mr. Samuel Bronfman, the founder, builder and 
Chairman of the Board of the Seagram empire, was laid to rest. 
In his memory all the activities of our firm stopped on this day. 
I attended the funeral in Montreal, and having known Mr. Sam for 
over thirty years I believe that you would like to know more about 
this man who, already in his lifetime, was a legendary figure in our 



Over these many years my late partner Franz Sichel and I were indeed 
fortunate to have his friendship and trust and the benefit of his 
wise counsel. 

It would be redundant to dwell on Mr. Bronfman's success in building 
an enterprise that stretches to all corners of the globe and is the 
largest in our industry throughout the world. I had the privilege 
on many occasions to observe him as the big-hearted, warm and lovable 
person he was, with a deep concern for others. Mr. Sam was an activist 
in numerous charities, who gave fully of himself in addition to his 
large financial contributions. 

Almost every time I saw him, Mr. Sam stressed the dignity of business 
and people and the need to earn the consumer's lasting respect. Highest 
quality in product was almost an obsession with him, a point on which 
I never saw him compromise. By his example he has immeasurably lifted 
the status of the whole liquor industry in this country, to which he 
has left a lasting legacy. 

Samuel Bronfman will be remembered, not only as an empire builder, but 
as a good and kind human being. I revered this man who, through his 
example, had a great influence on my life. His passing is an enormous 
personal loss for all those who were fortunate enough to have known 
him well. 

Mr. Sam, during his lifetime, has wisely provided for good and capable 
successors to direct the world -wide business which he founded. In his 
sons he has raised men of proven ability who will follow his example 
of leadership. 



The Wine Museum, San Francisco; Now the Seagram Museum. Waterloo, 

Ontario. Canada 

Derfman: I understand that the Wine Museim has been moved to Canada. 

Fromm: Partly to Canada, and the most valuable part, the glass collection, 
is now at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. 

Dorfman: The glass collection is at the de Young. 

Fromm: Because this is really what the cere value of the museum antiques 
was. Probably with between half a million and a million dollars, 
so it's a sizable, a fabulous collection. There is a special room 
at the de Young Museum for the Franz Sichel Glass Collection. 

Dorfman: What about the museum itself, which was moved to Canada? We do 
know that the museum was moved to Canada at the time that the 
firm, Fromm and Sichel, was sold. I wonder what thoughts you've 
had about the change of location. 

Fromm: The Seagram Museum is located in Waterloo, Ontario, which is about 
an hour away from Toronto. It's a large museum, and it has, I 
think, thirty-seven thousand square feet, and a very valuable 
collection that the Seagram people have assembled over some time. 
There are antiques that are particularly interesting to the 
production of spirits and a very sizable collection of wine 
antiques, not only from the San Francisco Wine Museum, but also 
antiques that they have acquired. A very valuable part of the 
wine collection is my own library, which has one of the most 
valuable libraries of old wine books, some of them very rare. I 
contributed this to the "Friends of Samuel Bronfman Foundation," 
and they turned it over to the Seagram Museum. Mr. Sam was my 
patron saint, so I thought that this would be a fitting thing to 

The value of those books is hard to say, but it could be 100 
to 150,000 dollars. They were some very rare and valuable books 
collected over fifty years. 

Dorfman: What kind of books, for example? 

Fromm: Strictly having to do with wine. Books that were written about 

wine. I think our earliest books were from between 1500 and 1600. 
They are in Latin, Italian, German in all languages because the 
wine culture in English-speaking countries came much later. So 
that we had about five or six hundred books, but very carefully 
selected and very rare. 

Dorfman: So that the focus was on the production of wine? 



Fromm: The production of wine, the knowledge ef wine, and the place ef 
wine whatever was written many years ago. And then, of course, 
there were quite a few volumes dealing with wine that were from 
this century. 

Dorfman: What has been your involvement with the museum since that time? 

Fromm: Well. I was the founder of the Wine Museum in San Francisco. We 
had a museum director who worked under me. but I was the guiding 
spirit of the museum. I think I told you that we had about a 
million and a half visitors during the museum's San Francisco 
existence. It was like a little jewel-box, with selected, small 
exhibits. We had a tremendous amount of publicity all over the 


Dorfman: And your involvement since its move to Ontario? 

Fromm: I have no further involvement in it except always keeping in touch 
with the director of the Seagram Museum, giving him some 

Dorfman: How have they changed the museum since its move? 

Fromm: They added the collections of the Wine Museum in San Francisco to 
their own and it made a very beautiful presentation. 

Dorfman: Do you have any feelings about any changes or publicity that the 
museun might benefit by? 

Fromm: Yes, the Seagram Museum received very wide publicity, and it 

probably is today, or certainly will be, the leading museum in 
North America dealing with spirits and wines. 

More About the Wine Business 

Dorfman: The plaque at the entrance to your suite of offices indicates 

the Brandy Association. In what way is that related to the Brandy 
Association of California and Brandy Associates? 

Fromm: It's the same. But Brandy Associates is a division of the Seagram 
Company in New York and this is its actual legal name, but it's 
known as Brandy Association of California. I'm chairman of the 
board. I was chairman of the board of Fromm and Sichel but the 
firm was sold back to the Christian Brothers. They wanted to 
retain the name of Fromm and Sichel because it was a very 
respected name throughout the country. 



California Medical Clinic for Psychotherapy; Vice Chairman 

Derfman: You were Vice Chairman of California Medical Clinic for 

Fromm: I was for a number of years. It was an organization that rendered 
psychiatric services at very low prices. There were doctors in 
charge and some other personnel who were not medical doctors, but 
had a license to practice in psychology. It was quite a good 
organization, but they were in a terrible financial mess. They 
had accounts receivable that went back for years by people that 
just hadn't paid, and they always were in financial straits. 
So, I contributed a good sum and with the help of some other 
people, straightened out their financial situation. 

Dorfman: You gave them financial and organizational advice. 

Fromm: Yes. I didn't try to interfere in psychiatry because I'm not 

qualified for that. I always have stuck to these things that at 
least I know something about. 

Dorfman: I understand that the clients of this clinic were primarily middle 

Fromm: Middle class and lower-middle class. 

Dorfman: And they were based here in San Francisco? 

Fromm: Partly in the avenues, I think they are still there. 

Dorfman: What sort of contribution do you feel that the organization has 

Fromm: Well, it gave many people who could not afford to go to a 

psychiatrist the opportunity to get counseling either in a' group 
or individual when it was necessary at very low- rates. 



Dorfman: I understand that your role in the group began in 1964 until 1968 
er 1969? 

Fromm: Yes, that's about right. 




St. Mary's College; Beard of Regents 

Before we go en to your work in music, would you like te tell me 
about your role as regent with St. Mary's College? 

My wife and I have always been very interested in education. __ And 
I knew the people in St. Mary's College very well because St. 
Mary's College is owned by the Christian Brothers. Our firm was 
the world-wide distributer for the Christian Brothers wines and 
brandy located at Napa. I got acquainted with the people of the 
college in Moraga in the East Bay. I could see that a lot could 
be done. There was a new president. Brother Mel Andersen, who is 
still there as president, a first class, capable man. Hie large 
deficits that they had were wiped out gradually. Today, it's 
really a flourishing institution. 

So, I was elected te the Board of Regents of St. Mary's 
College. I was there for many years, but now I'm not so active 
anymore. I'm now a regent emeritus. 


How long were you a regent? 

It must have started in 1970. I was elected te the Board of 
Regents of St. Mary's College in 1970, and stayed until 1984 when 

I became a regent emeritus. 

Now, my late partner, Franz Sichel in New York, was also very 
much interested in education. And I made it possible fer St. 
Mary's College to receive, after my partner's death, about five 
hundred thousand dollars from the Sichel Foundation te build a 
special building for biology that was very badly needed. It is 
named the Franz W. Sichel Biology Building. But this was done 
after I had been a regent fer quite a number of years. 

I have been active on the board of regents and there were a 
lot ef problems which always came up because the school was in bad 
financial shape when I joined. Over the years, it really made 
very wonderful progress. 

Today, they turn people away if their grades are not 
sufficiently good because all their facilities are fully used. 
They have about twelve hundred students. They have many Christian 
Brothers as professors who have studied for many years all ever 


Fromm: the world. And then they have some outside professors and 
teachers too. It's a very good school and it became co 
educational. That, of course, made a big difference. But you 
know, in the early years Moraga was not easily accessible. But 
today, the East Bay has built up so much and is such a flourishing 
part of the country. This has made a big difference because it's 
easy to get to now. 

Dorfman: What is the greatest personal contribution that you made as a 
regent to St. Mary's? 

Fromm: Well, that I was able to get the financing and the donations for 
the Franz Sichel Biology Building. Brother Mel Anderson, the 
president, is a good personal friend of mine, too. And I have 
helped throughout the years wherever it was necessary. They've 
founded a museum that was endowed by the Hearst Foundation, a very 
nice little museum. And as I knew a bit about the museum 
business, I was on that committee for that museum and have been 
able to give some advice. 

Founding Member of the President's CLub 

Dorfman: You were also a founding member of the President's dub. 

Fromm: Yes, I was the president of the President's Club for many years, 
[chuckle] When I took this job, we had maybe thirty or forty 
members. And by contacting many people personally and in writing, 
they have now about three hundred and fifty members who paid, at 
that time, a thousand dollars a year. Today, I think it's twelve 
hundred dollars a year. I have made a much larger contribution 
for many years, and still continue to do so. 

Dorfman: And the President's ? 

Fromm: The President's Club raises substantial money for the college and 
they can use those funds for their regular expenses. It has 
become an important part of the financial arm of the college. 

Dorfman: That enters the general fund for the college? 

Fromm: Yes. 

Dorfman: How long have you been a member of that club? .. 


Fromm: It may be ten or twelve years. 


Honorary Alumnus, 1981; Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, May 1974 

Dorfman: You were also elected an honorary alumnus in 1981. 

Fromm: As you know, 1 have no college education, They elected me an 

honorary alumnus. I really don't know why, [chuckle] but it was 
really in some way. maybe to thank me for the many things that 1 
had done for St. Mary's College. I think I told you, I have an 
honorary doctor's degree from St. Mary's College. 

Dorfman: Tell me about that, please. 

Fromm: After a few years, the college felt very strongly that they owed 
me something. Although I never asked them for anything, they 
asked me if 1 would accept an honorary doctor's degree. I said I 
certainly would. And they gave me a D.H.L., Doctor of Humane 
Letters. I received this in 1974, and the bishop of Sacramento 
was the one who gave the address and award. I think this is 
pretty well what he said. [showing degree] 

Dorfman: In addition, you received a degree of Doctor of Public Service, 
1979 from the University of San Francisco. 

Fromm: My wife got the same degree because the Fromm Institute was a 

joint undertaking of my wife and me, from the University of San 
Francisco, 1979. 

Dorfman: Two honorary degrees. 

Fromm: They're the only degrees that I have. [chuckle] 

Dorfman: Those are very impressive achievements and you must be very proud 
of them. 

Fromm: It just happened when I got the honorary doctor's degree from St. 
Mary's College that my son David visited us in California. So, he 
came with me and my wife. 

Dorfman: Did you have anything else that you might add about your 
involvement with St. Mary's College? 

Fromm: I think that covers it pretty welL I was very active there for a 
number of years. And I was highly pleased with the progress made 
under President Brother Mel Anderson of St. Mary's College. We 
worked very closely together. 

Tuition is quite high there, as in any private college so 
there's always the problem of where the funds come from. They 
have a lot of minority students over in St. Mary's College and 
quite a lot of scholarships. 

ALFRED FEOMM - As an exponent of the best tradition of European culture and 
refinement, as a respected and successful businessman and as a beloved 
benefactor and Regent of Saint Mary's College, we salute you. 

You brought with you the wisdom and business acumen of your ancestors' 
two hundred years experience in the wine business when you emigrated to the 
United States from Germany. Convinced that the future of the wine business 
was in California's premium wine districts, you secured representation of 
the Christian Brothers winery in Napa, California, in 1937 and have been 
associated with it ever since. 

Together with your late beloved partner, Franz W. Sichel, you made the 
Christian Brothers name synonomous with excellence. As the wines and 
brandies you distribute grow in popularity, the work of the Christian 
Brothers also flourished - supported by the emoluments you made possible. 

The largesse of your heart is manifested in the beautiful Wine Museum 
recently opened near the waterfront in San Francisco. There, for all fro 
enjoy, is a tribute to the romance and history of winemaking, as well as 
the exquisite glass collection of Mr. Sichel. The museum is the realization 
of a longtime dream to share your love of a noble art with the world. 

Your philanthrophy toward charitable and cultural organizations is 
attested to by your numerous associations: with the Jewish National Fund, 
San Francisco Opera Association and San Francisco Conservatory of Music to 
name a few. The Fromm legacy spreads throughout the United States, as your 
brother Paul is the founder and president of the Fromm Music Foundation, 
which nurtures symphonic music in the Chicago area, and your twin brother 
Herbert is musical director of Temple Israel in Boston and foremost composer 
of liturgical music. Your late brother Norman was the founder of the San 
Francisco Chamber Music Society. 

As a fitting monument to your generosity toward Saint Mary's College, 
and the love of your late partner for the Christian Brothers, the Franz 
W. Sichel Biology Center will soon rise on the Saint Mary's campus. It 
will ever testify to the loyalty and largesse you have displayed throughout 
your life, as your plea as President of the Franz W. Sichel Foundation made 
a grant for its construction possible. 

On the occasion of its one hundred eleventh commencement, Saint Mary's 
College of California is pleased to recognize your many contributions to it 
and society by conferring upon you the Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. 

Text of Alfred Fromm 's Honorary Degree conferred by Saint Mary's College 

May 25 3 1974 


Alfred Froiran receiving Honorary Degree, Doctor of Humane 
Letters. St. Mary's College, May 1974. 



Dorfman : So that funding is all the more a problem. 
Fromm: Yes, it is. 

Dorfman: Is that the major problem of a small private school such as St. 

Fromm: No. there's funding, and then there is academic excellence of a 

school. They have improved this tremendously. I know St. Mary's 
College in California well because of their relationship to the 
Christian Brothers. And knowing the provincial of the Christian 
Brothers very well, under whose direction the college was run, 
they had very hard times for a long period. 

Music in the Vineyards ; Co-Founder 

Dorfman: We can go on to your involvement and the contributions that you've 
made to music. I'd like first to ask you about Music in the 


Fromm: Our oldest brother, Norman, was quite knowledgeable in music and 
always very much interested. And my twin brother, Herbert, is a 
professional musician. So, music played a big role in our home as 
we grew up, even though I don't play an instrument, nor do I 
really know very much about music except that I enjoy it. 

In Paul Masson, there is a big terrace and it overlooks the 
whole Santa Qara Valley. It's just beautiful. Outstanding 
scenically. Then there is that old winery. The portal of the 
winery is probably three or four hundred years eld. It came from 
Italy. In the little chateau we had some guests up there, and my 
wife talked to Kurt Herbert Adler, who was the general director of 
the opera, and she said, "Wouldn't it be a marvelous place to have 
a concert for the people?" We didn't know what the acoustics 
would be. Then the Ford Foundation had this institution near 
Saratoga where professors from all over the world came for a 
sabbatical. They came up and played, and then we found that the 
acoustics were excellent. 

We followed up on that. My wife and my brother Norman did 
all the work to make this possible. My role was a different one. 
I was, at that time, the president of Paul Masson. The firm had 
developed and had become much larger, and we needed a lot of 
money. There was a question: could we afford to do this. But we 
all thought this was such a worthwhile thing to do, and we were 
the first ones who had outdoor concerts. I think we appropriated 
five thousand dollars to start the whole thng. Today, it would 
cost many, many times more. But except for the music, we did all 
the work ourselves in order to save money. 


Fremm: At that time, the read up was very bad. It was very curvy and 

very narrow. We had some hay-wagons and took the people up there. 
They loved having this beautiful view and then during the 
intermissions, we served them some champagne, Paul Masson 
champagne. And it became very popular. We had at first four or 
five hundred people because it was all we could accommodate. Then 
we created some additional parking spaces and now they have about 
a thousand people. The concerts are every year and they are 
always completely sold out. There are hundreds and hundreds of 
people who write in for tickets and whom we cannot accommodate 


Dorfman: So, you wouldn't have the space for more than a thousand people? 

Fromm: No, and we didn't want any more because it becomes almost 

unmanageable. Many, many people came down from San Francisco and 
from other areas. Then, of course, many people came up from Santa 
CLara. It became a very popular thing. In the meantime it has 
been expanded substantially. But all the performances are on a 
very high level. We had some really outstanding musicians play 
there. We gave some small operas, too. And you know when you sit 
outside with this beautiful view in nice weather and have some 
champagne, you get people who just loved it and still do. 

Then one of the reasons, too, for doing this was that we were 
newcomers in California. 

Dorfman: What year did this begin? 

Fromm: This is now twenty years ago. And I felt that besides the 

artistic value, that it would have a very good publicity value, 
too, for Paul Masson. Our competitors who sometimes didn't look so 
fondly at us because we were successful in our business, we 
invited them, and they came. I think it has created a very good 
atmosphere for the firm and for us personally. If you are Jewish, 
you know, there is always this talk that Jews take the business 
away. But we created a business that didn't exist. So, we didn't 
take it away from anyone and everybody had the same chance. 

My brother Norman ran the concerts and spent considerable 
time selecting the programs. He was really the soul of Music in 
the Vineyards ! 

Dorfman: It has been a model? 

Fromm: Yes. It's now done in Napa Valley and many other places. It's 
really a very nice thing during the summer. 

Dorfman: What was the most successful program over the yenrs? 



Fronm: It's hard to say which one was the most successful because every 
year the program was carefully accepted. We had Sander Salgo, a 
Hungarian, as conductor. I think he is still there today and was a 
professor of music at Stanford. 

Dorfman: And what kind of a future de you see for Music in the Vineyards? 

Fromm: Well. I hope this will be continued for many more years because 
it's such a successful and pleasant undertaking. 

Dorfman: Do you anticipate any changes? 

Fromm: I don't think so. I'm not involved in this anymore. There's more 
modern music today which twenty years ago was net as popular as it 
is today. But we always have tried to have at least one piece of 
modern music right from the beginning. We felt this was a good 
way to present it and get the people acquainted with it. 

Dorfman: So, the breadth of this program has broadened? 

Fromm: Yes, there were generally very good critiques in the newspapers. 
It really was a nice thing to do. 

Norman Fromm, Founder; San Francisco Chamber Music Society 

Dorfman: Your brother, Norman, who was the co-founder of Music in the 

Vineyards, was also the founder of the San Francisco Chamber Music 
Society, I understand. 

Fromm: Yes, he was. He died about ten or twelve years ago. 

Dorfman: What can you tell me about your brother's work with the San 
Francisco Chamber Music Society? 

Fromm: Well, my brother Norman was very knowledgeable about music and he 
knew almost everybody in the music world here and in other cities, 
too. He was able to get the cooperation of outstanding 
performers. It was a new organization and of course, like 
everything else it takes money. So, I contributed accordingly as 
did quite a few of our friends. We sold tickets at a fairly low 
price because, you know, the ticket prices that we have today for 
good concerts was something that didn't exist in those days. 

Dorfman: Yes. And then when we discussed accessibility 

Fromm: The concerts were held in various places. In the last years, I 

think, it was mostly at the hall in the Fireman's Fund Building in 
California Street. Then there was this stipend made for "Norman 


Fromm : 

Fromm Concerts" after he had died. And we have helped with this. 
But now the San Francisco Chamber Music Society, I think, is going 
to be dissolved because there are not enough people anymore who 
have an interest. There are always new things coming up. And as 
you know, all this is the product of a person. There was no one 
there who really would spend the time and the interest as my 
brother had. So, I belive it went on for something like twelve or 
fifteen years. But it was definitely a contribution to the 
cultural life here. 

Paul Fromm, Founder; Fromm Music Foundation, Harvard University 

Dorfman: Your brother Paul, it has been said, is the most famous musically. 
What can you add to what you told me earlier? 

Fromm: Yes. He's the youngest of us. He's about two years younger than 
I am. He was in our firm in Bingen and was very active there. 
But his love was always music. When he was able to come to this 
country, he went to Chicago and joined a wine firm there which we 
later bought. He started his own firm, Geeting and Fromm. It was 
quite successful because some of the salesmen who had worked for 
us in Germany, when they immigrated to the United States, wanted 
to work for him. We had a lot of experience in selling to 
consumers. And he built a very nice and profitable business. 

As soon as he started to make some money and was financially 
independent he started the Fromm Music Foundation in 1952 in 
Chicago. He had a group of advisors, all outstanding musicians. 
Their aim was to promote only modern music because at that time it 
was almost impossible to get modern music performed in a large 
city. They always perform good old pieces that everybody loves. 
What my brother did was: after the board of the Fromm Music 
Foundation accepted a work, they guaranteed that it would be 
performed and it would be published. The composers had no chance 
otherwise. They were sometimes salesmen of neckties, of shoes, 
or teachers or whatever jobs they had. You certainly couldn't 
make a living on modern music. 

So, the new works were published and performed, which was 
something those young people who wrote modern music never were 
able to do for themselves. And some of them discovered by the 
Fromm Music Foundation have become leading modern composers. 

Derfman: Are there names that come to mind? 

Fromm: I can't remember the names, 

I know very little about modern 


Fromm: My brother has been named one of the most valuable citizens in the 
cultural life of Chicago. Later on, as he get elder, he wanted to 
make sure that the Fromm Music Foundation would go on. He turned 
it over to Harvard University. It's now the Fromm Music 
Foundation at Harvard University. But my brother is still the 
president of it. He felt that Harvard would continue this and he 
has endowed it with a very substantial amount, so that the money 
for it is available. Paul received two honorary doctoral degrees 
and is considered the leading personality in the world of serious 
modern music in the United States. He has written many articles 
about modern music for the New York Times and ether leading 
newspapers and magazines. 

Dorfman: I understand that from 1952 until 1957. he aided fifty young 
composers to write ambitious music. 

Fr omm : It couldwell be. 

Dorfman: Epic Lable, Twentieth Century Composer Series apparently issued 
the recordings. 

Fromm: He died at eighty years of age in July. 1987. His obituary 

appeared in the New York Times. I always thought of my brother as 
a first-rate intellectual who made the largest contribution in our 
family to this country. 

San Francisco Conservatory of Music; Board of Trustees 

Dorfman: Another of your efforts was with the San Francisco Conservatory of 
Music. How did you happen to become involved? 

Fromm: Through some friends of mine who were on the board of the 

conservatory. There was a lot of trouble at that time. The 
director wasn't the right man and their financial situation was 

very unsound. They asked me if I would join them as a trustee 

which I did many years ago. 

Dorfman: About what year would you say? 

Fromm: It must be easily twenty-five years ago. 

I have helped them financially. The director is there for 
twenty years by now. Milton Salkind is also a personal friend f 
eurs. He's doing an outstanding job. Today the conservatory is 
one f the leading conservatories in the United States. But it 
wasn't at that time. Now that we have good professional people 
handling this, our job was to see that things run right. 


Fromm, Krause 
Rooms Dedicated 

On May 4, Conservatory President . 
Milton Salkind, and Board of Trustee* 
Chairman . John C. Beckman. presided 
at the dedication of the Hanna and 
Alfred Fromm Room at the Conserva 
tory. The room naming was attended 
by Conservatory Board member* and 
friends of the Fromm*. and included a 
short concert by Conservatory students 
Jeff Lee, Wende Namkung, HoUy 
Houser, Elizabeth Van Loon and Steve 
Kalm and remarks by Mr. Beckman. 
The Board of Trustees voted to name 
the room, which is one of the class 
rooms in the new Conservatory build 
ing, to commemorate the support the 
Fromms have given the Conservatory 
over the years both financially and 
otherwise. Mr. Fromm has been a 
member of the Board for many yean. 
Together with Mrs. Fromm, he has 
hern involved in and supported 
numerous San Francisco community 
activities and has had a long and 
distinguished business career as Chair 
man of Fromm and Sichel. Mr. 
Beckman made special mention of the 
frankness, honesty and humility of the 
Fromms and their true feeling for 
people and the community. 

At informal ceremonies on July 9, 
Milton Salkind presided at the dedica 
tion of the Stella R. Krause Piano 
Room at the Conservatory. Made 
possible by the generous contributions 
of Herman R. Krause, Madeline 
Altihuler and Mr. and Mrs. Stanley 
Nairin, the room is named in honor of 
their mother. The dedication cere 
monies included a short concert by 
Conservatory student, Steve Wartycki 
and a buffet lunch which was at 
tended by friends and relative! of Mrs. 
Krause's children and Conservatory 
Board member*, Curtii M. Caton, 
June Kingsley, David Hall, and Kris 

Mr. Salkind remarked upon the 
< ontiiniing ii|i|>oii <>< <!>< Ktauar 
family. He said people like them 
tpitomiie the commitment needed to 
krrp an institution like the Conserva 
loiy K."'"K. ' '' '''" umioum rd dial 
Mr, Herman Krautr made a gilt l > 
Steinway grand piano that is now in 
ihrSirlbK Ki.iii*r K.KMII 


San Francisco 
of Music 


Fromm: There is a room at the conservatory which is called "The Alfred 
and Hanna Fromm" room because we have been connected with the 
conservatory and have helped in varied and rather substantial ways 
over the years. 

Derfman: I understand that that room was dedicated in 1976. 
Fromm: Yes, that's about right. 

San Francisco Opera Association; Beard of Directors 

Dorfman: The San Francisco Opera Association is the next organization to 
which you have contributed much time and effort. 

Fromm: Well, when we came to San Francisco, Kurt Herbert Adler with his 
family came to San Francisco, too. We have known each other now 
for maybe forty-five years. And we became very friendly. He was 
at that time chorus master and worked his way up. He's an 
extremely capable man. My wife and my oldest brother always were 
very interested in the musical part of it and I was more 
interested in the business side of it. They asked me to join 
their board of directors. There were very few Jewish people at 
that time on the board. Now that has changed. I accepted it and 
have been on the board for many years. I really don't know when I 
joined them, but it must be easily twenty-five years or mere. 

Dorfman: What was the most difficult problem that the association had at 
that time? 

Fromm: Always money. There was never enough and Kurt Adler consulted me 
quite a few times. There were certain problems and I said, we 
should do it this way or the other way. So, as far as the musical 
part is concerned, as I mentioned before, I have made no 

Every year we have a box at the opera. But not on Tuesdays. 
We originally went on Tuesday which is the so-called fashionable 
day. Well, I was working very hard and on Tuesday run home, eat, 
and go to the opera and then your tongue is hanging out. So, we 
changed this to a box en Friday, and you know, on Friday you have 
much more leisure because there's Saturday coming. So, for years 
now, we have a box together with some other people on Friday. 

Dorfman: I understand that you haven't been involved in musical decisions 
for the opera. But how would you say the problems with which you 
assisted have changed over the years? 


Fromm: Well, some came after Kurt Herbert Adler retired as General 

Director of the San Francisco Opera. A new director was appointed 
and there were a lot of problems. What could one do? The top 
officers of the opera called en me and we had lunch together. We 
discussed how the opera could be put in a situation where there 
would no longer be a deficit. This has been always a very 
troublesome matter. We have given substantial amounts to the 
opera to help out. This is necessary. Without money, just 
nothing happens. 

Dorfman: From your experience, how do you think that audiences are 


Fromm: There are a lot of young people now. 
Dorfman: More so, now? 

Fromm: It's amazing. And it's not as formal, you know. In former years 
it was the playground of the so-called society. Whenever I was 
with the ether directors or officers, I always said that you have 
to change that. Society is getting old or dying out and their 
children don't have the same interest anymore. They don't have 
the money after the inheritance taxes are paid and the fortune is 
distributed to all the children. And it certainly did change the 

You have an entirely different group of people today running 
the opera than twenty years ago. I could foresee this very well. 
I said, "Well, you've got to get some unions to make it possible 
to get tickets at a low price or at certain performances, and you 
must attract the young people." And they really have reached out 
to all of California. 

I think in the restructuring of the opera, this was 
important. It was something that I was very outspoken about 
because I could see that those old people one day wouldn't be 
there anymore. And there wouldn't be the support for the opera, 
that the opera had to get their support on a very much broader 

Dorfman: So, you see a means of supporting the attendance of the young by 
getting organizations to subsidize those tickets. Are there any 
ether ways? 

Fromm: Well, we have a number of sub-organizations in the opera like the 
Medallion Society. I think you have to contribute a minimum of 
five thousand dollars. Then you are invited to some of the dress 
rehearsals and you have seme dinners and all those things. But 
that has never meant anything to me. 

Dorfman: Do you attend them? 


Fremm: Seme of them. yes. My wife is much more interested in music than 
I am. 

Derfman: Why the opera and the conservatory rather than other musical 
institutions, perhaps the ballet, for example? 

Fromm: My wife is a graduate of the Joos School in Germany which was at 

that time the most famous ballet school in Germany. She graduated 
as choreographer and when she was younger she was a dancer, too. 
She has much more interest in the ballet, but to me personally, 
the ballet is not anything that interests me. Maybe it's just 

Dorfman: Perhaps experience. Was your experience in Germany with opera? 

Fromm: It wasn't much with opera because we lived in a small town, you 
know. At that time, if you had to travel for two hours, it was 
considered a long trip. If you live in America, distances have a 
different meaning than they were in Europe. 

Dorfman: And you have been a longtime member of the San Francisco 
Commonwealth Club? 

Fromm: Yes, about twenty-five years or thirty years. You know what that 
is, they have some outstanding speakers. It's a very good 

Dorfman: And you are also currently a member of the Concordia dub? 
Fromm: Yes, also for twenty-five or thirty years. 
Dorfman: Which is a social organization. 

Fromm: Yes. And I am a member of Villa Taverna, which is a private 
dining club. 


Dorfman: You received an honorary doctorate from the University of San 
Francisco for your work with the Fromm Institute for Lifelong 

Fromm: Yes, I became an Honorary Doctor of Public Service in May 1979. 
My wife was awarded a degree as well. 


Jefferson Award for Community Service; The American Institute of 
Public Service 

Dorfman: In 1980, you received the Jefferson Award for Community Service 
from the American Institute of Public Service. Tell me about 
that, please. 

Fromm: Well, I didn't know anything about it. But I was nominated. You 
know you never know about this beforehand. 


they felt that I had rendered some public service. 

Dorfman: I see. And the reception was at the Examiner? 

Fromm: At the Examiner, yes. 

Dorfman: I see, and you received a medal as well? There was a long article 
in the Examiner giving a vitae of each honoree. 



Wine Spectator; First Annual Distinguished Service Award 

Dorfman: You also, in 1982, received an award from the Wine Spectator. 

Fromm: Yes. The Wine Spectator is the leading publication of the wine 
industry for the whole country. They are the publishers of 
Impact. And Impact is the leading statistical publication for the 
wine and spirits industry. The Wine Spectator is part of it. 
They annually give a big dinner for the wine industry and they 
then select the leading restaurants with the best wine list in the 
country. They compete and it's a big thing. They always have 
three, four hundred people out here at the annual dinner. 

It selects a person from the wine industry that has 
contributed to its success, and I was the first recipient of this 
honor. The second recipients after me in the following year were 
Ernest and Julio Gallo. The third year recipient was Robert 

Dorfman: Prestigious company. 

Fromm: Yes. Yes, you have the medal here. 


Ptg 4 Scene 

Mar. 23. 1980 

S.F. Sunday Examiner & Chronicle 

The gifts of wine and learning 

By Mildred Hamilton 

T B NK-E to & ve Wlth warc 

i* hands," sa>-s Alfred Fromm, 
U who also gives with a grateful 
1 heart, 

W* The refugee who fled the 
Nazis to. build a successful new 
life in the United States enjoys sharing. 
'1 am fortunate in being able to help, 
and I like to see the results of it while I 
am alrve" . 

In the business world, Fromm to 
known as the chairman of the board of 
Fromm & Sichel Inc, world-wide 
distributors of Christian Brothers 
win. In the world of philanthropy, 
education and culture, he to known for 
innovative Ideas and gifts that enhance 
Bay Area life and set examples copied 
across the country. 

"I am happy here This country has 
been good to me Whatever I have 
done has been just a small repayment 
of what I owe the United States. You 
cant be a good citizen if you only 
take," said Fromm, an erect impres 
sive and elegantly tailored man with 
thick, wavy gray hair and a serious 
mien. . 

He sat fa his Beach Street office, 
richly paneled in wood and decorated 
with wine theme paintings and photo 
graphs, a few days after he and his 
twin brother Herbert, a Boston com 
poser and author, had celebrated their 
75th birthdays at a family gathering. "I 
blew out all 75 candles on my cake," he 
said with a smile 

Alfred Fromm to eligible to enroll in 
one of his favorite creations, the 
Fromm Institute at the University of 
San Francisco, which he and his wife 
Ilanna founded in 1976 for education- 
yearning 90- to 90-year-olds. 

He smiled at the prospect 1 dont 
plan to retire, but if I did, I would go 
back to school, and I would not want to 
go back with my grandchildren." 

That was part of the sentiment 
behind the Fromm Institute, a univer 
sity within a university where older 
students would be taught by retired 
professors but would be able to mix 

wTOTyounger students. Last year USt" 
conferred the honorary degree, doctor 
of public service, on both Fromm and 
his wife in appreciation for the 

He views the institute as "some 
thing that had to be done and had 
never been done before Eleven per 
cent of today's population to over age 
65, and by the year 2000, it will be 21 
percent this kind of institute for life-, 
long learning prevents vegetation in 
retirement and opens the joy of 
learning to all." 

The Fromm Institute has attracted^ 
world-wide attention and is rapidly 
becoming a model "We have had 88 
universities and colleges write us after 
reading about it to ask for details to do 
something similar." 

The wine merchant laments his 
own lack of formal schooling. "I teft 
school at 15 to become a wine 
apprentice" in Germany, where his 
family bad been in the wine business 
nearly 200 years. "I have had to learn 
by listening and by association," 

He made his first trip to California 
in 1934, "during Prohibition, to make a 
study of the wine business that didn't 
exist then." Because he was Jewish, he 
fled Germany in 1936. He became a 
partner in a wine import firm, and 
eventually he was able to get his six 
brothers and sisters, his parents and 
other relatives out 

jmm, who"still has a hint of what 
he calls "my South Bavarian accent" 
recalled building a wine business. "If 
people know you are working hard 
and are honest they win help. Mr. AP. 
Giannini and the Bank of America 
helped at the start when we needed it 
most I havent forgotten they gave me 
my first credit without collateral I 
used to go in at 8 a.m. and see Mr. 
Giannini that was 40 years ago. He was 
very good to us when we needed it 
and I have a great feeling of grtteful- 
ness. That to the only place we have 
ever done business." J 

Fromm & Sicbel Inc. does a lot of 
business, distributing the Christian 
Brothers wines in 75 countries today. 

His partner Franz Sichel died 11 
years ago, and Fromm, who has been a 
regent of St Mary's College for years, 
is particularly proud of the new 
biochemistry building, Sichel Hall on 
the Moraga campus. The foundation 
bearing the Sichel name, of which 
Fromra to president donated much of 
the cost of the building. Fromm 
received an honorary doctorate from 
St Mary's in 1974. 

He and his late brother Norman 
were involved in starting the Music in 
the Vineyards programs at the Paul 
Masson winery in Saratoga in the 1950s. 
Now a popular tradition, the vineyard 
concerts have been widely copied 



Hebrew University; Torch ef Learning 

Dorfman: Oh, that's lovely. First Annual Distinguished Service Award. We 
have a few more here. In 198A, you received the Torch of Learning 
from the Hebrew University. That was a joint award, was it? 

Fromm: Yes, to my wife and to me. As you knew, that was in recognition 

for our having founded and funded the Fromm Institute for Lifelong 
Learning at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. 

Dorfman: And then in 1980, you received a Founder's Medal? 

Fromm: Oh, from the Hebrew University. We have received so many of those 
things from organizations and the Israel Bond Office because over 
the years we have given a substantial amount. We get all kinds ef 
things, but I really don't count them anymore because I even don't 
know what to do with all of them. 

Share Zedek Hospital, Israel; Founders' Stone Trophy 

Dorfman: And then in 1977, you and Mrs. Fromm received a Founders' Stone 
Trophy for support of a hospital in Jerusalem. 

Fromm: Yes, that's the Share Zedek Hospital. The grandfather of my wife, 
Abraham Gruenbaum, he was one of the founders ef Share Zedek 
Hospital, Jerusalem in 1890. So, we always have been interested 
in Share Zedek and we have supported it. 

Dorfman: And that was in recognition of that effort, continuing support? 
Fr omm : Yes. 

Brandeis University Distinguished Community Service Award 

Dorfman: And then in 1975, you received the Brandeis University 
Distinguished Community Service Award. 

Fromm: Yes, at the Brandeis University Library the Alfred and Hanna Fromm 
Fund was established. But we have no direct involvement in 
Brandeis University. 

Dorfman: This was a fund that was established? 

Fromm: Yes, either a fund or a scholarship. It particularly benefited 
the library. 


A Key t the City from Mayor Joseph Alioto. 1974 

Dorfman: And then you also received the key to the city from Mayor Joseph 

Fremm: Yes. I have it right here. As I have told you before, I founded 
the Wine Museum of San Francisco. It was inaugurated on January 
21. 1974. I asked Mayor . Alioto, whom 1 knew quite well, if he would 
speak and make the official dedication, which he was very happy to 
do. He is a fabulous speaker. And after the ceremony he gave me 
the key to the city and said this was a special honor that he 
would be happy to have me accept. Now, I understand, the keys are 
not solid iron anymore. [laughter] 

Dorfman: It's a very heavy piece, isn't it? While we're speaking of Mayor 
Alioto since you knew him so well, what can you tell me about your 
memories of him, particularly of when you worked with him. 

Fromm: Well, I worked on a few things in the interest of the city. My 
wife and I, we knew him socially, and after his divorce, we knew 
his new wife. too. She is a very nice person. But this was more 
or less a social contact. I have not been involved too much in 
city affairs. It always has been a matter of fact for me because 
running the business was the first priority. If you don't make 
the money, you cannot give anything. So, I always knew that. But 
it had to have the first priority. 

Memories of Kurt Adler, General Director, San Francisco Opera 

Dorfman: What are your memories of Kurt Adler? 

Fremm: Kurt Adler is a very capable man. He can be very rough with 

people, but he did something that very few other general directors 
of opera have done. He negotiated with the unions. He handled 
the musical parts, the whole administration and he's a very good 
money raiser. This is one of the greatest attributes for a 
general director of the opera today. You know, it's easier 
possibly to find experts in many phases of whatever it might be, 
but it's difficult to find a man who has a total concept of 
something. And Kurt Adler certainly had it. He got the most 
famous singers here, and he cajoled them. But they came. While 
he was there, I think, the financial situation of the opera was 
very much better. 

And then the new man came, and there were some very sizable 
deficits. But we are now in the process of trying to cure this. 
Adler is a very excellent manager. Many people said that they 


Fromm: couldn't get along with him because he was very rough, but. you 
know, sometimes, to deal with all the egos of the singers is not 

Dorfman: What are the greatest differences between Kurt Adler and Terence 
McEwen, his replacement? 

Fromm: Well, Kurt Adler was an outstanding good administrator. He was so 
in all phases of the opera. He really lived it from early morning 
until late night, and a very forceful person. Now, McEwen, he 
comes from the recording business in London. He's a very 
personable guy and knows quite a lot about music, but in my 
opinion, he doesn't have the strength and the totality that Adler 
had in the j ob. 



[Date of Interview: May 22, 1987] 

An Important Business Experience in 1942 

Dorfman: Mr. Fromm, you were going to tell me about an important experience 
in 1942 that made a substantial change in your business career. 

Fromm: Yes. As you know, I was a partner in the firm of Picker-Linz 
Importers, Inc., in New York, and we had the exclusive 
distribution rights of the Christian Brothers of Napa for their 
wines and brandy. This business developed very well, and I became 
the focal point of it because my partners in New York hardly knew 
anything about the wine business. They had, during the fourteen 
years of Prohibition, been in other professions. The Christian 
Brothers insisted that they only wanted to deal with me. The 
president of the firm at that time was Dave Boley, a very intelli 
gent man, a hunchback* very small-minded and extremely jealous. 

He was a bachelor for many years, but had an operation, met a 
nurse, and married her. She was an ambitious and jealous person 
and egged Boley on that he was the president of the firm and he 
really should carry on all negotiations, why should I [Alfred 
Fromm] do it? and in short, she made a lot of trouble. One day 
when I arrived at my office in San Francisco, the office was 
locked and there was a note that the keys had been changed and 
that I would not be able to enter by myself. An employee of the 
firm, and a friend of Boley, had come from New York to take charge 
of the office. Well, of course, that made me very angry because I 
was really the one who was running the firm. And I was 
responsible for the relationship with the Christian Brothers. No 
easy matter because you are dealing with members of a religious 
order with limited business experience. I had earned their trust 
with my dealings with them over a period of time. 

Fromm: I called a well-known attorney in New York, Abe Pomerantz, whom I 
knew. His specialty was cases dealing with the protection of 
minority stockholders. I went to New York and saw him. In the 




meantime, I received a letter from the firm that my partners 
wanted me out. and they would be willing to buy my stock at long 
terms and a low price. Well, I was furious! And my attorney said 
there was absolutely no good reason for the firm's actions. 

Brother John, the manager of the Christian Brothers Winery, 
accompanied me when I went to New York. He told Mr. Boley and the 
other members that if I was not a member of the firm and in charge 
of the relationship with them, they would return to the provisions 
of the original contract and supply us only a minimum quantity of 
wine and brandy. That would have been only a fraction of what we 
needed for our business. We were, by that time, quite successful 
and prosperous. A short, armed truce was agreed upon. 

The firm and Mr. Boley were represented by Judge Proskauer, 
the head of a very prominent law firm in New York. He said to me, 
"Well, I don't think that what the firm wants to do is right, do 
you? But you must straighten it out somehow." In other words, he 
felt that this was a personal vendetta that would be very harmful 
to the firm. In fact, I believe it would have been the end of the 
firm if they had succeeded, and of the very good salaries we were 
able to pay, and the end of our fine profits. So, we negotiated 
with the other partners and they decided, with very little 
foresight, to sell out to me, if I could raise the money. 

I had talked before to a number of my largest distributors 
throughout the country, and they were quite willing to invest a 
certain amount of money, so that together with my own funds we 
could purchase, for cash, the stock of my partners. I had met 
Franz Sichel before. He came from Mainz which was very close to 
Bingen, from where we came, and our families were friends my 
father, and probably my grandfather as well. 

Then you had known Franz Sichel previously? 

While I hardly knew him personally, I knew the firm and the family 
well. And Franz said to me, "Why don't we get together and become 
partners?" I said, "That would be fine with me, but where do you 
get the money? I can put up my share of the capital and I have 
some good credit in the Bank of America. But what about you?" 
Franz had just come over from England, and he had very, very 
little money as the Nazis had taken everything from them, as they 
did with any Jewish firm. 

Franz Sichel knew Samuel Bronfman, the founder and head of 
Seagram's, quite well. He had met Mr. Sam and his wife some years 
back in Berlin and had a very friendly relationship with them. He 
introduced me and we sat down with Mr. Sam, as he was known. He 
said to us, "I will buy the majority of your firm for cash and you 
will have access to all the money you need, under one condition, 
that you and Franz remain partners with Seagram." I said, "I 


would not have it done any other way. I have never been just an 
employee, I have always been a business owner. I have a great 
stake in the development of this business." He said, "That's 

So, arrangements were made and Seagram's bought seventy 
percent of the stock of Picker-Linz Importers, Inc., and we 
changed the name to Fromm and Sichel, Inc. I could not have 
handled the many problems and anxieties during these trying times 
without the support and help of my wife. 

Franz was much older than I, about ten or twelve years. I 
said, "Franz, you become the president," as titles never meant 
anything to me. I became the executive vice president, and then 
some years later president and chief executive officer, and 
chairman of the board after Franz's death. 

So, I went to the Bank of America and saw my friend and top 
executive, Mr. Fred Ferrogiaro, who was the head of the world-wide 
loan department. At that time, the bank was not as big as it was 
later on. I always could see him at eight o'clock in the morning 
to talk to him before nine o'clock, when the bank officially 
opened. I said, "Mr. Ferrogiaro, I need about three hundred 
thousand dollars. I will put in two hundred thousand of my own, 
but this is as much as I want to invest because if something 
should happen to me, I don't want my family to be without funds." 
He said that was all right, that was good. So I asked him, "What 
is the interest rate? Mr. Ferrogiaro, I am really looking for a 
good interest rate, because you know, I'm going to pay." Well, he 
laughed and said, "How about two percent?" 

Dorfman: That was 1942? 

Fromm: Yes, 19A2. I said, "That's a little high." And so we argued back 
and forth. And we finally arrived at one and three-quarter 
percent. He said to me, "You know, Alfred, why I will give you 
that rate? Because people who are so insistent on a low interest 
rate are the ones who will pay. The ones who don't pay are the 
ones who don't care." He said, "This will go on a six month note 
and it will be renewed when it comes due." "No," I said, "I can't 
borrow money on that basis. I need a firm, three-year commitment 
of the bank to sleep peacefully. Then I can pay it off in three 
years. " 

Well, he finally agreed to that too by that time, the firm 
had a good name, the Christian Brothers had a good name, and I had 
been in California for a few years and had done business with the 
bank personally. So they knew me quite well and we finally 
arranged that it would be a three year credit, at one and three- 
fourth percent. The prime rate at that time was one and one-half 


Dorfman : 

After one and a half years. I paid my loan off. because we 
made very good money in those years and we lived very frugally. 
Franz Sichel didn't have the funds available ax. that time, but he 
had them in later years when his family received restitution from 
the German government. He needed at least the same amount of 
credit that I had. He went to Sam Bronfman for help. Sam said, 
"I will guarantee the credit. So you can get what you need." 
This was also paid off in one and a half years. It really was the 
Seagram's guarantee that made it possible for Franz to join me as 
a partner. We paid off all the old partners, and the firm was 
then transferred a few years later to San Francisco. 

A rapid development followed. We became one of the largest 
and most prosperous firms in the quality wine industry. During 
the difficulties in my firm, I got an offer from younger brother 
Paul in Chicago who had a small import business. He said, "You 
can come to Chicago and join me as a partner anytime you want." 
I said, "Paul, this is not what I want, I want to stay in 
California. And, in addition, you have other interests and are 
satisfied with a small and prosperous business, but I would be 
satisfied only with a large and prosperous business." But I never 
forgot it. As I mentioned before, my brother Paul had quite some 
influence on my life, and I believe that I was an influence on 
his, as we were very close. 

What happened to Dave Boley and the other partners? 

Well, David Boley became ill and died a few years later, and no 
one ever heard his name again. The others invested their money, 
but if they had remained with the firm, they would have become 
millionaires. Boley had poisoned the minds of the others. Never 
have I met a man in my life like him. 

You can see the intimate relationship that existed between us 
and Samuel Bronfman. Our firm had become a very profitable 
investment for Seagram many, many times over what they had 
invested. When the business was sold back to the Christian 
Brothers, it was a very strong and prosperous firm. During our 
long partnership, we never asked Seagram for any help. Whenever 
we had a problem, we told them what the problem was and what we 
wanted to do about it. So it was a very fine relationship that we 
had with Mr. Sam and, later, with his sons, Edgar in New York, 
Charles in Montreal, and their top executives. 


Lengthy Partnership with Franz Sichel 

Dorfman: You were planning to discuss your relationship with your partner, 
Franz Sichel. 

Fromm: Franz and I got along marvelously. We were partners for almost 
twenty-five years, until he died. We never had a cross word I 
loved him like a brother. Franz was a very fine man, with a very 
good background in the wine business. A very decent and 
experienced business man with a very gentlemanly way about him. 
We understood each other very well. As I lived in California, we 
talked on the telephone every Sunday for about an hour or an hour 
and a half about whatever was going on. It was a happy 
relationship with mutual trust. I was able to develop some good 
executives who had their share in the progress of the firm. 

I negotiated the contract with the Christian Brothers for an 
extension of the time that we would be their world-wide 
distributor. The large development the increase in the size of 
the firm and the profits really came after the firm was 
transferred to San Francisco, because the wine industry in 
California became important and we took our share of it. 

Dorfman: I see. That is certainly very interesting. Have you been in 
contact with Franz Sichel 1 s family since his death? 

Fromm: Yes. Some of his cousins are good friends of mine. Franz got 

married late in life. He was in his middle sixties. Sylvia, his 
wife, was an actress whom he knew from Berlin. I now have very 
little contact with her. 

I encouraged Franz to form the Franz W. Sichel Foundation in 
New York. While he was still alive, Franz and I owned some very 
valuable real estate together in California. I had asked him to 
join me, as I felt that if you are going to be in a partnership, 
you should do this all the time. This became very valuable land 
in the Silicon Valley in the San Jose area. Franz put all of this 
land in the Franz Sichel Foundation so that it was out of his 
estate. A lot of good has been done through the Franz Sichel 
Foundation. It started with a valuable collection of old wine 
glasses, and Franz was very well advised by some experts. These 
wine glasses were displayed for ten years at the Wine Museum of 
San Francisco. They are now housed in a special room, the Franz 
W. Sichel Room in the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park in San 

As you know, I was always very closely connected with St. 
Mary's College of the Christian Brothers, and arranged for the 
Franz W. Sichel Foundation to put half a million dollars into a 
biology building that carried Franz's name. I was president of 


Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Fromm and Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Director 
Ian McKibbin White toast the inauguration of the long-term loan of the 
Franz W. Sichel Collection of drinking vessels. 

"Photograph "by Triptych 

Left to Right: Franz W. Sichel;, Brother Gregory, President Mont La Salle 

Vineyards.; Reverend Brother Charles Henry uperior General of Christian 
Brothers: Alfred Fromm. 1967. 



Dorf man: 

the foundation after Franz's death for ten or twelve years and 
believe that the funds were distributed to a number of good 

The impact of this experience in 1942 on your business career is 
very clear. 

[Interview 6: January 31, 1986] ## 


Dorf man: I'd like to go on to ask what is the most important change that 
you have seen in business since, let us say, the twenties or the 

Fromm: I think the most important part is that the California Wine 

Industry, that hardly existed when Prohibition was repealed on 
December 5, 1933, has developed into a very large industry that 
has really gained world class. There is a small group of top 
wineries called "boutique wineries" that make outstanding products 
that compare with almost the best made in Europe. 

The second important development was that America was not a 
wine-drinking country at all, because there were fourteen years of 
Prohibition. People drank hard liquor, they liked to get drunk, 
and today you have a great acceptance of wine as a social drink, 
and quite a few people who are very knowledgeable about wine or 
like to learn about wine. So American has actually become a wine- 
drinking country. It is in no way comparable to France and Italy, 
but wine has been there forever. So, this is a new thing, but in 
America if there is something that is good, then it is embraced by 
many people, and it can become an important industry as the 
California Wine Industry did. That was really the main 

The Future 

Dorf man: What do you look forward to for the wine business? 


Fronm: The wine business presently has quite some difficulties, like the 
wine businesses all over the world, because of overproduction, and 
there is a tremendous amount of competition. When I first came to 
this country, I think there were twenty-one wineries after 
Prohibition was repealed. Today you have 650 wineries. There 
will be a sifting out. And then of course there's the fact that 
large whiskey distillers and other giant American firms went into 
the wine business toe, like Seagram's and Coca-Cola. Reynolds 
Tobacco Company and others. There was no capital in the American 
wine industry when we started, because it was entirely new and few 
people had any money in those days anyway. But today it's a big- 
money industry and very large amounts have been invested in 
vineyards and in wineries, including substantial amounts by 
European and Asian firms. 

Dorfman: So you think that there will be a sif ting-out, which would reduce 
the number of companies involved? 

Fromm: Yes, or consolidations, but the present situation is 
unsatisfactory all over the world. 

Dorfman: Do you foresee other large changes in the industry in the future? 

Fromm: Well. I don't think so for the foreseeable future. The problem 

with the wine industry is that we have to get more people to drink 
wine, because there are many millions of people in America who can 
well afford it. And wine is reasonable in price. This means that 
there will be campaigns in the promotion of wine, in popularizing 
wine so that the average person, instead of drinking hard liquor 
or beer might once in a while drink a good glass of wine. If 
people in America only for Easter, for Thanksgiving and for 
Christmas, would buy one or two bottles of wine, the business would 
be double what it is today. So we may have a long way to go, but 
it's a young business. The consumption of hard liquor has 
declined in the last few years, which gives the wine business an 
additional chance. 

Dorfman: What role do you think the new products will play, such as the 

Fromm: Our main thrust is to have people consume wine with meals, with 

food. It's the way wine can be enjoyed most and it's a good way. 
It doesn't increase drunkenness, just the contrary, there are very 
well-known health effects for consuming wine in moderation. 

The coolers have become very important. They are low in 
alcohol because they contain no more than half wine, the rest is 
fruit juice with sparkling water. I believe they have seen their 
best days, and consumption of coolers will decline. 



Recognition of Social Change by Business 

Dorfman: Well, we've talked about what you foresee and what you have seen 
as changes in the wine industry over many years. What do you 
think the most significant social changes have been, in general, 
in this country? 

Fromm: Today I think there is much greater social recognition by business 
than there was when I first came over in 1933. In those days, 
there were some large firms that controlled a great deal of the 
business life. And they really didn't care very much about their 
employees. With the inauguration of Social Security and of health 
insurance, it is today a different way than it was in those days. 
At that time, there were millions of people out ef work and no 
help for them. When I arrived in 1933, the Depression was still 
en. The safety of the people today is very much greater than it 
was in former years. I think it is recognized more and more by 
even the most ardent conservatives today that those people have a 
voice and they have a vote. So I would say that in this respect, 
conditions in the United States are much better for the average 
man than they ever were. 

Of course, there are great problems today with our large 
budget deficits and our very large deficit in the trade balance of 
the country, and the enormous amounts that the government expends 
on armament. 

Hopefully, we will come to some sort of an understanding with 
the Soviets, because I think the main problem today in the world 
economy is the distrust that we have against the Russians and they 
have against us. If it ever would come to some understanding, it 
would help both countries immensely. I think you would see a 
development of the economies that nobody can even think of today. 
With the great danger of nuclear war, and particularly with 
nuclear weapons in the hands of some irresponsible people, like 
the Libyans and others, if America and the Soviet Union could 
come to some understanding, I think you would see a golden age. 

Dorfman: What do you think is the likelihood of that? 

Fromm: Over the long run, I think it has to happen er the world will go 
up in flames. And there will be no victor. 


Dorfman: You have worked with many organizations ever a long period of 
time. What special skill do you offer? 


Fromm: Well, I have seme organizational experience and common sense. I 
have helped in fund-raising in addition to our giving substantial 
amounts over the years. As a head of a business for so many years 
I think I have the capacity to get the facts together under one 
umbrella. This is very important when you're head of an 
organization I always felt in business, too the most important 
part that I had to play was to get the total concept of what was 
going on and not get lest in all the details and individual 
knowledge of certain problems. Because you can find people for 
that, but there are not enough people who see the whole picture. 

I always considered that was my main role. And to show the 
people who worked with me that I could do it, and therefore they 
could do it. It's very easy to tell other people to do something, 
and they don't respect you if they can say, "Well, the guy is just 
talking." I always have tried to show that it can be done, if it 
was in sales or in any other matters. That worked out quite well 
for the firm and for me personally. 

Dorftnan: What business plans do you have for the future? 


Derfman : 


Well, I have no particular plans. Of course, I'm running my own 
affairs. You could say of the investments that we have to make, 
the greatest threat is inflation. You don't know when it will 
break out again. I believe it will. I really have no particular 
business ambitions any more, because I would like to use the time 
that's still given to me to assist the San Francisco Jewish 
Community Museum, the Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning, and 
some ether organizations that I'm connected with. I think I can 
make some more contributions there, and this is something which 
would be very close to my heart. I'm not in business any more to 
make any more money, because money just has a limited value. I 
have talked to many people during my life, and they often said, 
"If I only had a little money I would be happy." They do not 
understand what money cannot do. 

What are the other organizations that you referred to just now, in 
addition to the Fromm Institute and the Jewish museum? 

There is the Wine Marketing Center at the University of San 
Francisco, and the other charitable enterprises in which I'm 
active. I really hope that in the coming years I can do some 


On Contributions of Women 

Derfman: You've related with a great many women in your business and 

community careers who have made special contributions. Is there 
one, or several, in particul ar whose contributions are marked 
enough for you to mention? 



Fromm: There are in almost any organization some outstanding women who 
make great contributions. In addition to that, voluntary work 
that is done by women is invaluable, because most organizations 
couldn't afford to do it any other way. I have met over the years 
a number of people for whom I have the highest respect, and I feel 
that they have done a lot of good, and are a good example for men 
and women. 





Now. Mrs. Fromm has been very active, and has done much important 
work. What is her strongest and most important contribution? 

She is the Executive Director of the Fromm Institute for Lifelong 
Learning at the University of San Francisco, and she has headed it 
since its founding which was eleven years ago. She spends a few 
days every week at the Institute, and the development of the 
institute to the leading one of its kind in the USA has been to a 
good part her devotion and work. 

What particular qualities and attributes does Mrs. Fromm bring to 
that role? 

She is intelligent, she knows what can and cannot be done. She 
has a good way of having other people work with her, because she 
is not bossy. She listens. And, she generally has very good 
relationships with the people who work with and under her. 

Preparation for Successful Volunteerism 

Dorfman: Again, in view of what you have learned, suppose a successful 

young man or woman was interested in making a civic contribution 
and came to you. How would you advise that person to prepare 


That person should check out very carefully what he or she wants 
to do, and would have to be aware that making a contribution is 
not only a financial matter, but a matter of giving of yourself. 
You have to take this person's interest into account. He or she 
will prepare to do a lot of work, because en any board I have been 
connected with most of the directors and trustees really are there 
to give money, or to lend a well-known name. They really are not 
active. The active work is done by a few persons only. This is a 
very unfortunate situation. I have seen it in every organization 
in which I have been connected. 

Dorfman: How have you surmounted that problem over the years? 


Framm: In the organizations I was closely connected with, we always had a 
small group of experienced people who worked. We got together, 
came to conclusions, and submitted them to the board. I don't 
think that I ever remember our suggestions being turned down, 
because the people were happy to have a few people who did the 

Dorfman: What kind of an education would you suggest that the young person, 
to whom I referred might obtain to prepare himself? 

Fromm: Well, as you know, I have no particular education, except for what 
I have learned throughout my life. I've worked since I was 
fifteen years eld, and I never found this any handicap. A college 
education is certainly of value, but a graduate might have some 
pieces of knowledge, but without a real connecting knowledge which 
I think is the most important part. There are many people who 
understand details, and can always add needed information. I 
think a college education and work on the outside are important, 
because you cannot do anything for others if you do not have the 
experience on your own. I have seen the children of some very 
wealthy people do some very marvelous things, and I have seen very 
many who haven't done anything. They just luxuriated in the money 
that they inherited. For those people, I don't have any 
particular respect. 

I think it is important if someone is able to make a 
contribution, that he or she have some really good personal 
experience. This means selling, administration because in the 
end, whatever you do, it always involves some selling. 

Dorfman: And so some experience and broadening. 

How do you suggest that this young person might begin? 

Fromm: Well, it depends on what he or she likes to do. You cannot be 

successful in your own affairs and the affairs of others if you do 
not have a full commitment. And you can only make a commitment to 
something that you are involved in and that you really want to do. 
I think you do it because you feel you must and to maintain your 
self-respect. If you do anything for publicity, I always tell 
people, "Don't do it." 

Dorfman : Why not? 

Fromm: Because there is no commitment in it. 

Drfman: Hew would our young person, then, choose the right kind of civic 
work? How could he find the work he's best at, and enjoys the 



Fromm: Well, it depends on the inclinations of the person. There are 
people who like to deal with young people; there certainly is a 
lot to be done. There is a lot to be done for eld people, in 
which my wife and I are particularly involved. There is a drug 
problem, a crime problem there are nothing but problems, 
actually. So whatever a person feels might particularly interest 
them, I think then they should look to what kind of an 
organization is engaged in that, and determine if that is an 
organization where he or she wants to work. Many of these 
organizations are ossified, and are run by people who are a little 
bit too old. I shouldn't say that, because I will be 82 years eld 
next month, but I don't feel that eld! 

Dorfman: How might this man er woman set up his or her own professional 
life to allow time for civic work? 

Fromm: If you really want to do it, you have time. In the first few 

years when you are establishing yourself, and I can speak here for 
myself, you don't have the time to do anything for other people. 
Particularly when you come over as an immigrant without money, and 
have to learn the language, and find the different ways of doing 
business here in America as compared to Europe. But after you are 
established, to some extent, you just have to make the time. 
Doing things for some of these organizations has meant a lot of 
work for me in the evenings. I just did not have the time during 
the day. That gave me seme time to devote to other matters. 

Dorfman: Sounds as if you took on another job. 

Fromm: Yes. it is in some ways, I guess. You should net join an 

organization unless you are willing to do some actual work and 
take an interest. So it has to be something that interests the 


Dorfman: And what are the greatest rewards that this young person might 
look forward to? 

Fromm: To me the greatest reward is that I have fulfilled something about 
which I feel very strongly. It is necessary when you come over 
here as an immigrant, that you have to contribute something to the 
country that gives you a home and a chance. Also to maintain yeur 
self-respect. Because as I have said to you before. I don't think 
I deserve any credit for what I have done. I only did what I felt 
I had to do, and because I felt an obligation not only to this 
country but to myself and to my family. 

Dorfman: And the disappointments? 

Fromm: In whatever you do, there are always disappointments. There are 
people who promise a lot and don't do anything, this is a 
disappointment. There are people whom you trust, and find out 


Fromm: maybe you shouldn't have trusted them. It's often a 

disappointment that things do not go as fast as young people 
particularly think they should go. It takes a certain amount of 
patience and determination, and realization that to do something 
right might take time. 



Dorfman: In the years to come, what would you like the record to reflect 
about you? 

Fromm: I'd like to continue what I'm doing now, as long as I am able. 

When the time comes that I am no longer alive, my wife and I have 
made substantial previsions for what we leave behind us in earthly 
goods. This will go into the Alfred and Hanna Fromm Fund that we 
founded many years ago to continue what she and I have been 
connected with and feel very strongly about. 

Dorfman: What is it that you feel that you will leave behind in a non- 
material way? 

Fromm: I hope and I think that I can leave behind me the people who have 
respected me. To me this is the first consideration if you deal 
with people, that you gain their trust and respect. Out of this 
very often comes liking. But if someone just likes you and 
doesn't respect you, you've got nothing. 

We hope to leave a family and group of friends behind who 
keep us in good memory. 

Dorfman: And in a more personal vein, and part of this you touched upon, 
what are your expectations of your grandchildren? 

Fromm: Whatever they do, I hope they will do well, and understand that in 
today's life ; one does not do things one hundred percent for 
oneself. One has to consider how it affects other people, and 
should continue to contribute not only through their work, but 
also in ether ways that can be helpful te people. 

Dorfman: And what else would you add, before we close? 

Fromm: You don't know how life will develop. So far our grandchildren 

are honest, they are straightforward, they are excellent students, 
they are good sportsmen, they are doing exceedingly well in 
college so we have the hope that they will amount te something 


Fremm: even though there is no guarantee. The parents of our 

grandchildren are good and committed people. There is much love 
in our family and we hope it will guide our grandchildren in their 

Dorfman: Well, with their fine background 

Fromm: I have seen children from people with very good backgrounds who 

unfortunately did not turn out. All we hope and pray is that our 
grandchildren will do well. 

Dorfman: Thank you so much for your time and the valuable historical 

Fromm: I want to thank you for your patience. 

ABOVE: Back, kneeling: Marc Fromm. Seated; Kathleen, David, and Kenneth Froiran. 

Front: Barbara Fromm. 

BELOW: Rabbi and Mrs. Brian Lurie (Caroline Fromm), 1986. 

Concluding Thoughts After Last Interview 

January 27, 1988 

To: Regional Oral History Office 
The Bancroft Library 
University of California 

I suggest for the end of my interview the following: 

I am obliged to Mrs. Dorfman for her patience. Some of the matters 
discussed I felt were of . scant interest; however/ Mrs. Dorfman believes 
that they should be part of the interview to round out the picture of 
one's personality. 

Life has been good to me. I married a beautiful woman who has been 
a good wife and an intelligent adviser/ who helped me tremendously in 
reaching certain goals I had set for myself. We have loving/ good 
children, who have made a success of their lives and have married 
spouses who are a full part of our family. 

Our son David's wife Barbara is a sterling woman, intelligent, kind/ 
and modest, who has brought up three fine children. 

Our daughter Caroline is married to Rabbi Brian Lurie. Like many 
fathers I felt that there is no man good enough to marry our daughter. 
I have completely relented because Brian is a very fine and highly 
intelligent person and one of the important young Jewish leaders in 
this country. Our daughter Caroline has brought sunshine into my life 
since she was a little girl; she and Brian have two lovely children 
a boy three-and-a-half years old and a girl six months old. 

David is an outstanding surgeon with an illustrious career. He was 
for some years professor at Harvard University Medical School/ and 
was appointed chief of surgery at New York State University at their 
medical campus in Syracuse, N.Y. for eight years. He was selected 
in January 1988 as chief of surgery and professor at Wayne State 
University in Detroit, a very big job in his field. He is in charge 
of surgery for four hospitals, heading up a staff of 42 professors. 


January 27, 1988 

To: Regional Oral History Office 
page 2 

Based on my life experience, I would like my grandchildren to know 
some of the experiences that have shaped my life. Most important 
in whatever one does is a strong sense of integrity in order to 
retain one's self-worth and self-respect. In one's professional 
life, one should be guided by enlightened self-interest and strive 
for excellence. Thi.s makes it possible to help others who are less 
fortunate. I consider it an obligation for the gifted and intelligent 
to make their contribution to the community. 

I would like to advise the young people who will come after me not 
to do anything for credit's sake or out of vanity. The reward is 
in one's own satisfaction. While I do not want to sermonize, I hope 
that our children and grandchildren will think of Ma and me that we 
have tried in life to do right and that we loved our children and 
grandchildren dearly. 

Alfred Fromm 





FROMM, HANN'A, educational administrator; b. Nuremberg, W.Gcr., Dec. 

20, 1913; d. David and Mela (Stiebel) Grucnbaum; m. Alfred Fromm, July 4, 
1936; children David. Caroline Fromm Lurie. Grad. in choreography and 
music Folkwang Sch. Dancing and Mus-.t, Eiscn, Gemany, 1934; D.Pub. 
Service (hon.), U. San Francisco. 1979. Served with ARC, World War II; 
exec. dir. Fromm Inst. Lifelong Learning, U. San Francisco, 1973 . Co- 
founder Music in the Vineyards, Saratoga. Calif.; bd. dirs. Amnesty In 
ternal., Nat. Council of Fine Arts Museums; former bd. dirs. Young 
Audiences, Community Music Ctr.. Leg^l Aid to Elderly, San Francisco 
Chamber Music Soc.; coordinating com. geriatric curriculum and program U. 
Calif.-San Francisco; dir. Nat. Council oft Aging. Mem. Gerontology Soc. 
Am., Psychoanalytic Inst. of San Frwdsco Jewish. Club: Met. (San 
Francisco). Home: 850 El Camino del Mar San Francisco CA 94121 Office: 
538 University Center 2130 Fulton St San Francisco CA 94117 

From tfho 's Who in the West 
21st Edition 



[Interview with Hanna Fromm: December 23. 1985]## 
Childhood in Germany 
Dorfman: Would you tell me about the world of your childhood? 

H. Fromm: We lived in Nuremberg, one of the largest cities in Bavaria. I 
had a wonderful, secure childhood. I was born after my parents 
were married for ten years. They were first cousins, and I think 
they were reluctant to have children. I come from a very large 
family. My father had nine brothers and sisters, and my mother 
had five brothers and sisters, so there were lots of cousins, and 
lots of company. My parents were very cultured and lots of 
artists, writers, and musicians came to our home. My father was 
also a good violinist with his own quartet. World War I broke out 
when I was born. My father served in the Germany army as a 
physician for four years. 

Religion in the Family 

Dorfman: Would you discuss the extent of religion in your childhood? 

H. Fromm: My grandparents were very Orthodox, and my parents kept a kosher 
household in deference to their parents. So I grew up in this 
atmosphere. In those days, you tried to do what the grandparents 
wanted you to do. 

I wasn't allowed to carry things on Saturday. I did at 
times, but my grandmother saw me once, when I stuffed a book under 
my coat, and all she said, "I think you gained a little weight." 
She was a wise woman. They wouldn't turn on electric lights, on 
Saturdays. They were really, really very Orthodox, and also very 
charitable. My grandfather was a prominent businessman in the 
gold leaf business and highly regarded in the Jewish community. 
He was very Orthodox. 


H. Fromm: Half of my family is very religious, the ones now living in Israel 
still are. 

Dorfman: Did you attend services as a child, you and your parents as well? 

H. Fromm: I remember that I did only on High Holidays. I had private 

lessons in, I think it was the Chumesh. [The five books of Moses] 
I really don't remember, because I resented it so much. Every 
time I asked a question, "Why?", this teacher would say, "You're 
not to ask why, you're simply to believe and to do." 

Dorfman: That must have been difficult for you. 

H. Fromm: [laughs] It was. I always asked why, and never got an answer, 
and that didn't please me just to blindly obey laws. 

Dorfman: Did you have mostly Jewish friends as a child? 

H. Fromm: Yes. I really didn't have any non-Jewish friends. 

Dorfman: The area in which you lived, was that primarily peopled by Jewish 

Every Friday evening we went to my grandparents' for dinner 
and there were twenty-five, thirty people. Since I was an only 
child and a late comer, I was very spoiled. Very spoiled and very 
loved; I had a wonderful childhood. 

The only bad memory I have is walking to school with my best 
friend and there were always kids who yelled to us, "Jewl Jew! 
Hep, hep, hep! Pork is fat, fat, fat! Jew, stinking Jew!" This 
was the fear of my life. 

Dorfman: How old were you when this happened? 
H. Fromm: Oh, school age; six, eight, nine. 
Dorfman: How frightening. 

H. Fromm: It was. I mean, anti-Semitism of this kind was rampant even then, 
particularly with the lower-class people. 

Impact of Father' s Death 

H. Fromm: It was 1923, or before. Otherwise, I had a wonderful childhood, 
until my father, who was a very busy and famous gynecologist and 
surgeon, died within four days of pneumonia, when I was fourteen. 
He had been a leader in the Jewish community and as a doctor had 


H. Fromm: been consulted from far and wide. And then my world fell to 

pieces. He asked me to come into his room just before he died, 
and told me he was dying. 

He said goodbye, and said 1 have to take care of my mother. 
From then on, things were rather difficult. 

Dorfman: One can imagine. 

H. Fromm: He wanted me to be a physician, and he trained me at an early age. 
He taught me about anatomy, and how to use the microscope, and 
what to look for. I wanted to be a physician, but after he died, 
the will was gone. My mother had fallen to pieces, and my grades 
weren't all that good after that. 

I went to dancing school during my school years, and my 
dancing teacher said I should become a choreographer. I loved 
choreography because it was something very vital and very 
creative. I studied, after graduating, at the famous Laban School 
of Dance and Music in Essen, now part of the University of Essen. 

Dorfman: Essen? 

H. Fromm: Essen, a medium-sized city close to Cologne, which is now the 

University of Essen. It was the Folkwang Institute at that time. 
My teacher was a very famous man who later on moved to London. 
His name was Kurt Joos. I studied there for two years and got my 
degree. He created some very famous dances, which are still 
danced now. 

Dorfman: What might they be? 

H. Fromm: One was "The Green Table," which I helped to create. And "The 
Waltz." They are still in the repetoire of some companies like 
the Jeffrey Ballet and when they come here, I'll go and I get 

Dorfman: Of course, you must. 



H. Fromm: After getting my degree, I went to England. 
Dorfman: About what year? 

H. Fromm: In '32, to study English. When Hitler came, my relatives in 

London said, "Why don't you stay here, it'll blow over soon." I 
stayed on. and studied English. Then, I had to go back to Germany 
and pick up my degree in person in Essen. Faculty and M. Laban 
said I should go to Paris together with another girl and open a 
dancing school sponsored by them, which was the craziest and most 
naive suggestion. 

Life and Work in Paris 

H. Fromm: We were eighteen years old; we didn't speak but school French; 

we had no money and did not know anyone. [laughs] Two eighteen 
year old girls going to Paris. I mean, it was lots of fun, but of 
course we couldn't open a school. We lived in an awfully run-down 
hotel, as all my friends did, and thought it was very romantic. 
Only when our mothers came, they saw how we lived, they all cried, 

The view was of another wall, and I remember the window was 
patched with flypaper. Coming from a well-to-do home, where we 
had two maids, my mother and I one for her, one for me who 
carried my skis to the train at 5 a.m. when I went skiing with my 
friends our life in Paris was quite a switch. 

But I thought it was just wonderful, because we all had a 
feeling, "We don't have to live this way forever." Something will 
come up and we didn't want to go back to Germany, and I would have 
settled in England instead. We always had that hope, and when 
you're young, joint misery does not affect you all that much. 



H. Fromm : We had a mentor, an older man, a friend of the family who was 
forty years old, who lent us money, or bought us food, and 
listened to our problems. There was a whole group from Nuremberg, 
where I was born. This friend knew a man who was a very good 
dress designer, who looked for a model. I was very thin, very 
tall for that time. So I went there; I had never seen a model in 
my life. 

The designer was a short man originally from Poland, Jewish. 
He put on a black velvet coat with a huge white fur, and it was so 
long that it was like a train, and he walked around in this. I 
practically cracked up with laughter. 

Dorfman: Hand upon his hips? 

H. Fromm: Yes, to show me how to model. Which I did for a week only, 

because models were often harassed by male buyers. My boss said, 
"This is not a job for a Jewish girl. I want to groom you as my 
directrise." That means the head of his establishment. 

But for that I had to learn how to sew in a sweatshop with 
one bulb. The room was about as big as this, [gestures to 
indicate a small area] and there were six of us there, sewing and 
cutting and ironing. The ironing was dreadful. The iron was put 
on a stove until it was red hot. Then you took a long rod with a 
hook at the end and put the iron in cold water which was in a tub 
on the floor. You had to be careful not to burn your hand, from 
the steam, which they warned me about, but I didn't understand 
it. My French was not good enough.. .the first thing I did was to 
burn my hand very badly. 

I didn't like it there, but I learned a lot. I stayed there 
for nine months until I was undernourished and sick, because our 
group of friends spent little money on food. We walked around in 
the evenings with a bag of food and a baguette, and ate in each 
other's rooms. Not much to eat. 

When some of our relatives came to Paris to invite us for 
dinner, most of us got sick. You know, we weren't used to eating 
good food anymore. When I became seriously undernourished I 
wasn't too fat in the first place my mother then sent me to 


My father's three brothers and sister moved to England when 
they were very young. It's a long story, how my grandfather 
started a gold leaf business in London. And so I had a lot of 
English relatives, and cousins. 

Dorfman: So that you did have an established family. 


H. Fromm: Yes. I did, a big family. I left the atelier in Paris because the 
man wanted to marry me, and didn't leave me alone. Besides, I was 
vastly underpaid because I didn't have a work permit. And we 
couldn't get money from Germany anymore. So we had to live on 
what we made. My name then was Renee because it sounded better to 
my boss. 

Dorfman: A difficult time financially. 

H. Fromm: It was very difficult, but somehow, looking back, I don't remember 
it as a bad time. I remember it as a good, interesting time. The 
bad memories seem to disappear. In London, I learned dressmaking 
as a profession, which I disliked, but I had to learn from scratch 
again and got a degree in dressmaking and designing from Madame 

A Frightening Episode in Germany, 1933 

Dorfman: [interruption in tape] You were going to tell me a story of how 
you had been rescued in Germany. 

H. Fromm: Since I left in '32, I had to go back to Germany in 1933 to get my 
financial affairs in order. I inherited some money, and only 
could take five percent out of the country, which was very little. 
The Nazis did not permit Jews to take more than that out of 
Germany. And then I had to pick up my degree, in Essen. I then 
went to Frankfurt for two days to visit my relatives, and got 
caught in a rally, where Hitler spoke. 

Dorfman: Horrible. 

H. Fromm: I must have looked very frightened, and a man came to me, with the 
swastika armband, and I thought, "He's going to arrest me." He 
said to me, whispering, "I think you don't belong here. May I 
take you to wherever you want to go in my car?" And I did leave 
with him, I thought I had no choice. He asked, "Where do you 
live," and I gave him the name of a street corner near my 
relatives, but not the correct address. 

He was a reporter, and he said to me, "I will give you one 
piece of advice. Leave Germany as quickly as possible, I will 
leave too. I'm not Jewish, but I can't stand this." I know he 
rescued me. He wrote me many letters afterwards, and he did leave 
Germany after a while. 

Dorfman: Chilling story. 



H. Fromm: It was. The two days, three days, that I was back in Germany, I 

could easily have been arrested there. I got so frightened when I 
heard Hitler talk, and it must have shown in my face, and this man 
came and led me away. 

Dorfman: You did hear Hitler talking? 

H. Fromm: Oh, yes, well, I heard him in Nuremberg, before. That's where it 
all started it was an unforgettable experience to hear his 
hysterical voice and the people wildly responding. But this 
experience in Frankfurt was touch and go, because at that time 
already Jewish people were arrested off the street and put in a 
concentration camp. Picked up, just as he picked up me, while my 
rescuer had all the insignia, and the Nazi uniform and he was not 
a Nazi he just had to pretend because he was a reporter. 

Dorfman: Which country did he go to? 

H. Fromm: I think to England, but by that time I had left. He told me, 

'*There will be a war, they're re-arming, and I urge you to leave 
as quickly as possibly." I left for England the next day. But I 
couldn't convince anybody else, in those days, to do the same. 

Dorfman: And they remained, then. 

H. Fromm: They remained until they had to flee, without anything, with 

Engagement to Alfred Fromm 

Dorfman: How did you meet Mr. Fromm? You said you became engaged.... 

H. Fromm: I met him because my aunt who was a widow with two children, and 
his father who was a widower with five children, got married when 
I was twelve years old. So, I knew him all my life, more or less. 

Dorfman: This was while you were still in Germany. 

H. Fromm: When I met him. Oh, yes, yes. I was only eleven years old and he 
was twenty. And then he came over to London in 1932 and proposed. 
He proposed when I was eighteen the first time, but I didn't want 
to know about it. It just frightened me to get married. I was 
too young and immature. 

I had the most romantic proposal the second time. We were in 
a rowboat on the River Thames in our bathing suits. My fiance 
said, "If you marry me, I must tell you we must move to America. 
We will be very poor in the beginning, we might have to live in 


H. Fromm: the basement of an apartment house, and I may have at the start to 
sell newspapers." And after he said this, he dove into the water, 
and swam to shore, very fast. 

I thought, "My God, what am I going to do, he's sorry." Then 
he swam leisurely back, and said, sheepishly, "I'm awfully sorry, 
but I took a laxative last night, and in the excitement, it just 
took effect." [chuckling] 

Life and Work in Palestine. 1935 

H. Fromm: My mother had emigrated to Palestine, to Jerusalem. I went there 
in 1935 to say goodbye to her. I was supposed to stay for four 
weeks, and get married in Jerusalem, but my fiance couldn't leave 

There were lots of things wrong. His father was in a 
concentration camp for a few weeks, but he got out because they 
were important exporters of wine, and the Germans needed the money 
from foreign trade. I had to stay in Jerusalem for nine months 
and worked. A friend of mine bought a department store, and he 
needed a cashier. I told him, "I can't add," and he said, "But 
you don't steal." So, I said, "I'll work until my fiance comes," 
which took nine months instead of two weeks. My job was catastro 
phic, because I really can't add, you know; however, I learned. 

Then I became chief cashier after several months with six 
cashiers working for me. 

To me, it was a huge department store. I went back a few 
years ago, and it was actually a tiny little place. It was an 
interesting job. I spoke at that time, both Hebrew and Arabic, 
enough to get by. 

Dorfman: Where did you learn Hebrew? 

H. Fromm: I had to learn it as a child, the classic Hebrew. But then I took 
lessons in Hebrew and Arabic Hebrew in Germany but Arabic in 

Dorfman: But you did leam Hebrew at home? 

H. Fromm: I did learn the classic Hebrew, in my private lessons in Germany. 
The Hebrew didn't do me much good in Palestine, because at that 
time only children learned and spoke Hebrew as I did. Old people 
spoke their native language, whatever that was. I asked an old 
man once, in my best Hebrew, what time it was, or where to go, and 
he said. "Why do you speak this language to me? I'm not a child." 



Marriage in Trieste. Prague, and New York 

H. Fromm : Then after waiting for nine months for my fiance, we couldn't get 
married as planned in Jerusalem. The English and the Arabs and 
the Jews were shooting at each other. I went to Trieste with my 
mother, and we were married there. We also got married in Prague 
a second time, and got married the third time in New York, because 
the first two weddings were only Jewish weddings, religious 
weddings; they weren't valid in New York and weren't recognized. 
One had to have a civil ceremony, a religious one was not 

Dorfman: That's what Mr. Fromm told me. 
Why did that take place? 

What about the wedding in Prague? 

H. Fromm: Because my uncle, who was a professor there (he, and his wife, and 
my cousin died in a concentration camp later) said the first 
ceremony in Trieste wasn't good enough, and he would give a big 
wedding, a big Orthodox wedding. We were married already six 
months, and we had to come in separate taxis to my uncle's house, 
because we weren't supposed to have seen each other before. 

I got my aunt's wedding veil, and there was a chuppa, and a 
rabbi who talked for ever and ever and ever, and had halitosis. 
He put his hand in his pocket, took out a handkerchief and said to 
my husband, "Touch this handkerchief," which was sticking out of 
his pocket and enormously dirty. My husband did so reluctantly, 
but it was meant for good luck. After the ceremony was over, they 
led us to the bedroom for twenty minutes, left us alone, I guess 
to get acquainted. So that was the second wedding. 

There was a big wedding feast, with all people unknown to us, 
who mostly spoke Cfeech. 

After we arrived in New York, we found out that this second 
wedding wasn't legal either, and we went to New York City Hall and 
got married again. It's a pretty depressing thing to do in city 
hall. After standing in line, the clerk said in a bored voice, 
"Two dollars please. Swear it's true, and good luck." It was a 
good thing that we were married before. I had a checkered youth. 

Dorfman: You certainly did! 

H. Fromm: The interesting thing is that when we asked my daughter, in her 
rebellious years, "What would you like to do? What profession 
would you like to follow? Which college would you like to 
attend?" She said to me, "You were lucky, you didn't have a 
choice." I said, "You're right, but I would rather not have 
experienced that, because it wasn't easy. We just made the best 
of it." 


H. Fromm: If one has too many choices and does not have a special skill or 
interest young people become insecure. I mean, both have 
problems, but the non-choice, in a way, is easier, if you can 
survive it. Many of them didn't survive in Paris. 

Dorfman: The agony of decision making. 

H. Fromm: Unless you have a special gift for science or know what you want 
to do, really, it is difficult. 

Dorfman: But you say that many people in Paris did not survive. 

H. Fromm: No. Survive, I mean, they survived physically, but many were 

emotionally damaged. Yes, emotionally scarred. Altogether, it 
was a pretty grim time. Some of my friends went insane, and had 
to stay in the charity mental hospital. We visited them and there 
were fifty beds in a row, full of young people. It was a grim 
experience for a young girl, but still, we survived this, too. 

Dorfman: Was it the dislocation? 

H. Fromm: Yes. I didn't feel this as much because I lived in England 

before, and my family had managed to leave Germany, all but this 
one uncle and his family in Prague. So the rest of the family was 
spared those losses. 

I had a very intimate relationship with my mother until her 
last breath. She was a wonderful woman and a wonderful 
grandmother and our children loved her dearly. My husband loved 
her and she was always an important part of our family. Mother 
had very good friends who admired her for her warmth, her kindness 
and her intelligence. She enjoyed greatly the success of our 
family and counseled many when they came to her for sound advice. 
She lived with us for a time, and all of us still miss her. 



Resettling, Relatives Who Fled Germany 

Dorfman: Who helped Jewish people who fled from Germany and came here? 

H. Fromm: I guess organizations, and relatives, friends. Ourselves, we gave 
thirty-four affidavits, which means that you're responsible for 
the person, for, five years, until they become citizens. I 
remember when I was pregnant with my son in 1939, all I did was go 
to the ships in New York and call for relatives, and get them 
settled, find them housing, and explain the American way of life. 

The first thing I did was take them to Woolworth's to get 
them a banana split ice cream. [laughter] You know, there was 
ice cream, and bananas, cherries, whipped cream, for fifteen 
cents. And they were so impressed. 

Dorfman: You felt that this was typically American. 
H. Fromm: That was typically American then, for me. 
Dorfman: Yes. 

H. Fromm: People said, "Why didn't you work," well, there was no chance. 

Every few weeks another relative came and had to be settled. They 
had children, and you had to see that they go to school, and 

Dorfman: Who funded those people, initially, for apartments, and 

H. Fromm: We did. We led a strange life. We lived in New York when we 
arrived, in a two room crummy furnished apartment, right off 
Lexington Avenue, with the El [elevated train] rattling the 
apartment, with southern exposure, and the sun beating down. 
Every month, we had to take customers out for elegant dinners, 
because my husband had to show that he had spent his expense 
funds. He sold German wines in those days and he had an expense 


H. Fromm: We took my husband's customers to the Waldorf, which was the 
fanciest place to go to. We asked ten or twelve people, went 
dancing. I had wonderful clothes from Paris, I was better dressed 
than now, and afterwards we went back, like Cinderella, to our 
terrible little apartment. People always said, "Why don't you 
invite us to your home?" I didn't want to say, "We don't have a 
'home,' really." They thought we were very rich young people. 

We had little money, but were officially wealthy in a strange 
way, because I had, in my name, $80,000 in the bank which, 
however, wasn't ours. You know, people sent us, ten dollars, 
$100, $300, $500, $1000 to keep for them until they could come to 
the U.S. There were probably fifty or sixty accounts. 

Dorfman: People from 

H. Fromm: From Germany to keep for them, monies they managed to smuggle 

out. So we had ledgers, and books, and books of accounts. But it 
was $80,000, and when I went to the bank at the age of twenty-two, 
the bank manager, his name was Mr. Ghost, practically bowed down 
to the floor to cater to this rich young woman. 

Dorfman: So confusing 

H. Fromm: It was, it was, but it was very strange, you know. Same thing as 
when we emigrated to the United States. We came on the German 
luxury liner. The trip was paid for in Germany, first class, we 
even had a suite. We had five hundred German marks board money 
for a five day trip. Which we tried to spend desperately, because 
we couldn't bring it to New York. We could take ten dollars with 
us. We called New York every day in order to spend the money, 
because unspent money went back to the German government. 

We had champagne for lunch, which we didn't like. We bought 
things, like twelve silver lemon squeezers, when I couldn't even 
cook for one person. I mean, it was a crazy life. We could j ust 
pay the taxi. And I had my little inheritance. 

Dorfman: Which you were able to take out with you. 

H. Fromm: Yes, five percent of it, which didn't amount to very much, but it 
was enough to make us feel a little secure. And so our life went 
always from one extreme to another. Incredible. 

Dorfman: An emotional yo-yo. 

H. Fromm: Yes, but you get used to it. If you have a sense of humor, if you 
don't take yourself too seriously. I remember we thought we were 
very wealthy, we lived on fifteen dollars a week household money. 
Friends of mine had ten dollars a week. 


Dorfman: The f if teen was- 
H. Fromm: Enough. 

Red Cross Driver and Instructor, World War II 

Dorfman: Now. you also were a Red Cross driver. 

H. Fromm: That was here in San Francisco, and a first aid instructor. 

Dorfman: And when was that in San Francisco? 

H. Fromm: Beginning of World War II. In 1942 I worked at the Red Cross, I 
took first aid instruction, then I became an instructor. 

Dorfman: What were your duties as a Red Cross driver? 

H. Fromm: To drive anybody who was assigned to us. Mainly pregnant women 
who were in labor, and either made it or didn't quite make it to 
the hospital. I delivered two babies. We had a course in 
obstetrics, because very often women, war brides, called us too 
late, to take them to the hospital. But we drove anybody. 

Dorfman: You certainly had varied experiences. 

H. Fromm: [laughs] I did. We drove people to the ships, when they had to 
go overseas, we had to take soldiers sightseeing, so they didn't 
go astray before being shipped out. These big buses up and down 
the hills. For them, it was a great experience that a lady would 
drive a bus. 

Dorfman: You were driving buses as well, then, not just a station wagon. 
H. Fromm: Double clutch buses, trucks, ambulances, anything. 
Dorfman: Where did you learn to drive those vehicles? 

H. Fromm: We had instructions. When I went there to introduce myself, they 
said, "Would you drive a truck to Mare Island, and get an anchor? 
It's an emergency." I had a suit on, and a little hat that looked 
like a pie shape, and a veil. And I had to drive a truck with 
double shift, which I had never done before, and I couldn't shift 
from first into second gear, so I drove in first gear to Mare 
Island, and arriving totally exhausted the hat was by that time 
over one ear; disheveled and everybody laughed. I looked like a 
Helen Hokinson cartoon, if you remember "A lady, working for the 
Red Cross." It was really hilarious. 


H. Fromm: And I drove back in first gear, because I didn't know how to shift 
this thing without ruining the whole car. I had very varied 
experiences, I must say. 

Dorfman: Much of that must have prepared you for the Fromm Institute for 
Lifelong Learning. 



H. Frotnm: Well, nothing prepared me for that. It took two years of 

preparation. The idea came to me when I was sick, with a bad 
stomach ulcer. I talked to a lot of people on the phone, and I 
found out how many retired people are bored and lonely and feel 
completely useless. 

I started asking people, "Would you be interested in going to 
a university and being taught by retired professors," because the 
professors become just as lonely. Some people said, "Yes," some 
people said, "No." Some professors said, "Don't be stupid, who 
wants to teach after they are retired?" But most came back to 
us sometime after they were retired and asked to teach again. 

Then my husband and I prepared for two years on how to go 
about it. I had a very good director, Millie Mishkin, who really 
was the driving force at the time. I mean, I didn't know much 
about universities or teaching. 

Dorfman: What was her role? 

H. Fromm: She was the program director, she was the doer, she was 

Dorfman: What had she done before? 

H. Fromm: She had worked in adult education. Before, at the Steelworker's 
Union in Pittsburgh, and did many other things. 

Dorfman: And how did the two of you 

H. Fromm: A friend of ours introduced us, and said, "She has just arrived 
here, and is married to Professor Mishkin, he teaches at the law 
school in Berkeley, and she would be the right person for you to 
start such a project." So we did plan. One day, our board of 
directors said, after two years, "You can plan for years, but 
there must be a time that you simply start and see how it goes. 
You might get no one, you might get thirty-five people." We had 


H. Fremm: an academic search committee; President Romberg of San Francisco 
State University, and a professor from the University of San 
Francisco found us six retired professors. 

We told them all, "You might not have any students. This is 
an experiment," There was one article in the paper about the 
start of this institute, and then six hundred people came, and 
wanted to enroll. There was a long line of older people. It was 
really scary. 

Dorfman: Frightening. 

H. Fromm: It was. And they pushed and they shoved, it was just incredible. 
We ceuld accommodate seventy-six people. All the others were put 
on the waiting list. It was first come, first serve, and when 
they found out where to enroll, they really pushed so hard that 
some people became disgusted and simply left. And the women were 
more aggressive than the men. 

Dorfman: Why do you suppose that? 

H. Fromm: I don't know. It was astounding. One man came to us after we had 
enrolled as many as we ceuld, a few days later, and said he saw 
the article in the paper, and we must take him. We said, "We 
can't, we're full." He started to cry, and he said, "I worked all 
my life, and I have five children, they all go to college. It's 
time that I get educated so that I can talk to them." We enrolled 
him. The desperation of people was something frightening. 

Dorfman: Something meaningful. 

H. Fromm: Something meaningful, something to do, to find friends, to find 

people who are in the same situation as they are. Which is one of 
the side benefits of the institute. 

We have now a student association with three hundred 
students. Twenty of our students went to Europe on a trip. They 
went to Spain, to Italy, and to Morocco. They flew home from 
Rome, via New York, arrived here at three in the morning, the next 
morning they were back in class. One of them is eighty-four years 
old, and I said, "Don't you have j et lag?" She said, "Yes, but I 
can't miss any more classes." 

Dorfman: What dedication. 

H. Fromm: Unbelievable. 

Derfman: You must be offering something. 

H. Fremm: We must. As I said, the time was right. We got irto this project 
not expecting anything, and it just took off. 




Dorfman: You were telling me last time we met about a man who came to you 
and told you that he had attempted to do the same sort of thing 
that you had 

H. Fromm: Five years before, at the same place, 
was interested. 

Dorfman: Why do you think 

At USF. and he said no one 

H. Fromm: I don't know. Maybe the timing wasn't right, maybe he did 
something that wasn't 

Dorfman: What was this man? 

H. Fromm: I don't know. I have no idea. I think aging came into its own 

within a short time. Attention was being paid to older people and 
retired people, also within a short time. Maybe our timing was 
right, or maybe our preparation was better; I don't know. With 
all the people who were around me that day, I couldn't talk to 
him. And I think that a strong sense of commitment to the project 
helped substantially. 

Dorfman: Were there any models that you had for the Fromm Institute for 
Lifelong Learning in people, or other institutions? 

H. Fromm: The only one was Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. 
Since my cousin. Peter K. Maier, professor of law, teaches at 
Hastings, I met quite a few professors there. That was the only 
model, really. But they have such fabulous retired law 
professors, that I thought, "Why can't we get some fabulous 
retired professors in other disciplines?" 

Dorfman: And you did. 

H. Fromm: And we did indeed. But I think my ignorance was a blessing. I 
was totally ignorant of rules and procedures. I simply wrote to 
professors I had met, or who were recommended to me. I wrote them 
letters to ask if they wanted to teach for us. That we do this and 
that, and would they be interested. Some were, some were not. 

Dorfman: By and large 

H. Fromm: But by and large, as it is usually, the more famous or well known 
the person was, the nicer they were. Those not well known didn't 
even bother to write back. The others wrote back, or said, "I 
know another person who would possibly teach for you." So it 
progressed by word of mouth. 

College for 
only the 


Bv Caroline 

"TI7E HAT- A FHIEND who retired First, he 
* * went around the vn>rlti. Then he took up golf. 
Then he simply got bored and died. " 

Starkly limned, that is when the idea resulting in 
the Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning began to 
take shape more than two years ago. or as it is 
described by Hanna Fromm. cool and gracefuJ and 
exquisitely groomed as always, relaxed on her 
cinnamon velvet sofa. 

Alfred Fromm adds another case history of 
another friend, the retired president of a bank. "One 
day he was in the prime of life, ready to enjoy 
himself outside the working world he'd known for 40 
yean. The next time I saw him, he told me he has 
little to do and few people with whom he can 
exchange thoughts." 

Hanna again: "I asked my husband, 'What would 
yon do if you had to retire?' and he said 1 think I'd 
like to go back to school. But not with my 
grandchildren.' Not that his grandchildren are that 
old yet Then I started asking the same question at 
cocktail parties and many people gave the same 
answer. A professor said he would rather teach older 

For the next two years, the president of national 
wine distributors Fromm it Sichel and his wife 
whose last project was the establishment of the Wine 
Museum near Fisherman's Wharf researched the 
subject of adult education in the Bay Area, talking 
with older adults, gerontologists, government offi 
cials in Washington and other experts on aging. 

"It son of came to me," says Hanna in 
retrospect, 'that this was something well worth 

Finally, they brought together nearly a dozen 
private funding sources, including their own. 

This month the Fromms' idea iwomes a reality. 
Registration in the Fromm Institute for Lifelong 
Learning at the University of San Francisco begins 
Feb. 16 with an open house: classes commence there 
on Feb. 23. 

Limited to retired people over 50, the Institute 
offers courses covering serious disciplines which are 
taught during the day. Instructors, like students, 
have completed careers and are now in search of 
meaningful retirement through education. It is a 
"university within a university" on the USF campus, 
offering an atmosphere of peers in a traditional 
setting, with the privileges that go with it, but with 
its own board of directors. 


Mildred MishJnn is planning director. A $100 annual 
tuition entitles students to take any or all of the 8- 
week course offerings, three times a year. 

Among instructors are Stanford's Dr. George 
Sensabaugh: Dr. Robert D. Clark, former president 
of Oregon State College: and Dr. Robert Thornton, 
who studied with Albert Einstein while teaching at 

Dark-haired Hanna Fromm. student of music, 
choreography, and art in her native Germany and of 
design in London and Paris, but never involved in a 
career other than marriage, believes compulsory 
retirement is "wrong," and as for the prospect of old 
age, "I hate it." Lake everyone else. "But I'd rather 
be active than feeling sorry for myself." Among her 
volunteer activities, she is a director of the National 
Council on the Aging in Washington, D.C. 

The Fromms. who first met when Hanna was 12 
and her widowed aunt married .Alfred's widowed 
father, came here in 1936. They settled in San 
Francisco because Alfred saw the future of the wine 
industry in the Napa region. 

"We were married three times in three different 
countries." Hanna tells you. "Actually, we were 
supposed to be married in Jerusalem, where my 
mother was living. I went to stay with her a few 
weeks and then the Nazis wouldn't let .Alfred leave 
Germany for 9 months." So for 9 months. Hanna 
worked as a cashier in a department store, speaking 
both Hebrew and .Arabic. 

By the time the couple was reunited, "there 
were riots in Palestine, shooting between the British 
and the Arabs and the Jews. We got married in 
Trieste instead. I had an uncle in Prague who 
thought that was not a real wedding. After a year 
and a half we had a very orthodox wedding in 
Prague. And when we arrived in the United States. 
we were told both weddings were not legal. So we 
were married again in city halL We are well 
married." And Hanna smiles. 

Certainly they are a good team. Educators, 
sociologists, and gerontologists are watching the 

pilot program at USF as the start of a trend toward 
full sen-ice education for the elderly. 

"If it works as planned." say the Fromms. 
"many colleges and universities will probably 
implement similar programs. 

"In this country we do so much for our young 
people, and very often they don't appreciate it. We 
offer the elderly arts and crafts, but nothing 
intellectually stimulating. We have a great natural 
resource in our old people." 

San Francisco Sunday Examiner_ and Chronic] 
February 8, 1976 

Edith Fried is resident director of the Institute. 



H. Fromm: One professor whom I contacted was an economist, a very well known 
economist, who wrote back. "Your project is very interesting, but 
I will not teach economics any more, because economics cannot be 
taught. What you need is a referee. You get ten economists and 
ten opinions. Nobody can teach economics nowadays." 

Dorfman: Interesting. 

H. Fromm: Well, in a way. it was a bitter letter. But it was interesting. 

We got our professors together, and then from then en it just took 
off, and it was a lot of work. 

Dorfman: I understand. 

H. Fromm: After Mrs. Mishkin retired in 1982, we asked a retired professor 
to become the academic program director. By that time we also 
needed a professional person. 

Dorfman: And who replaced Mrs. Mishkin? 

H. Fromm: Professor John Dennis, who took early retirement from the San 
Francisco State University. He's very good. The institute 
blossomed. I wouldn't say prospered, because we always have to 
look for funds. And the more students we have, the more expenses 


H. Fromm: We can't take any more students, for two reasons. One is because 
we don't have the money, and the university doesn't have the 

Fund Raising 

Dorfman: You previously mentioned that there was always a problem in terms 
of money, of fundraising. You also mentioned Mr. Fromm's unusual 

H. Fromm: Yes. 

Dorfman: What is his secret? 

H. Fromm: He's a born salesman. He is committed and is convinced of his 
"product. " 


H. Fromm: I'm the opposite. I can't raise funds. I freeze up, I dry up, 
I'm embarrassed, and that's not a good way te do it. I only got 
money once, from a man who said to me, "What are you doing this 
damn feel thing for?" He was a very well known, very wealthy man, 
and I said te him I was very angry "You live in an ivory tower. 
You have your own plane, you have your house with a swimming pool, 
lots of servants, limousines, and you're sixty-seven years old, 
and you're still working. Have you ever followed up on people who 
retire? What becomes of them, what happens to them?" 

He said, 'Vrite it down for me." So I wrote him a letter, 
and I said, "I'm not asking for money, I just want to tell you 
what we're doing and why" He sent a very terse letter back, and 
said, "I'll give you $5000." 

Derfman: So you feel that Mr. Fromm' s belief in what 

H. Fromm: He firmly believes in what he is doing, and he can convey this 

Dorfman: That's a talent. 

H. Fromm: It is a talent. It is something I can't do, which is very bad. 
We ourselves give a very substantial amount for the expenses of 
the institute. 

Dorfman: In addition, you bring other very needed skills. 

Skilled Listening 

H. Fromm: I listen. We have students who come and say, "Oh, I see you're 
busy. I just want to talk to you," and then they tell me about 
their illnesses from age six months on. I figure out, "Now she's 
at the age of fifty, now it's maybe twenty-two years to go." 
[laughs] Sometimes they go back to the year '40. This woman 
talked to me for one hour. I had to write a letter, and I got a 
bit impatient. She said in the end, "I'm awfully sorry I took so 
much of your time, but you see, I live alone, and I have nobody to 
talk te, " and then I felt terrible. 

Or a woman writes te me and sends me fifty pages of what 
happened to her in Vienna, how she was raped, and what a terrible 
fate she had because she was half Jewish, and her Jewish relatives 
ostracized her for being non-Jewish. The others didn't pay 
attention te her because they thought she was Jewish. She had to 
move from place to place, and she has no money, and no friends. 
She's a very good writer, and she wrote a book. 



H. Fromm: So I called her doctor, and I said, "I got permission to call you, 
I don't want to know what she has. But hew can I help her?" He 
said, "Find her an apartment, preferably with Jewish people, have 
her book published, and see to it that she gets a word processor." 
I said. "We're not social workers, that's not our role. I'll try 
to help her," and I called various organizations. So these are 
the by-products. 

Dorfman: Good listening is very powerful, isn't it? 

H. Fromm: It is. It's very exhausting, too. Your heart breaks; you hear so 
many horrible stories. 

More About Funding 

Dorfman: Can you tell me who besides you and Mr. Fromm helped to fund the 

H. Fromm: We went to foundations. It was not hard to get seed money. The 
San Francisco Foundation gives you some seed money, but then they 
don't go on with it. You always have to find either new 
foundations, or new organizations, new corporations, er new 


Dorfman: Were there individuals who 

H. Fromm: We started the Friends of the Fromm Institute. Some money came 

in, in twenty dollars, fifty dollars, $1000, but it is an enormous 
amount of work. We always had to have these fundraising dinners, 
which are a pain. You try not to bore people with lots of 
speeches. Finally we had an idea which is much copied now; to 
show contributors a video of what we are doing. Then we had 
students who spoke, and told what they get out of joining the 
institute. After that, we had professors who spoke, who told what 
they get out of teaching after retirement. Then we ran out of 
ideas, and I said, "Let's try a new thing, and not have a 
fundraising dinner." 

So we sent out very attractive folders, telling people what 
we are doing, and asking would they help us. We actually got more 
money by not having a fundraising affair, because I think people . 
have go to too many. And also, the cost of having a fundraising 
dinner is enormous. 

Dorfman: It must be. 

H. Fromm: So it's less work and less staffing. And we raised the same 
amount of money by a concentrated effort. 


Dorfman: That 1 s wonderful. 

H. Fremm: But new this has been copied, too. I received a fundraising 
brochure the ether day for a non-Ball. 

Honorary Doctor of Public Service. University of San Francisco. 
May 1979 

Dorfman: You were recognized for your work with the Fromm Institute by the 
University ef San Francisco. Tell me in what way. 

H. Fromm: I was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Public Service in May 1979. 
My husband received the same degree. 

The Future 

Dorfman: What do you see in the future for the Fromm Institute? 

H. Fromm: There is such a tremendous need for an organization like ours, and 
I believe it will continue for a long time. We're trying now to 
plan for the next ten years. 

Derfman: And what are your plans for the next ten years? 

H. Fromm: The main thing is funding, and making plans what we want the 
university to do and what they want us to do. And to find a 
person who will oversee this. We might not be alive in ten years, 
or probably not able to do it, I don't know. We are trying to get 
together with lawyers and the university. 

Dorfman: Are there major issues for planning for the future? 

H. Fromm: We would like it to go on that way. And who will take care of the 
money? We send the money to the university to pay our expenses. 
We invest the money, not they. Whatever the cash expenses, they 
are paid by us to the university who then disburses it. 

Derfman: So that the planning involves financial planning for the future 

H. Fromm: It's both. It's financial planning, it's academic planning, it's 
that people who will run the institute stick to our creed to only 
ask retired professors to teach. Because if you start with young 
professors, you are just inundated. We had an ad in the Journal 
ef Higher Education when we started. We wrote that we are looking 
for retired professors; we got so many letters from young 


Elderly Find 
a New life 
on Campus 


TlltMt SUH Wrttw 

Fromm watched a neighbor, "a once- 
powerful man, a banker." disinte 

"He retired and didn't know what 
to do with himself." she said. "I'd see 
him out walking his little dog or put 
tering in his yard. And then one day 
he died. 

"I was convinced it was because he 
was totally bored." 

So she and her husband. Alfred, a 
vuicaltunst, began asking friends 
what they would do when they re 
tired and the answer they received 
most often was that the older people 
they knew would like to return to 
school "but not with their grand- 

And they wanted to learn some 
thing besides how to make table mats 
out of Popsicle sticks. 

What their friends and others like 
them needed, the Fromms decided, 
was a setting where older people 
could enjoy a campus atmosphere but 
with classmates in their own age 
group and where they could take so 
lid academic courses for pleasure, not 
for credit. 

The result was the founding three 
years ago of the Fromm Institute for 
Lifelong Learning at the University 
of San Francisco, typical of a growing 
number of programs in higher educa 
tion being developed at colleges and 
universities across the country exclu 
sively for senior citizens. 

Case Western Reserve University 
in Cleveland, for example, has the In 
stitute for Retirement Studies where 
men and women ages 50 and older 
can enroll in free, noncredit courses; 
Ohio State University and other 
schools offer a "Program 60" to allow 
persons 60 and older to take classes at 
no charge. 

Fordhara University m New York 

has a "College at 60"' and Pace Uni 
versity in New York offers, for j 
smai! fee. a one -year membership in 
:'S "Active Retirement Center" ana 
enrollment in spenal 
rours-es. The New bchooi for Social 
Researrh in New York has a swi.mi 
'institute for retirea professionals. " 


Mure than 230 colleges and univer 
<ities :n 3S states participate in the 
National Elderhostel program, whicn 
enes the elderly a chance to live anl 
learn on campuses during vacation 
pencds when other students are 

"Lots of people enjoy 'earning a;:<i 
want to learn." William Berkeley, the 
National Elderhostel president, said, 
"and it isn't just something that goes 
on for people under 21 or 22 years of 

Indeed, the thrust of all the pro 
grams for older persons is that one is 
never too old to learn. 

"We thought we'd be lucky to get 
50 students when we first started," 
Hannah Fromm said, "and had 
planned for 35. We had 600 show up 
to register. It was pandemonium. 

"The most we could accommodate 
was 76 and we had filled all the spots 
when one 60-year-old man came up 
to me with tears in his eyes. He said 
his wife was still working, his five 
kids were gone from home and he 
didn't know what to do with himself. 
We took him." 

Although the University of San 
F'anciscc. a Jesuit scnooi. provides office ar.d 
ciassroerr space, the institute depends aimcst 
n r irfci or. pnvat* foundations and corporate 
donations for its $121.000 annual budget S'.u- 
ier.ti. if they can afford it, pay $150 tuition for 
'.nree eignt-week terms and some make volun 
tary contributions above that amount 

"'Money is our biggest problem," Mrs. Fromm 

The University of San Francisco was chosen 
as the site for the institute, program director 
Mildred Mishkin said, because "they are small 
ar.d have Jesuitical patience and they wanted 

Currently, 160 persons from ages 50 to 91 are 
enrolled in courses ranging from Greek mythol 
ogy and genetics to foreign affairs and Califor 
nia history. All are taught by retired university 
professors living in the Bay Area who, like their 
students, have often found retirement difficult 
Among the faculty members are Charles Eas- 
ton RothweU. a former president of Mills Col 
lege in Oakland and executive secretary of the 
United Nations Charter Conference here in 
1945; Thomas Blaisdell. professor emeritus of 
political science at the University of California 
and a former official in the administrations of 
Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S Truman, 
and Ernest Mundt, professor emeritus of art at 
San Francisco State University. 

"There is homogeneity of wisdom in the 
group," Robert Thornton. 81. a physics profes 
sor who once studied under Albert Einstein, 
told a reporter shortly after the institute opened 
in 1976. He added that he could teach more to 
the older students in a shorter period than he 
ever had been able to do with their younger 

To be sure, a study conducted at the Puget 
Sound Health Cooperative in Seattle found that 
a person's abilities do not necessarily decrease 
with time and, in fact verbal-comprehension 
skills frequently increase as one grows older. 

There is no reason, the study concluded that 
older people cannot acquire new knowledge and 

Some of the Fromm students have college 
degrees earned years ago-, others have never 
been inside a college classroom. But they repre 
sent a cross-section of older adults in the Bay 
Area. A few have gone on to enroll in regular 
university courses in pursuit of a degree. 

"I was so busy earning a living my whole life. 
I didn't have time for such things," the insti 
tute's student body president, 83-year-old Gir- 
vin Wait, said "I think this is stupendous. And 
being around all the young people on campus 

just fascinates me tremendously." 

Wait is a master mariner by trade and retired 
several years ago as a merchant captain after 50 
years at sea with Matson and Pacific Far East 
Lines. He is now taking courses on such sub 
jects as philosophy, foreign affairs and science 
and said he also "took a couple of astronomy 
courses just to bring myself up to date." 

His wife of 56 years, Constance/probably will 
enroll in the institute next year, he said "She's 
had such an active schedule, she's just been too 
busy this year," he said 

Margaret Sah. 65, a retired librarian, and her 
husband Benn. 68, who retired three years ago 
as an engineer with Bechtel Corp., are taking 
music, political science and other subjects they 
never had a chance to study when they were 
preparing for their careers. 

"I like the intellectual stimulus." she said 
"This is more like a liberal arts college." 

And James Schaefle. 73, has taken courses in 
English literature, astronomy, physics and cos 
mology, plus auditing regular university 
courses in anthropology and philosophy. 

"My wife died of cancer three years ago and I 
was really in a low state of mind" he said "A 
friend told me about the institute and I enrolled 
I like it because it doesn't have the usual acade 
mic tensions." 

A marine engineer before he retired in 1965. 

he also .discovered that he and Wait had once 
served together on the same ship. "It was in 
1932," he said "But our paths were quite sepa 
rate then. He was the captain and I was a wiper, 
the lowest rate in the engine room." 

In addition to organizing their own "student 
government" the Fromm students regularly 
schedule brown-bag lunches featuring prom 
inent speakers and field trips to such events as 
the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland Ore. 

"I feel like a schoolgirl again," Anne Davis. 
66. a retired librarian, said. One of the institute's 
first students, Fred Ramstedt said that at his 
age "learning has more meaning than it has 
purpose. My presence on this campus is simply 
telling the world, 'If you love learning, you love 
life.' " 

Mrs. Fromm. who works without pay as the 
institute's executive director, said she had done 
nothing that would have prepared her for run 
ning such a program and. despite a lifelong in 
terest in muse, choreography and design, had 
never had a career other than marriage. "I'm 
the perfect example of teaching an old dog new 
tncks." she said. 

But she is a director of the National Council 
on Aging in Washington and has strong opin 
ions about the prospects of old age. "I hate it." 
she once was quoted saying. "But I'd rather be 
active than feeling sorry for myself." 

Los Angeles Times, October 9, 


H. TV aim ; professors who said, "To all intents and purposes, I'm retired 

because I lost my position. I didn't get tenure " Once you start 
with this, you don't have any way to check them out. 

And our students are more comfortable with people their own 
age. There are other places to go to for those who are not and 
whs want te study with young people. They can also audit with 
young people at the University of San Francisco. They can be 
visitors, not auditors, because auditors pay, and visitors don't. 
But, on the whole, there are not toe many who do this. They would 
rather study with their own age group, they love being taught by 
their own age group. 

Because young professors also don't know how much older 
people know. So they start, as if they were undergraduates, and 
with information our students already know. 

Dorfman: From experience. 

H. Fromm: From experience. Yes, from life experience, from reading a lot. 
They know the basics. 




Dorfman: I'd like to move on now to your work with Music in the Vineyards. 
I believe that that came about because of the connection with your 
brother-in-law, Norman. 

H. Fromm: Not really. It began because the Fellows of the Behavioral 

Sciences came to Saratoga, to meet each other there. It used to 
be called the Ford Foundation, now it's the Behavioral Sciences. 
Where professors go for a year of studies ef their choice. 

Dorfman: Yes, at Stanford. 

H. Fromm: Yes. They came to the Paul Masson winery twice a year, when they 
joined the foundation, and when they left, because they had little 
contact with each ether in that year, although they knew one 
another. So it was very interesting for us, and seme ef the 
fellows asked us if they could come up to the winery and play 

Dorfman: What year was this? 

H. Fromm: I would say about twenty years, twenty-two years ago, or more. 

We had this big terrace, and we had moonlight concerts and invited 
a few friends. It was wonderful, you know. And then everybody 
said, "Oh, we heard you had a concert, next time can we come, 
too?" So we invited about a hundred people. The read was so 
narrow that you could either drive up or you could drive down. 

We had a hay wagon. We drove down to the parking space, and 
had all the guests come up in a hay wagon. 

Dorfman: Oh, how exciting. 

H. Fromm: And it was great fun. So, it started. And then somebody said, 
"You should do this professionally, it's so enjoyable." 

Dorfman: And this was at Paul Masson Vineyard? 


H. Fremm: Yes. We owned it at that time. I said, "It's a marvelous idea, 
but I don't knew how to do it," So Norman, who was a great music 
lover and organizer, and I started it together. Then other people 
got involved. But that's how it started. 

We had an acoustics expert to tell us where the best 
acoustics are and what we can do to improve it. 

Dorfman: Who was that? 

H. Fromm: Somebody from Stanford. We had the music performed in front of 

the church facade, which was actually the front of a wine cellar, 
but it was an old church facade. It was shipped from Spain and 
was brought to Saratoga stone by stone by Mr. Masson, and it is a 
beautiful old Romanesque church facade. That is where the 
concerts are. We also built bleachers to accommodate hundreds of 

Dorfman: So it's something that developed over a period of time. 

H. Fromm: Yes. of course, it takes years to do that. And we found out for 
that if there is a wind, singers can't hear their own voices. We 
had to adjust for that. We found out that if we have a piano, the 
night before the concert it gets damp, or if there's a storm, that 
we had to get a piano tuner on Sunday morning. 

Dor f man: How did you manage that? 

H. Fromm: Just somehow managed. There were a lot of us who worked at that. 
Then we found out that people fainted, or people got hurt, so we 
had first aid stations. Because we had, in the end, eight hundred 
people. You learn by bitter experience at times. Later this 
increased to one thousand with the creation of some new parking 

A woman fainted right in front of me, from the heat, and next 
to me was a surgeon and his wife. I said, "Do somethingl", and 
his wife said, "If he can't operate, he wouldn't know what to do." 
He didn't move a finger, and she came to by herself. 

Dorfman: Fortunately. [laughter] 

H. Fromm: I think somebody threw water on her or something. And some had 
heat prostration, and I bought a lot of salt tablets. Somebody 
gave us twenty pounds of salt, which I still have. 

Dorfman: And for how long did the concerts continue? 

H. Fromm: They're still continuing, but we are not involved anymore. 

Dorfman: How long were you involved? 


H. Fromm: Maybe ten, twelve years. And then the winery changed management 
and we stopped being involved. 

Dorfman: The concerts continue under the auspices of the winery? 

H. Fromm: Yes. As a matter of fact, they expanded it. They have jazz 

concerts, and they have rock and roll music they do much more 
than we did; we just had classical music. I heard it's very 

Dorfman: But you haven't 

H. Fromm: I can't bring myself to go up and see our house and not be 

permitted to go in all the things we built and not feel a part 
of it; being a stranger there. Because we rebuilt the whole place 
ourselves with the help of winery workers. We rebuilt the house, 
we built the terrace, we built the pool, we built the bleachers, 
we built the whole thing, planted the trees which are now all 
grown up. It bothers me to go up. Last time they wouldn't let me 
go into the house, and then I said, "That's the end." 

Dorfman: That's understandable. 

H. Fromm: Last time I was there was when my daughter was married at the 

winery, in front of the wishing well, and it was simply beautiful. 
Only the marriage didn't last. 

Dorfman: That was too bad. What year was that? 
H. Fromm: 1970, I think. 

Dorfman: Are there other thoughts or memories that you have in connection 
with the Music in the Vineyards project? 

Conductors and Artists; Friends and Guests 

H. Fromm: No, just the enormous amount of work and satisfaction. Saying 
hello to eight hundred people whom you would meet in San 
Francisco, and they would say, TJut I know you," and we didn't 
know them. Because to us it was a blur of faces. And the good 
times we had. Meeting interesting people, and all the musicians, 
who stayed in the house. 

Dorfman: Who particularly comes to mind, who stayed with you as a guest? 
H. Fromm: They all stayed with us. And I can't remember the names anymore. 


Kurt Adler 

Derfman: The San Francisco Opera you have known Kurt Adler. 
H. Fromm: Kurt Herbert Adler; since he came here. 
Dorfman: What year was that? 

H. Fromm: I have to think back, because his wife was pregnant with his son. 
He must be forty years old, at least, I think. 

Dorfman: What kind of a person was Kurt Adler? 

H. Fromm: He's a very powerful person, he's very dogmatic, he's a good 

organizer. He's very charming when he wants to be, and he's very 
knowledgeable about opera, music, and what he's doing, or was 
doing. He's a very intelligent man. And difficult. 

Dorfman: In what way? 

H. Fromm: I mean, he's not difficult, socially. He was difficult at the 

opera, because he wanted to have things done the way he wanted to 
have them dene, and it's difficult to deal with all the prima 
donnas. You know, who when somebody boos or somebody doesn't 
applaud enough, then they say, "I'm not going on for the next 

But he did a marvelous job. 
Dorfman: In what way did you and Mr. Fromm relate with Mr. Adler? 

H. Fromm: We were friends. As a matter of fact, he got engaged at our house 
in Kentfield, to his second wife. At the pool, more or less, 
[chuckles] But, we were very good friends. I always gave a party 
after the opening of the opera for people he wanted to invite; 
fifty or sixty people for a sit down dinner. That was in our 
young years. I don't think I could do it anymore. We went to bed 
at six or seven o'clock in the morning. At times my husband said 
to the artists, "You can stay up, you can make your breakfast if 
you want to, but I'm going to bed." [laughs] So we had a very 
good time. 

Dorfman: Yes, I imagine you did. 

H. Fromm: Met all the well-known singers. Like Leontyne Price, and Joan 

Sutherland. But I stopped when, instead of fifty people, ninety 
came for dinner, without my knowledge, without asking if they 
could bring somebody. When somebody said, "Are you going to the 
Fromms for dinner," I was told that a singer said, "Oh, who are 


H. Fremm: the Fremms?" "Oh, they are the people who have a house by the 
ocean where we get enough to eat, and dor' t have to stand in 
line. " 

Then I said, "That 1 s it, finished. n 

Dorfman : That was it. Who was the most personable of all the artists? 
H. Fromm: I would say Leontyne Price. 
Dorfman: In what way? 

H. Fromm: She was fun to be with, she was intelligent and warm; told us 

wonderful stories, jokes, and stories of her life. She and Regina 
Resnick; they always stayed for a long time, and we sat around and 

Dorfman: Did you talk about music? 

H. Fromm: They don't want to talk about music. They don't want to listen to 
music, they don't want to hear music after they have sung in an 


Dorfman: When we turned the tape, you were talking about your relationship 
with some of the opera artists and personalities who you had 
entertained in your home. You said that most of them didn't want 
to talk about music at that time, that they talked about what went 
on backstage. 

H. Fromm: Or about their lives. So many things go on backstage. This prima 
donna doesn't want to go back and sing because she thought 
somebody offended her, and lots of hysterics! And they love to 
talk about it. 

[chuckles] It's incredible. Because their whole life 
revolves around this. Rehearsals, and fittings f costumes, and, 
"this isn't right, and that isn't right," and arguments with the 
conductor, or whatever. 

Dorfman: Did you have many close friends who were members of the opera, or 
of the symphony? 

H. Fromm: Artists. Yes. Yes; conductors mainly. Not many singers. But 
conductors usually. You know, singing is a special talent. 
Singers remember all the notes, and all the words in a language 
they don't even understand. If they sang in German, and I would 
say anything in German to them, they wouldn't know what I was 
talking about. Because they learn it very often by rote. They do 
have this fabulous memory. 


Dorfman: Which of the conductors comes to mind as a special friend? 

H. Fromm: Oh. Steinberg. Leinsdorf. Bruno Walter, Josef Krips. There were 
so many. 

Drfman: What do you remember about Josef Krips? 

H. Fromm: Very nice. You know, socially, they are all different than 

William Steinberg 

H. Fromm: When I saw some of them conduct, some of them were very nasty, or 
very sarcastic, but socially they were very nice, very much fun. 
And very interesting. Steinberg, especially was a very 
intelligent and interesting man. 

Dorfman: In what way? 

H. Fromm: Very knowledgeable. His hobby was studying Sanskrit, on the side. 
When he came to our house, he always disappeared into the other 
room. He was always called "Steinberg," never by his first name 

Dorfman: Which was? 

H. Fromm: His first name was William, but nobody seemed to use it. I said, 
"What are you doing in this room?" (He was conducting the opera 
here.) And he said, "I'm watching the fish bowL I watch the 
fish open their mouths, and not a sound comes out. And it's so 
wonderful." [laughter] 

Dorfman: That* s wonderful. And Terence McEwen? 
H. Fromm: I know him very superficially. 



Dorfman: You know, it has occurred to me that you are a very contemporary 
woman both as an executive and a wife. And I wondered if you 
would comment en that. 

H. Fromm: I was brought up that way. Since my mother and I were alone after 
I was fourteen, I had to really take care of her when she made a 
trip. I had to get the tickets, I had to look up the time table. 
I had to take care of a lot of things, and I was very independent. 
Leaving at the age of seventeen to study in Essen and then for 
England alone, and having to take care ef myself and my finances 
makes you independent. 

In my husband's family, it was just the opposite. All the 
women were very dependent on their husbands. They were all 
together every night at my parents-in laws' house. Every night 
they waited for the men to finish their business talk, and then 
they all peeled the apples and oranges. To this day, I can't 
peel an orange, [chuckles] because I was so rebellious. 

I was there when I was sixteen. I was supposed to learn I 
was a house daughter, it was called to learn haw to keep house. 
Of course, I hated it together with a cousin of my husband's, 
who's still a good friend of mine. I said, "I couldn't live a 
life like this." They weren't allowed to go to the movie, or to 
go out alone. My father-in-law was a very strict man. He ruled 
the house, and the women catered to him. 

For them it was a natural thing to do, for me, it was an 
unnatural thing t do, since I was more-or-less 9n my own. 

Dorfman: So that your role today is largely the result of your early 

training and experience. Because you certainly are a most unusual 

H. Fromm: I always went from one extreme t the other. I was very sheltered 
as a very young girl. I never had to clean my room; threw 
everything on the floor, nobody ever said anything. Then, from 


H. Fromm: that well-to-do environment, I went to Paris and to poverty, real 
poverty, and having to work. 

I suffered physically because I now had to sit fer eight 
hours and sew instead of practicing exercising my body for eight 
hours. In this place where I worked, there was a toilet for the 
employees that was a hole in the floor. Sometimes, I had to 
stretch myself. I went into this toilet room and made the 
bridge you knew, you bend backwards, to stretch my body. One 
day, I forgot to lock the door, and my boss came in. [laughs] 
Can you imagine this sight? I was perched backwards over this 
hole. He thought I was totally crazy. 

Dorfman: You were in a backbend? 

H. Fromm: Yes. And from that environment, again, then I went to the 

sheltered environment of my relatives in London, who were very 
conservative and very Orthodox. From there I went to Israel, or 
at that time, Palestine, I worked as a cashier, and then I went to 
New York, and got married and had a child. There were a lot of 
changes. But you get used to it; you do miss it after a while. 

Children and Grandchildren 

Dorfman: You have one son, David, who lives in the East, and grandchildren 
who are in the East as well. Your son was born in New York, and 
your daughter was born here and resides here. 

H. Fromm: In Sausalito. She has a son of about sixteen months, Alexander 

Dorfman: And your daughter is married to Rabbi 
H. Fromm: Brian Lurie. 
Dorfman: Your son 

H. Fromm: He lives in Syracuse, New York, and is the chief of surgery there, 
at New York State University [SUNY], upstate New York, medical 
school. He's married to Barbara Solter, from San Francisco. Her 
father is a doctor. We have three grandchildren. Marc is twenty- 
one. Ken is nineteen, and Kathy is sixteen. Marc goes to Tufts, 
and Ken goes to Haverford, and Kathy is still home. 

Dorfman: What are your expectations and hopes for your family? 

H. Fromm: That they may be content happy at whatever they choose to do. 



Alfred Fromm 

Dorfman: Can you tell me what life with Mr. Fromm is like? 

H. Fromm: [chuckles] Hectic. All my life, I heard him say, "I will take it 
easier soon." That has been from the very beginning. In the 
beginning, he had to work very hard, and he traveled for six 
months out of a year, which was very hard on me. 

Dorfman: Oh, it must have been. 

H. Fromm: He worked really terribly hard, to make a go of things. I'm sure 
he told you why. That we lived in Riverdale, New York. And we 
had to go out there by subway and then walk for twenty minutes. 
He said, "I wasn't born to go by subway anywhere, and to be shoved 
in winter, smelly cars, or to be shoved in, in summer, when 
everybody smells." So he said, "I am working as hard as I can to 
get out of this." So, it's been work, work, work. A lot of 
traveling, a lot of fun, too. 

Dorfman: You were telling me earlier about his feeling about space, as 
opposed to your feeling about space. 

H. Fromm: I like space, but not too much of it. I like a manageable space. 
This [house] is sort of if you don't have household help, it 
becomes sometimes difficult to manage. It's manageable if I would 
enjoy staying home all day and cleaning up, then it would be 
manageable, but I'm not the person to do that. 

Dorfman: But, Mr. Fromm, you said 

H. Fromm: He said he needs space, because, "positive thoughts need space and 
a view." 

Dorfman: You were going to tell me about how you came to build this house. 

H. Fromm: We lived across the street. My husband, when I visited San 

Francisco the first time in 1939, took me out here, and said, 
"This is where we are going to live one day." We moved in 1941 to 
San Francisco. After two years we were thrown out of our apartment 
in San Francisco because we had a child. And moved to 845 El 
Camino Del Mar, and looked across the street at this lot all the 
time. We owned a small piece of property in Silicon Valley, a pie 
shaped piece of property, which was of not much use to anybody. 

Then my husband heard that General Motors was going to build 
a plant there, so he offered them that lot, and they paid a fair 
amount. On his birthday, on a Sunday, the real estate man came 
and said, "This lot in Seacliff is for sale. But you have to make 


H. Fromm: up your mind right away." So I said to him. "Forget that you ever 
had the lot. and pay the price," which he did. And blamed me for 
everything afterwards, but he said, "I'm glad you did push me. I 
wouldn't have done it on my own." And we built the house with one 
of the finest views of the Golden Gate in San Francisco. 

Dorfman: You were telling me that Mr. Fromm told the architects, William 
Wurster and Theodore Bernardi, that he wanted 

H. Fromm: A large house. And I wanted a small house that looked spacious. 
But, since they were good businessmen, they built a large house. 
And we needed the space at that time. Life was easier then, you 
got household help without trouble. We had a lady for twenty-five 
years, and then somebody for ten years, and then it was disaster 
afterwards; every few months it was somebody else. 

Dorfman: Which must make it very difficult to maintain. 

H. Fromm: Also, I'm getting older, and it's harder. And I'm not a person 
whe likes to stay home all day, be a housewife. So I'm really 
dependent on help in this house. I would like to move in to a 
smaller one, but my husband loves this house so much. Because 
they were always property owners in Germany, and he feels this is 
his property, this is his place. He doesn't want to move to an 
apartment, he would feel displaced. He said, "I was displaced 
once, and I don't want to feel displaced again." So we just do 
the best we can. 

So some things are dusty, and some things are run down. It's 
the only way to live. 

Dorfman: It's lovely. The view is magnificent. 

H. Fromm: The view is fantastic, yes. 

Dorfman: What do you think your most important contribution has been? 

H. Fromm: It's hard to say. Bringing up children to be good citizens, 

having a nice family and to be successful. Starting the Fromm 
Institute for Lifelong Learning. Doing a lot of things for other 


Dorfman: What do you look forward to? 

H. Fromm: Staying healthy for all of us. 

Derfman: About Mr. Fromm, what do you think is most important to him? 

H. Fromm: The family, his business. He loves to work, and he still, at the 
age of eighty, gees daily to the office. H<> leaves at eight 
thirty, and comes home at five, five thirty, and works on so many 


H. Fromm: different projects that his mind has to change every hour. That's 
what keeps him going. 

He comes home exhausted, and takes a nap, and then he's 

Dorfman: He has a wonderful mind. 

H. Fromm: Yes. He can switch his mind very quickly. 

Dorfman: Mr. Fromm has made many important contributions to the general 

community, and to the Jewish community, both. What d you think 
he would consider the most important of those contributions? 

H. Fromm: At one time it was the wine museum, which is now relocated. The 

San Francisco Jewish Community Museum, and all the other things he 
contributes to, not only money but time, to various 

Dorfman: What else might come to mind before we conclude? 

H. Fromm: That I've had a very happy and productive life, up to now. With 
many tragedies too. But, on the whole, it's been good. 

Dorfman: Thank you for your time, and your involvement. Your interview 
will provide a valuable resource. 

Transcribed by Anne Schofield 
Final Typed by Shannon Page 






Alfred Fromm and Kurt Herbert Adler had a lot in common. They were born 
and raised in German -speaking countries before World War I, they left Europe 
in the 1930s in the face of Nazism, they eagerly launched new lives and 
careers in the United States, and they brought a special brand of drive and 
determination to achieve excellence in their work. 

Fromm gave an extraordinary amount of time to the support of the arts in 
the Bay Area. His involvement with San Francisco Opera grew from his close 
personal relationship with Kurt Adler, whom he met in the early 1940s just 
after Adler had come from Chicago to work as chorus director for the opera 
company, and the two remained friends until Adler 's death in 1988. 

Mr. Adler valued Mr. Fromm' s expertise in financial matters and 
suggested he join the opera board of directors in 1973; Mr. Fromm did and has 
been a member ever since, although he is the first to say that his only role 
was to work directly with Mr. Adler and then only on matters financial. He 
supported the company generously, he offered advice when it was asked of him, 
and the Fromm home welcomed opera artists during many a fall season. Fromm 
recalls many post-performance parties where wine and champagne flowed, and 
from which he retired only at four a.m.: "I'm going to bed," he announced, 
"because I'm a working man!" 

In this interview, Mr. Fromm talks about the dynamics of arts giving in 
the Bay Area, the Opera Association boards of directors, and other arts 
companies with which he has been involved, and about the life and career of 
Kurt Adler. 

The interview took place in Mr. Fromm' s Montgomery Street office in 
downtown San Francisco on a warm fall afternoon. He edited the text and 
deleted certain portions he thought duplicated materials in the large oral 

Caroline Crawford 
Music Interviewer 

September 1988 

Regional Oral History Office 

486 The Bancroft Library 

University of California at Berkeley 


[Date of Interview: October 29, 1987] ## 

A Longstanding Friendship; The Fromms and the Adlers 

Crawford: Mr. Fromm, you are not a newcomer to oral history. 
Fromm: Well, I am no expert, but I have done it before. 

Crawford: Yes, I enjoyed reading your transcripts. 

We are going to focus in this interview on your friendship 
with Kurt Herbert Adler and your involvement in the arts here. 
So let us begin with your talking about how you came to meet Mr. 
Adler and his family. 

Fromm: We lived in New York when we first came in 1936 from Germany. I 

was in the wine business all my life and I wasn't the first 
generation: our family in Germany were vintners for a few 
hundred years. When I, with my associates, developed a business 
in the United States for California wines, it was necessary for 
me to go to California, as our firm had taken the representation 
of the Christian Brothers in Napa, which is a religious order of 
the Catholic Church. The Christian Brothers at that time didn't 
know very much about wine, and so I moved in 1941 with my wife 
and our son to San Francisco to counsel and to help. 

Some friends of ours knew Kurt Adler from Vienna, and they 
introduced him to us. Mrs. Adler at that time was pregnant with 
Ronnie. As we both had started our profession, to build a life 
in the United States, we became good friends. They came to our 
house, and we came to theirs. We knew their children, and it was 
really a personal friendship. We exchanged our experiences 
because we were both newcomers. That's the way it started, and 
has remained so, this friendship. It's now forty-four years that 
we have known each other. 


Crawford: What do you remember of Mr. Adler when you first knew him, in the 

Fromm: Well. I could see immediately that Kurt was a very active and 

ambitious person, a real doer. He was first chorus master at the 
opera, under Mr. Merola. 

Mr. Merola, the general director of the San Francisco Opera 
and a very intelligent man, soon found out that Kurt Adler was a 
very unusual person. A man who worked immensely hard, who needed 
very little sleep, who had a lot of good ideas, and quickly, in a 
very short while, Kurt became Maestro Merola's assistant. When 
Mr. Merola died, Kurt was appointed the director of the San 
Francisco Opera. 

Fromm: During his long tenure he has done a fabulous job. It is not 

easy to be the director of a first-rate opera company, because 
you are dealing with a lot of egos and some I would consider kind 
of nuts. 

Crawford: You are thinking of artists now? 

Fromm: Yes. And I remember that once we were at the opera backstage 

when they gave Boris Godunov, and I saw the people running around 
because the star said he couldn't sing, for whatever reason. 

Kurt came down and talked to him, and ten minutes later the 
opera opened and it was a fabulous performance. But then I said 
to Kurt, 'Kurt, believe me, I'd rather be in the wine business 
than in your crazy one. " 

Crawford: And what did he say? 

Fromm: He laughed. He said, "I wouldn't mind being in the wine 

business, but I know nothing about it. " 

Kurt Adler as Impresario 

Crawford: What do you think worried Mr. Adler about the business? Or put 
another way, what taxed him? 

Fromm: Well, there were always serious negotiations with the unions, and 

the need of cutting expenses to a reasonable level. The public 
in San Francisco is quite spoiled. They want a first-class 
performance; they want some famous stars singing. Of course all 
this unfortunately costs lots of money. Kurt was fabulous in all 
these matters; he was a first-rate money-raiser, because he know 
how to talk to the right people. He had this great gift of 


Fromm: communication, regardless of whether the people were large or 

small. Th:Is is a gift that very few people have. He could be 
charming or toughwhatever was called for. 

He was a tough taskmaster too, but I think he was the 
toughest with himself. 

Crawford: Did he like fund-raising? 

Fromm: Well, I don't think it was a matter of liking, but a matter of 

necessity. During that time, the opera was smaller, and there 
was a lot less money than there is today. 

I remember when the Adlers were at our house for a dinner 
party. Tom Clausen, a friend of ours, who was at that time the 
president of the Bank of America, and is presently its president 
again, was one of our guests. Kurt talked with him, and he did it 
with such enthusiasm that the Bank of America sponsored one of the 
performances of the opera. That was a personal experience that 
happened in our home. 

Crawford: The story illustrates that he was always working. 

Fromm: Yes, he did. During the years we knew each other we always gave 

after the opening of the opera a party at our house. This was 
before the Fol de Rol existed, which is a money-raising affair. 
Kurt gave us a list of all the stars and they came out at twelve 
or one o'clock when we could feed the artists with a good dinner, 
because they mostly eat very little before they sing. 

There was plenty of wine and champagne, and the conductors 
and singers came all the top people and it generally went on 
until three or four o'clock in the morning, when I said to our 
guests, "There is still plenty to eat and plenty of wine, but I'm 
going to bed because I'm a working manl" [laughs] 

I think we had almost every one of the illustrious opera 
stars in our house through the first fifteen or twenty years that 
we knew each other. 

Crawford: And you knew the children then. Kristin and Ronald. 

Fromm: Yes. It might interest you that before Kurt and Nancy were 

engaged they came to our country house in Kentf ield. We have a 
pool there and it was summer, and he said to my wife, "This is a 
very important day, because Nancy will tell me within the next 
ten minutes if she will marry me or not." And he said to my 
wife, "What do you think?" And Hanna said, "Well, if I had a 
daughter I would think twice too, because there is a big 
difference in your ages." We knew each other so well, that it 
was an honest answer. Kurt said to Hanna, "Are you for me or are 


Fromm: you against me?" She said to him, "You wanted an honest answer." 

Anyway, they did get engaged in our summer house in 
Kentfield. It was a good marriage because Nancy is a very 
intelligent, spunky and pretty woman with a great love of the 

Crawford: You've shared some important moments, then. 
Fromm: Well, yes. We are old friends. 

But what he did for the opera was unprecedented, and I think 
there was never anyone else who could do that with limited funds. 
He was a master in spending the money where it had to be spent, 
and not spending where it could be saved. 

Opera in San Francisco; Fund-Raising 

Crawford: Do you think it is extraordinary that a city the size of San 
Francisco supports such an opera house of world-class stature? 

Fromm: It is, definitely. I'm a director of the opera for a very long 

time; I think about fifteen years. 

Crawford: According to my list of the boards of directors, it is since 

Fromm: Yes. Maestro Merola and Adler have done so much to make the 

opera a glamorous undertaking that it has its local roots. The 
difficulty, I believe, is that when the old families who have given 
so much money to the opera in previous years are not alive any 
more, the children inherit and have to pay heavy taxes, and it 
will be much more difficult to get these large amounts donated. 

So it is necessary for the opera to be on a broader basis. 
This was for a long time a very social affair, but will become 
less and less so as time goes on. 

Crawford: Is there a different kind of distribution of wealth today? 

Fromm: Well, it's not the same kind of old wealth, where taxes were 

almost nonexistent or very low. When people die with a very high 
inheritance tax and large "ortunes get split up, it means that 
the children and grandchildren don't have the large funds 
available that have been in the past the main part of the opera's 


Crawford: What about corporate giving? 

Fromm: Corporate giving is still not at the level it should be. 

Corporations are generally not generous; of course they always 
have the excuse that they are spending the money of the 
stockholders, which is true, but on the other hand San Francisco 
is not a manufacturing town it is a headquarters town, and in 
order to be a headquarters town it is necessary to have cultural 
advantages that do not exist somewhere else. 

For example, let's take Detroit, which is a larger city. It 
has three or four hundred thousand people more than San Francisco, 
but it doesn't have an opera. A cultural enterprise can only be 
successful, Miss Caroline, if it is broad-based, and the opera in 
San Francisco is a San Francisco institution. 

Crawford: So you expect that the population here will continue to support 
the opera and the other arts? 

Fromm: Yes, but in the long run it will perhaps be a different sort of 

people and not anymore such large gifts. There are such 
wonderful people here, like Louise Davies, but one day Mrs. 
Davies will not be here, and I don't know if Mrs. Davies 1 
children will be willing to spend that kind of money. Those are 
all in the future, but they have to be considered today. 

In addition to that, I feel that the opera has to spread out 
and not just be a San Francisco institution but a regional 
institution for northern California. 

Crawford: When do you attend performances? 

Fromm: We have box seats at the opera. First we went on Tuesday nights, 

but that was such a bad night for me, so now we go on Fridays. 

Crawford: Is that a different audience? 
Fromm: Yes. Much more democratic. 

Crawford: In 1978, patrons with preferred seating had to begin paying a 

surcharge for their tickets. Some called it "blood money," and 
it did represent a change in policy. 

Fromm: Yes, there was resistance. When you ask people to pay. not 

everybody will come forward. But it was absolutely necessary to 
do this, because a very substantial sum comes in this way. 

On the other hand, if you can presently afford to pay $62.50 
for a ticket for each performance, then you can afford this 


Serving on the Opera Board of Directors 

Crawford: Let's go now to the board, because you have been a longtime 
member of the San Francisco Opera Association board and have 
bridged two administrations: that of Mr. Adler and also Mr. 
McEwen. How did you come to join the board? 

Fromm: Well, Kurt and I, since I am a businessman, often talked about 

the business aspects of the opera, with which Kurt was very 
familiar. One day he said, "Alfred, why don't you join the 
board?" I said, "I can't contribute anything to the artistic 
endeavor of the opera, but maybe I can assist you in financial 
and administrative matters. If I can help, I will be happy to do 
it." And that is the way I joined. 

Crawford: Could you compare the boards on which you have served? I know 

you have been on the Conservatory of Music board and others for a 
long time. 

Fromm: Well, when I joined the San Francisco Conservatory of Music 

board, it was an awful mess. The conservatory was in really bad 
shape as an institution and in its financial setup. 

As you know, Miss Caroline, nothing can be done without 
money. If you run an institution like that, it cannot be self- 

Crawford: It cannot be. 

Fromm: No, it just can't be. But a few of us at the conservatory could 

see that something would have to happen or it would disappear 
completely. When Milton Salkind came in, he took hold of it he 
is a friend of ours too for many years and he has done a 
wonderful job of making the conservatory an outstanding 
institution. It is one of the best in the country, and very many 
of the graduates have made fine careers. 

The fact that we have the conservatory here and the opera, 
they really complement each other. That is what got me involved 
here. I figured that between the conservatory and the opera some 
good could be done. 

And you know the opera had been for years a social affair, 
and that did not really appeal to me, because I felt that you 
need to involve many people, and I discussed this often with 
Kurt. He understood it well; Kurt was a very intelligent man, 
and he knew the way to get the cooperation of the so-called 
social strata of the opera. 






Fr ouim : 

Crawford ; 

Crawford ! 



Fromm : 



Tell me, what was Mr. Adler's rapport with the board? 

It was excellent. He really knew how to talk to people. You 
know, if you can run an opera house and deal with all the stars 
and unions, you can deal with almost anyone. 

What about Robert Watt Miller? You weren't on the board when he 
was president, but you must have known him. 

Yes. He was a great friend of the opera, and he did a great 
deal. But his time has passed. Today, the opera has to be a 
more democratic institution that needs a broader basis. 

Did the board ever resist Mr. Adler's wishes his desire for new 
productions, for example? 

Not that I know of. No, I think he had the full cooperation of 
the board. When I joined the board, Walter Baird was president. 

What was his relationship to Mr. Adler like? 

Very good. Wally Baird is still on the board; I've known him for 
a long time. He was with Price Waterhouse, the large accounting 
firm, and I think he was very helpful to Kurt. In fact, it was 
one of the gifts Kurt had, that people would extend themselves to 
help him accomplish something that he felt was necessary. It is 
a very well known fact, Miss Caroline, that most of the work is 
not done by fifty people on the board, but by a few. 

How has the board changed? 

Well, the entire board management has changed. The president and 
the other officers are mostly business people, practical people, 
and I think this change is something that was absolutely 
necessary. People who see that the funds come in and many who 
give large amounts themselves. It's a different board today, 
much more democratic and much more effective. 

This relates to what you were talking about earlier, 
become more broad-based. 

the need to 


What was your role on the board, as you saw it? 

I didn't have a role of any importance on the board. I think I 
could do more by talking directly to Kurt, because if you have 
forty or fifty people there, it isn't conducive to do much. I 
have for many years helped the opera financially to the best of 
our ability. Whenever there was anything that needed to be done, 
my wife and I were there to assist, inviting certain 


Fromm: artists, which I understood was part of Kurt's public relations. 

Some of the stars came to our house for dinner, and we 
became with some of them quite friendly. They were sometimes 
narrow [-minded] , but with fabulous voices. And there were also 
some fabulous voices who were broadgauged. I hope you don't mind 
that I'm so outspoken! 

Crawford: Not at all. That makes it more lively and a whole story. 

Dealing with the Unions 

Crawford: You mentioned in your own interview that you suggested to Mr. 
Adler that he get the unions to help sponsor lower-priced 
tickets. Which unions came forward? 

Fromm: Very little has been done in this area. But I always said to 

Kurt, "We have got to get the union people interested because 
that makes it easier to deal with them, too." This was one of 
the great jobs Kurt did, to be able to deal with the unions. 

But there are today a lot of union people who make very good 
money and could become gradually interested. I am not thinking 
of a union in a steel mill; it's people who made already years 
ago good money and who want their children to be culturally 
better educated. That's one thing. 

The other thing is to go into the suburbs, and I mentioned 
this often to Kurt. The opera needs directors from San Jose; 
they need directors from Oakland, from the outlying districts of 
the Bay Area because San Francisco as a headquarters city has 
cultural facilities, and the population of San Francisco is 
really too small to raise all the money that is needed. We 
should expand into the very wealthy outreach territories that we 
have around San Francisco, and Kurt understood this very well. 

Crawford: Was this implemented? 

Fromm: Only to some extent. I think it will be implemented now with the 

people who are running the opera, the businessmen. 

Crawford: Do you think the board is strong now, in the eighties? 

Fromm: Yes. Particularly the officers of the board are successful, 

active businessmen. And you know, if you are successful in your 
business, you learn how to run things, and the opera is a 
business too, a cultural one. 


Crawford: Is Mr. McEwen as much of a presence before the board as Mr. Adler 

Fromm: Yes, but in an entirely different way. Kurt was an all-around 

man. He could do almost anything, and McEwen is probably not 
that versatile. As I told you before, I cannot criticize or 
account for the musical level because I'm not educated for that, 
and I hate to talk about things I don't know much about. 

Donors for the Future: "A Great Reservoir" 

Crawford: Let me ask you then about something you said in an earlier 

interview. You said that in earlier years, there were few Jewish 
members on the boards of directors. Are there more now? 

Fromm: Yes, there are. You know, being Jewish is not always an easy 

life, but that has changed greatly in this country. I can talk 
about this because I come from Germany and I lived through the 
Nazi hell. We escaped in time, otherwise we wouldn't be alive. 

I think today you have in general in the country less 
prejudice among the various religions and races, because in the 
end you know there are good people in every religion as well as 
bad ones. We have a great number of Japanese and Chinese 
citizens, some of them extremely wealthy, and also from other 
Asian countries. Think also of the many people of Mexican 
origin who are becoming integrated into the American way of 
life. There is a great reservoir for the future, but we must 
start now to get them interested. They are hard-working and 
their children will work for the finer things in life. 

If you look back to the great disagreements between 
Catholics and Protestants, they were without good reason. If one 
wants to go to one church and someone else to another, well, let 
them do it. After all, we all live together in one place and we 
have to get along together. 

Crawford: We have talked about the donor community a little and it seems to 
me that individual sponsorship of opera productions in the last 
few years have been increasing. I'm talking about contributions 
in the order of a quarter of a million dollars now. Do you think 
those sponsors are diminishing in numbers? 



Fromm: Ultimately, they will, yes. Most of the large sponsors of the 

opera belong to the older generation, who were interested in the 
opera and did so much for it, and there will be in the future 
fewer and fewer of them. It is the natural way of life. 

In my opinion, it is of utmost importance to get young 
people and people from all walks of life interested so that the 
opera becomes an institution that is close to the hearts of all 
the people, all of them looking for some romance. You know, if 
it becomes strictly cultural business, without some romance, then 
the average person says, "What the hell do I have to do with 

Crawford: I like your way of putting it the idea of romance. 

The Fromm Family and the Arts 



What about your own children? 
as you and your wife? 

Are they as involved in the arts 

Well, my daughter Caroline is, but my son David is less so. He 
is a surgeon and the chairman and chief of the Wayne State 
University department of surgery, which has one of the largest 
surgical departments in the United States. So he has four 
hospitals under him and thirty-two surgeons. He seems to be an 
outstanding surgeon, but I don't know anything about surgery. My 
wife does, because she is the daughter of a doctor, who was very 
well known. 

Crawford: So that was a natural avenue for him. And Caroline? 

Fromm: She is a psychotherapist and has her own practice. She just had 

a little girl so she is not doing much professionally right now. 
She is married to Brian Lurie, who is one of the most intelligent 
and well known young leaders of the Jewish community. He is the 
head of the Jewish Welfare Foundation, which is the Jewish head 
organization. He is a really outstanding man. They live in 
Sausalito. You know, most fathers think there is no man good 
enough to marry his daughter, but my wife and I are happy. 

Crawford: Oh, that's remarkable. Good! 



The Adler Temperament and the Question of Retirement 


Froram : 


Let me now concentrate on your friendship with Mr. Adler. 
would you describe that personality? 


Well, I know that in his work, Kurt was rough and had to be 
rough. It was necessary to accomplish what he had to do. In our 
relationship, that never played any role. We always enjoyed 
ourselves and talked about what was going on in the world. It 
was a strange country to come to in some ways, when you grew up 
and had your roots in Europe. 

On the other hand, I am one of the America-firsters. There 
is no place in the world like it, even with all its warts. I've 
been around the world quite a bit, because our firm in Germany 
was a very large exporter, and I traveled very extensively 
throughout the world, so I know what I am saying. 

Was Mr. Adler ever tempted to leave San Francisco and return to 

Fromm: I don't think so. 

Crawford: Even when Maestro von Karajan invited him to Vienna as his 
administrative chief? 

Fromm: Well, the San Francisco Opera was a bigger and more fulfilling 

job, that Kurt has developed. It was his child. 

Crawford: Did his retirement come as a surprise to you? 

Fromm: Well, Kurt and I talked about it quite a bit. The time comes for 

everyone. I am eighty-three, and I retired when I was seventy- 
nine, and I did it because I thought it was time, although I must 
say I'm busier now than I was for many years when I ran a 
substantial wine and brandy business. 

Crawford: Some retirement! 


Well, I don't know what else to do. I've worked since I was 
fifteen years old! Retirement, though, has given me a chance to 
do substantial pro bono work. I spend about 80 percent of my 
time doing it, There is not the need to make money any more, and 
there is not the continuous demand on my time for business 

You know, it takes simple people who are willing to work and 
who have common sense. It is not a question of the smartest 
people. I have met a lot of smart people, and they have made such 
a mess of their own lives that it is really pitiful. 


Crawford: Tell me, if you would, what Mr. Adler is doing at the Fromm 

Fromm: We have always had courses in music, which were very popular, 

since we started twelve years ago. Since we knew Kurt very well, 
we asked him to become a professor at the institute, and he 
enthusiastically accepted. 

He gave fabulous lectures, and the elderly ladies swooned, 
because he addresses them in the proper way, and his was one of 
our most popular courses. 

He teaches, of course, about opera, and there are so many 
stories that it's an enjoyable course, and at the same time, the 
students learn a great deal. It's so mixed up with anecdotes, 
and Kurt is a master in telling it. 

So we are very happy with him, and of course all our 
professors are paid some twenty-five or thirty of them and we 
have a waiting list of many professors now that the institute is 
known. Professors have the same problem as everyone else. They 
say when they retire that they don't want to teach anymore, but 
soon they feel like fish out of water. 

Crawford: Teaching is what they know. 

Fromm: It is what they know, and they need the adoration and the feeling 

that they are important. It has a lot to do with ego, I think; 
I'm not a psychiatrist and I don't worry about it. [laughter] 
Even so, I'm aware of psychiatry since Erich Fromm is my second 
cousin, and a few members of our family practice it. 

Crawford: I didn't know that. I read his books with great pleasure. 


Has Adler been content with retirement? 

Only partially, I believe. 

The Adler Legacy 

Crawford: Well, let me move on now to the last question: the Adler legacy. 
What has he left to the region and to the Bay Area? 

Fromm: He has left an opera organization that is known throughout the 

world, which he created. When Merola ran the opera, it was a 
very nice local institution, but it was not an opera of world 
class. It was Kurt who did this. This is his greatest 
accomplishment, and he did it with less personnel and less money 

Fromm : 


Crawford : 



than anyone else who has followed after him. 

Crawford: Was there genius there? 

Definitely. When I think of my own life, it's like going up a 
ladder: you go up six steps and then you look up and try to go 
another six steps, and when you are at twelve steps you try for 
another six. After that, you don't have to do it for the money 
anymore, because most likely you are financially secure; you do 
it because you want to prove to yourself that you can do it. 

If you put a great deal of effort in yourself and you want 
to see how far you can go. I think that's what Kurt's life was. 
Maybe that's why we were always on a common level, and I think 
that's why I did understand Kurt. He wanted to do something 
outstanding for his own satisfaction. 

Was your background similar to his? 

Your education and 

No, not at all. Kurt has had an entirely different education 
than I had. I started to serve an apprenticeship when I was 
fifteen, while Kurt had the whole gymnasium-university training 
and then started in the music and theater field. Our careers 
were entirely different, but I think our goals and our attitudes 
were quite similar. 

Crawford: I appreciate your answering my questions. 
Fromm: You're welcome. I hope it was what you wanted. 

Transcribed by Shannon Page 
Final Typed by Shannon Page 



Interview 1: 
tape 1, 
tape 1, 

May 16, 
side A 
side B 


tape 2, side A 

Interview 2: 
tape 1, 
tape 1, 
tape 2, 

July 19 
side A 
side B 
side A 


tape 2, side B 

Interview 3: July 23, 1985 

tape 1, side A 

tape 1, side B 

tape 2, side A 

Interview 4: 
tape 1 
tape 1 
tape 2 

July 31, 1985 
side A 
side B 
side A 

tape 2, side B 

Interview 5: August 8, 1985 

tape 1, side A 

tape 1, side B 

Interview 6: January 31, 1986 

tape 1, side A 

tape 1, side B 

Interview 7: May 22, 1987 

tape 1, side A 













Interview 8: 
tape 1, 
tape 1 : 

December 23, 1986 
side A 
side B 

tape 2, side A 


ALFRED FROMM (Interview on Music) 
Interview 9: October 29, 1987 
tape 1, side A 





A. "Hocks and Moselles, How They are Growing and Ripening." 

House of Fronun, Germany. 165 

B. "Deutscher Wein: Wie er wachst und reift," N. Fromm, Bingen am Rheim, 
Germany. 174 

C. Wine labels of N. Fromm, Germany, 1929 and 1932. 193 

D. "Dean of Wine Tasters Sips For Three Hours Daily," San Francisco 
Examiner. June 8, 1953. Article about Max Fromm. 194 

E. Letter from Paul Fromm, October 20, 1986. 195 
Brief Biography of Paul Fromm 196 
An Addition by Alfred Fromm about his brother, Paul Fromm 198 
Obituary of Paul Fromm, New York Times. July 6, 1987. 199 

"New American Music: The Living Legacy of Paul Fromm." 
Chicago Tribune. July 9, 1987. 

F. Program of a concert honoring Herbert Fromm, January 30, 1977. 201 



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SEIT 1864 



SEIT 1864 

B I N G E N A. R H. 

fflauG fawnm, ftincefi a.Rfwti 


im Wlittelpunkt desdeutschen QfJeinbaugebietes 






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T. V. Eckehard, 1727 

Inmitten der Rebenhange des Rheines und der Nahe, nur durch den 
Strom vom Rheingau getrennt, unweif der Rheinpfalz, der Mosel und 
Saar liegt Bingen im Herzen des deutsdien Weinlandes. In dieser 
alten Weinstadt laufen die tausend Fa'den des Weinbaus zusammen. 
Wer von Mainz her rheinabwarts kommt, erblidct vor den Toren 
Bingens, an der Rheinuferstrafje, ein statfliches Patrizierhaus, das 
Hauptgebaude der weitbekannten Weinkellereien N. Fro mm. 
Seit dem Griindungsjahr 1864 widmet sich das Haus Fromm der 
Pflege des deutschen Qualitatsweines. Nahezu 70 Jahre besitzt es die 



Haus Fromm am Fufje des Rochusberges 

Gunst seiner treuen Freunde. Hervorragender fachmannischer Fuh- 
rung, steter enger Fiihlungnahme mit den Freunden des Hauses, sorg- 
samem Eingehen auf all' deren Wunsdie verdankt die Firma N. Fromm 
ihren Aufstieg zu einer der grorjten und angesehensten deutschen 
Weinkellereien. Da mit dieser Entwicklung die alte Kellerei des 
Stammhauses in Kitzingen a. M. nidif Schritt halten konnte, wurde der 
Sitz der Firma nadi Bingen am Rhein verlegt und Kellereien und Kel- 
tereibetriebe in einer mustergultigen Anlage zusammengefarjt. Die 
Kellereien in Bingen sind in ihrer Geschlossenheit wohl die 
grofjten des rheinischen Weinba ug e bietes und gelten 
bei Weinfadileuten als eine Sehenswurdigkeit am Rhein. In 
dieser Pflegestatte deutsdien Weines wirken 150 Kufer und Ange- 
stellte unter Leitung ihres Seniordiefs Kommerzienrat Max Fromm 
und wetteifern in dem Bestreben, dem Weltruf deutschen Weines zu 



frvrnm, ftwyen a.tRfieitt 

We i n bergslage , Sch a r I a ch berg" 


Das Landschaftsbild des deutschen Weinbaugebietes empfangt Linie 
und Bewegung durch die Rebenhiigel, die in Hangen und ragenden 
Bergen an den Ufern des Rheins und seiner Nebenflusse Mosel, Nahe 
und Main aufsteigen. Klima und Bodenbeschaffenheit schufen hier die 
Vorbedingungen fur eine Jahrtausende alte Weinkultur. 
Von fleifjiger, sorgsamer Winzerhand betreut durchziehen die Reben 
Stock an Stock in geradlinigen n Zeilen" den Weinberg. Zunachst blatt- 
lose Stammchen treiben sie hochwachsend in der ersten Entwicklung 
Blatter, im Spattruhling Gescheine (Bluten), und nach der Bliite den 
Beerenknoten, der erstarkend und saftbildend dem Herbst entgegen- 
reift. Haben Natur und bodenverwachsene Winzererfahrung in den 
Monaten September-Oktober das Reifewerk vollendet, so rustet man 
zur Weinlese. 

Den Zeitpunkt der Lese bestimmt das Wetter. Sind die Herbsttage 
sonnig und trocken, so beginnt die Weinlese erst in den letztenWochen 

. ,D1864 


b 3~rcmm , ftmen a.ftfiein 

Eine Ecke im Kelterhaus 

des Spatherbstes; denn umso grower ist der naturliche Zuckergehalt, 
je langer die Traube reift. In solchen Jahren werden die kostlichen 
.Spatlesen'und ,Auslesen"gewonnen. AufdenberuhmtenWeinbergs- 
lagen schenkt man in sonnengesegneten Jahren denTrauben so lange 
Leben am Stock, bis sie rosinenartig zusammenschrumpfen. Sie ergeben 
die wertvollen n Beerenauslesen" und .Jrockenbeerenauslesen", deren 
Weine um ein Vielfaches ausgeglichen wird. 

Bin jeder Winzer lebt innig mit seinem B Wingert" und seinem Wein. 
So gestaltet sich die Weinlese zu einem frohen Fest: Gesang sdiallt 
von den Bergen, Musik undTanz kunden den Abschlurj ernstersorgen- 
voller Monate der Arbeit. 

In diesen Tagen sind die Weinberge von lebhaftem Ernte-Treiben 
eHiillt. Emsige Leser und Leserinnen schneiden dieTrauben, sammeln 
sie von ,Zeile" zu ,Zeile" in Eimern und Bottichen und bringen sie 
zur Traubenmiihle, wo die Beeren an Ort und Stelle zu Maische ge- 
mahlen werden. 

SEIT : 7)1864 

fovrntn, fti/iyea a.&fiein 

Teilgang im Moselkeller Nr. 12 


Auf dem Wege von der Traube zum Wein sind wir den geherbste- 
ten Beeren vom Weinberg in die Kelterhauser und dem gekelterten 
Beerensaft (Most) in die Garkeller gefolgt. Der ausgegorene ..Feder- 
weifje" wandert nunmehr in die unterirdischen Kellergewolbe. In die- 
sen Lagerkellern reift der Jungwein unter fachkundiger Pflege heran. 
Oft dauert es Jahre, bis er ausgereift ist. Liebevolle Beobaditung und 
reidie Erfahrung sind notwendig, um im Wein das Beste zu wecken, 
was er herzugeben vermag. 

19 miteinander verbundene breite Keller sind tiet in die 
Weinbergsfelsen eingesprengt. Durch ihre stetige unveranderlidie 
Temperatur sind sie dem Weine eine ideale Pflegestatte. Natiirliches 
Quellwasser wird in Kanalen durdi alle Kellergange geleitet, Feudv 
tigkeit sattigt die Luft und bewahrt das Fafyholz vor dem Austrocknen. 
Luftschachte regeln den Temperaturen-Ausgleidi. In diesen einzigar- 
tigen Gewolben reiht sidi Faf) an Fafj in sdiier unendlidien Fluditen. 

SEIT f ' 1364 

Wan* Jrvmtn, ( Bingen a. 

Rheinweinkeller Nr. 16 

Millionen Lifer deutschen Weines vom leichten Konsum- 
wein bis zu den feinsten Qualitatsgewachsen und erlesensten Spitzen- 
weinen barren hier ihrer Bestimmung. Die Felsenkeller beherbergen 
nur deutsdie Weifjweine, wahrend die Rotweine in daruber liegen- 
den warmeren Kellergesdiossen lagern. 

Jeder Wein und jeder Jahrgang bedarf seiner besonderen Pflege und 
Behandlung bis zur abgesdilossenen Reife. Erst wenn sein Wesen 
harmonisch entfaltet ist, wird der Wein Jlaschenreif befunden und 
mit Hilfe hygienischer Kellereimasdiinen auf die Flasche gezogen, 
um dann zur weiteren, oft langjahrigen Lagerung in die Flaschen- 
wein-Keller zu wandern. In einem dieser Flaschenkeller des Hauses 
Fromm birgt ein einziges riesiges Gestell eine halbe Million 
abgefiillter Flaschen. 

Weit ist der Weg von der Traube zum Wein. Jahre vergehen, bis 
sich der nFederweifje" in den Flaschenwein gewandelt hat und der 
unter sorgsamer Obhut gereifte Wein nun im Versandaufzug wieder 
an's Tageslidit tritt. 


7rvmtn, 'B-ingen a.ftfiein 

Ver bi nd u n g sga ng im Hauptkeller 

Pfalzweinkeller Nr. 4 

SEIT O>.TA> 1864 

, Bwyeu a.Mein 

Holzgeschnitzte Kufer-Meisterstiicke im Kabinettkel ler 

Blick in einen der Flaschenwelnkeller 




Seitengang im Flaschenweinkeller Nr. 3 

SEIT -.:.. .. "'. 1364 

Teilansicht aus denVer- 

Elektrische Aufziige befor- 
dern die Flaschen aus den 
Flaschenweinkellern indie 
Packraume. Tagesleistung 
15000 Flaschen. 



Die in den Versandhallen 
ausgestatteten und ver- 
packten Flasdnen treten 
hier ihre Reise nach dem 
Inland und alien Teilen 
derWelt an. 

SEIT ; f> 1864 

^rumm, ftinyen 

In 25 neuzeitlichen, dem Umfang des Betriebes entsprechenden Euros wird 
die organisatorische Arbeit geleistet, die den Wein von Weinberg, Kelter 
und Keller zu den Freunden Fromm'scher Weine fuhrt. 

SEIT <" 



tTrcmm , ftinyen a.Mein 


Weinproben versammeln taglich den Chef des Hauses und seine 
fachmannischen Mitarbeiter zu bestimmter Stunde im Probierraum. 
Das Ergebnis der Weinprobe entsdieidet iiber den Ausbau und die 
Pflege der Weine. So wird im engsten Zusammenwirken aller fur 
den Kunden tatigen Krafte die Gewahr fur hochste Qualitat und Be- 
kommlichkeitderWeine des Hauses Frommgeboten. Zeichen und Aus- 
druck dieser Eigenschaften ist das auf alien Etiketten wiederkehrende 
Bild des .betenden Winzers iiber dem rot-weirj gezackten Wappen". 
Verschieden wie der Gesdimack der einzelnen Weine sind dieWiinsche 
des Weinliebhabers und die Gelegenheiten, bei denen man Wein 
kredenzt. EntsprechendderBodenbesdiaffenheit und den klimatisdien 
Vorbedingungen ist der Charakter der Rheinweine ein anderer als 
der der Moselweine, und der Pfalzer wiederum anders als der Wein 
von Main und Nahe. 



ftinyen a.Rfiein 

Singer Rosengarten 

Unsere Ausstattung (ges. geschiitjt) 

Mit Bild und Text dieser kleinen Schrift versuchten wir, den 

Werdegang des Weines in seiner Pflegestatte darzustellen. 

Fiihrt Sie, freundlicher Leser, Ihr Weg zum Rhein, so laden 

wirSieherzlichstein.uns in Bingen zu besuchen. 


SEIT T> 1864 



Contents 1 Pi. and 7 Fl. OZ. 


Rauenthaler Nonnenberg 

Grown and bottled in German) 

Contents 1! 8 R OZ. Bottled in 1932 

Riidesheimer SchloBberg 

Product of Germany. Contents not over 14 Vol. / Ale 





Dean of Wine Tasters 
Sips for 3 Hours Daily 


The Cer.-rai Tower Building 
a -o*ably modern structure, has 
c= its third floor a small, highly 
a.-3:satic room in w.lich a aun 
-f raler.t carries on the pursuit 
cf a career begira sixty-five 
-=ars aco en the banks of t*ie 

Msx Frcm*n. the mar., is a 
wine raster. 

He is 60 years old. is gen 
erally regarded as the dean of 
America's wine tasters, and 
rvery cay he passes three ho-s 
in the room s'r? ir> S 150 differ 
ent wines. 

Since each wine rates four or 
five sips, wine enters and leaves 
his lips more than 600 times in 
those three hours. He does not 
get addled, of course, because 
a wine taster swallows exceed 
ing little. 

Max Fromm brought his deli 
cate art here from Germany and 
he did so because he saw no 
point in wasting it on the men 
of the Nazi creed. 

He was born to the world of 
wine in Bingen. Germany. 

His grandfather had a vine 
yard, his father created a 
winery, and young Max became 
an apprentice at the age of 12. 

When he reached his fifteenth 
year he got his lehrbrief. the 
letter of finished education" 
that dubbed him an authority 
on wine. 

In the natural course of fam 
ily events he became president 
of the Fromm winery. 

In the unnatural course of 
totalitarian events be saw the 
day, in 1938. when the winery 
was taken from him. 

A Nazi leader told him he had 
taken a liking to the winery 
and would purchase it. The sum 
was negligible. The alternative 
was a concentration camp. 

Max Fromm and his wife. 
Lea. left the new Germany in 
disgust and came to America. 

New York held them but a 
few months. Fromm. then 65. 
was anxious to embark again 
on his career so he came to San 
Francisco and joined forces 
with his sons. Norman and Al 
fred) who distribute Christian 
Brothers wines and brandies 
and own the Paul Masson Vine 


"The English language 
strange enough to him to cause 
him to bypass the administra 
tive element of the business and 
become the master taster. The 
taste of wine, he pointed ot, 1* 
a universal - r -i r 

So. daily at 9 in th* morning 
Fromm enters his tasting room 
and he stays, there until noon. 

He brooks no interruptions- 
for those three hours. 

The procedure which requires 
his fun concentration is as fol 

He lifts the glass and 
swirls it gently. 

Then he sniffs the bouquet, 
for the smell is almost as im 
portant as the taste. 

He lowers the glass, then 
puts it to his lips. 

He takes the tiniest sip 

Imaginable and rolls the 

liquid on the tip of his tongue. 

finally, he spits out the 


Very occasionally he swallows 
a bit, to see- how smoother it 
goes down. 


After each sampling he writes 
his reactions in a notebook. 

One reads: 'Clean, hamionl 
ou* and round abnoct seduc- 

But another reads: "Poor 
dead and has no tatt. (Having no 
tail means having no after 

Still a third will be a combi 
nation: "Fresh and young but 

Max Fromm Is enthusiastic 
about his work anyway. 

But he has an extra enthusi 
asm these years because he is 
convinced that California wine 
win some day be the best in the 
world and he regards himseli 
as a pioneer in the attainment 
of that goal 

San Francisco Beowtner 

- ~ 

. . , 

EXPERT M " Fromm. 80, etlltd th. :,- of Aa< 
= tmitcr*. i :i in a t*t at feu ffie* i dowatowv 5 = Fi 

-I-.- Z .- - l ki* -?-:-- c ; : t i - lipt ISO i '! 
wia. H i-i-- 1 : Ut r - r t >i r- i i ;'; i if- ia Ccrraal 


He firmly pooh-poohs the no 
tion that only Europe can pro 
vide great wines. 

To his thinking, long and 
painstaking work can make 
California's soil and climate 
combine to produce even great 
er wines. 

He wouldn't go back to Ger 
many on a bet because the fu 
ture of wine is here. 

But he has one complaint and 
that concerns the younger gen 

He is shocked because his sens 
cannot match his 600 sips in 
three hours they're only good 
for some 200. 




October 20, 1986 

Mr. Alfred Frorrrm 

655 Montgomery Street 

Suite 1720 

San Francisco, California 94111 

Dear Alfred: 

The enclosure contains the information 
you requested. 










Paul Fromm 
September 28. 1906 
Kitzingen, Germany 
Business Executive 
Married; one daughter 

PROFESSIONAL POSITION: President, Kenwood Corporation and Fromm Management 



President of the Fromm Music Foundation until 1972; 
since then Director of the Fromm Music Foundation at 
Harvard University. 


University of Chicago 

a) Division of the Humanities 

b) Music Department 

Boston University 
Board of Visitors 

Princeton University 
Advisory Council 

University of Illinois 
Citizens Committee 


Director. American Music Center 


Award in the field of philanthropy from The 
Immigrant's Service League (presented by the late 
Adlai E. Stevenson) 

Chicagoan of the Year in the Arts Chicago Junior 
Association of Commerce and Industry 





Honorary Doctor of Music Degree New England 

Conservatory of Music 

Laurel Leaf Award for Distinguished Achievement in 
Fostering and Encouraging American Music American 
Composers Alliance 


Jessie L. Rosenberger Medal for "incomparable 
contribution, through the Fromm Music Foundation, to 
the composition, performance and criticism of 
contemporary music" University of Chicago 

Distinguished Service in the Arts Cliff Dwellers 
dub, Chicago 


Honorary Doctor of Music degree University of 



American Music Center Award 


Mu Phi Epsilon International Music Sorority Citation 

of Merit 


Illinois Governor's Award for the Arts 


The George Peabody Medal for Outstanding 
Contributions to Music in America, awarded by The 
Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University, 
Baltimore, Maryland. 


Golden Baton Award of the American Symphony 

Orchestra League 


Mr. Fromm suggested that the following be included: 

For his accomplishments, Paul was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Music 
degree from the New England Conservatory of Music in 1967, and in 1974 an 
Honorary Doctor of Music degree from the University of Cincinnati. He is a 
member of the Visiting Committee of the Music Departments of the University 
of Chicago, Boston University, Princeton University, and of the University 
of Illinois Citizens Committee. Until recently he was also on the Visiting 
Committee of Harvard University. 

In 1960 he received an award from The Immigrant's Service League, 
presented by Adlai E. Stevenson, in the field of philanthropy, and in the 
same year was named Chicagoan of the Year in the Arts. In 1978 he received 
the Illinois Governor's Award for the Arts; in 1983, the George Peabody 
Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Music in America, awarded by The 
Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. 
In 1986, he received the Golden Baton Award of the American Symphony 
Orchestra League. 

I ' f 

Paul Fromm, Classical-Music Patron, Is Dead 


Pa' I Fromm, a German-born wine 
Importer who became the mosi acuve 
ftjnd distinguished private patron of 
contemporary classical music in the 
United States, died Saturday at ihc 
Bernard Mitchell Hospital of the Uni 
versity of Chicago after a series of 
tvai't attacks. He was 80 years old and 
Kid lived in Chicago. 

Through his Fromm Music Founda- 
lion, now based ai Harvard University, 
pdr. Fromm dispersed commissions to 
American composers of every stylistic 
^ort Ho also supported performances 
of new music, especially at the Univer 
sity of Chicago, ihe Tanglewood Festi 
val (where the "Fromm week" of con 
temporary concerts became an annual 
tradition) and the Aspen Music Festi 

"We composers have lost our dear- 
csl friend and leader." said Kalph 
Shapc-y. the composer, in a statement. 
"He had a total commitment as our 
champion. He believed in us and dared 
us to believe in ourselves." At an 80th- 
birthday concert for Mr. Fromm last 
year in Chicago, Mr. Miapry had called 
him "the Esterhazy of the 20th cen 
tury." in reference to Haydn's patron. 

Earle Brown, a composer and the 
Fromm Foundation director who will 
be primarily responsible for us contin 
uance, said yesterday: "He was the 
leading sponsor of contemporary 
music in the United States His love and 
support for new music were just ex 

Family of Vintners 

Paul Fromm was born on Sept. 28, 
1906, in the small Bavarian town of Kit- 
zmgen, into a prosperous family of 
vintners (Erich Fromm, the psycho 
analyst and author, was a cousin). Mr. 
Fromm played four-hand piano duets 
with his brother Herbert as a child and 
attended the contemporary-music fes 
tivals at Donaueschmgen between 1921 
and iy2li. He- later said his first encoun 
ter wuh Stravinsky's "Sacre du Prm- 
temps" in Frankfurt in 1927 "made a 
20th-century man of me." 

Eventually, Mr. Fromm decided to 
enter the family business, but even in 
the iy30'she intended to devote himself 
to the patronage of modern music. 
Forced to emigrate in 193h, he arrived 
in this country on the Fourth of July, 
married that year and opened Ihe 
Great Lakes Wine Company in 1940. He 
became a citizen in 1944, but was well- 
known for his impenetrable German 
accent all his life. 

By 1952. Mr. Fromm felt ready to 
carry out his musical plans, and began 
his foundation in Chicago. From the 
first, he espoused a serious, even Ger 

manic, ideal of elite musical culture. 
His tastes had been formed during the 
great early years of modernism, and 
although he deliberately broadened Ihe 
stylistic range of music he supported in 
later years, he never abandoned his 
principle that great art was a rarefied 
experience, and that his nurturing 
should be devoted to work thai truly 
needed it. 

"Wo must realise that serious an 
does not appeal to everybody." he 
wrote in The New York Times in 1978. 
"It never did and it never will. It is up 
to us to create stimulants to cultural 
development and to foster an environ 
ment !hat is friendly to creative pur 
suits We can do this best not by trying 
to bring serious art to more people but 
by educating a more knowledgeable 
and more devoted minority of art pa 
trons. We must look to them as a nu 
cleus from which a healthy culture can 

Advice Krom Compofccr* 

A modest man who once described 
himself as "a footnote in musical histo 
ry." Mr. Fromm surrounded himself 
with com|X)scr advisers. At first, he 
relied primarily on such committed 
modernists as Milton Babbitt, Elliott 
Carter and Gunther Schuller. 

But twice, Mr. Fromm made deci 
sive efforts 10 diversify hU commit 
ments. In 1972. he withdrew his support 
from Perspectives of New Music. 
Princeton-based journal he felt had be-' 
come loo closely identified with the 
Scnalist position. And in 1983, he pub 
licly questioned the narrowness of Mr. 
Schuller's programming at the Tangle- 
wood Contemporary Music Festival 
(or "Fromm week"), withdrawing his 
support. Mr. Schuller. who resigned a 
year later on other issues, complained 
bitterly that Mr. Fromm was "now op 
posing everything he ever stood for." 

Undaunted, Mr. Fromm reorganized 
his foundation, dividing it into three 
geographical areas and signing on nine 
new composers as advisers to ensure a 
wider range of commissions. He also 
moved his summer festival to Aspen, 
Colo., and entitled Ihe first scries of 
concerts there in 1984 "Musical Plural 
ism in the 1980's." 

Mr Fromm's annual financing could 
never match that of the National En 
dowment or the Rockefeller Founda 
tion. But its steady concentration on 
contemporary music lent it an influ 
ence far beyond its means. In the 
1950's, Ihe foundation's annual budget 
was around $50,000 By the BO's, that 
figure had risen to $150,000, although it 
varied from year to year and he was 
loath to provide exact totals. By now. 
nearly 200 composers have received 
commissions, amounting to an honor, 

roll of 20th-century American classical 

Received Many Honors 

Through all the shifts of musical 
fashion, Mr. Fromm held (rue to his 
faith in the vitality and importance of 
Ihc music of our time. In one of the 
many speeches and articles he was 
asked for in his later years. Mr. 
Fromm wrote in 1979: "I am con 
vinced thai our century will eventually 
prove to be one of the great musical 
centuries. If we choose to ignore what 
is happening in our midst, it is exclu 
sively our loss." 

In addition to his foundation, Mr. 
Fromm served at various limes as an 
overseer of the Boston Symphony and a 
leader of several Chicago charities. His 
many honors included honorary doc 
torates from ihc New England Conser 
vatory and Ihc University of Cincin 
nati, the Golden liuion Award from Ihc 
American Symphony Orchestra 
League und awards from the Univvr- 
sity of Chicago, the Peabody Institute 
and the American Music Center. 

Mr. Fromm is survived by his wife, 
Erika, a psychologist; a daughter, 
Joan Greenstone, of Chicago; (wo 
grandsons, Michael and Daniel, and his 
brothers Alfred, of San Francisco, and 
Herbert, of Brookline, Mass. . 

New York Times 
July 6, 1987. 

New American music: The living legacy 

I of Paul Fromm 

By John von Rhem 


Paul Fromm once described 
himself as "a footnote in 
musical history." He was 
being far too modest When 
the annals of the classical musk 
fife of America in the second half 
of the century are drawn up, this 
remarkable patron of the arts, who 
died in Chicago last week at age 80 
aftei a series of heart attacks, 
surely will rate a chapter. 

To the beleaguered American 
composer, faced with an indifferent 
musical Establishment on one hand 
and a confused, sometimes hostile, 
concert public on the other, 
Fromm represented more than a 
benefactor. He was a fervent cham 
pion of everything they stood for, a 
means of liberating their creative 
energies, a super- impresario who 
used his power and influence to se 
cure more and better performances 
of contemporary classical music. 
Setting a personal example of 
passionate commitment to new 
American works through the activi 
ties of his Fromm Musk Founda 
tion, Fromm sought to shake our 
leading musical institutions out of 
then narrow allegiance to dead 
composers. Once that was 
achieved, Fromm argued, these in 
stitutions could once again "savor 
tbei. roles as witnesses to musk in 
the making,* and our composers 
would regain the central position 
thei- 18th and 19th Century Euro 
pean predecessors had occupied in 
the musical life of their societies. 
"A composer should not feel as 
though he is working in a vacu 
um,' Fromm said in 1982, on the 
occasion of his 75th birthday and 
the foundation's 30th anniversary. 
"A composer needs to be a pan of 
the music community." Right up 
to his death, Fromm labored 
tirelessly to make it happen. 

Although it is unlikely that his 
crusade will drastically alter the di 
rection or assumptions of our per 
former-dominated musical culture 
in the near future, his efforts have 
for more than three decades signifi 
cantly broadened the repertory of 
new American works. And they 
have helped the serious listening 
public establish a closer bond with 
the important musical thought of 
our time. 

At a special tribute to Fromm 
last February in Mandel Hall, the 
Chicago composer Ralph Shapey 
(a recipient of several Fromm 
commissions) called him "the , 
Esterhazy of the 20th Century." a 
reference to Haydn's patron. And 
Shulamit Ran, another Chicago 
composer, (aid that Fromm's 
kfework "is a living testimony to 
the fact thai one person singlehan- 
dedly can make a difference." 

True enough. The Chicago wine 
merchant and arts patron was the 
most active and important private 
patron of new music in this coun 
try. To date the Fromm Music 
Foundation, which Fromm estab 
lished in 1952 at Harvard Universi 
ty and which he co-directed until 
his death, has commissioned works 
from nearly 200 composers, a veri 
table "Who'i Who" of new Ameri 
can music. | 

These include such giants of con 
temporary composition as Elbott 
Carter, Milton Babbin and Roger 
Sessions, and man) less celebrated 
though no Jess dedicated, musi- j 
cians Fromm was parucularty ITH 
terested in assisting young un- . 
known composers who had 
something uniquely their own to 



Although the Fromm Founda 
tion's annual budget is modest by 
comparison with those of the Na 
tional Endowment or the Rockefel 
ler Foundation (in recent years it 
has varied between $120,000 and 
$150,000), its influence has reached 
far beyond its means It is difficult, 
in fact, to think of a deserving 
American composer of the past 35 
years who has not benefited from 
Fromm's patronage. 

Among the many Fromm 
Foundation commissions are Car 
ter's Double Concerto for Harpsi 
chord and Piano, Babbitt's "Vision 
and Prayer"; Lukas Foss' "Echoi"; 
Shapey's "Songs of Ecstasy"; 
Charles Wuorinen's Violin Concer 
to; and George Rochberg" "Music 
for the Magic Theater.'' The list is 
long and impressive. 

But as Fromm readily conceded, 
commissioning the music was al 
ways the easy pan: The major 
hurdles came in celling the music 
played and heard Fortunately, a 
loose network of new music per 
formance groups has arisen across 
the country, and the foundation 
takes pains to see that after a wor 
thy new piece is played in, say, 
Chicago or New York, it will be 
taken up by other ensembles and 
eventually become pan of the ac 
tive repertory. 

From the first, Fromm relied on 
the advice of such established East 
Coast academic composers as Bab- 
bin, Carter and Schuller. (Schuller 
for many years served as a co-di 
rector of the Fromm Foundation 
and director of the Tanglrwood 
Music Festival ) But in 1983 
Fromm questioned the narrowness 
of programming ai the Tanglewoorl 
Contemporary Music Festival (or 
"Fromm Week"), withdrawing his 
support. Schullei bitterly de 
nounced Fromm's decision, saying 
thai the patron was "now opposing 
everything he ever stood for. 

Fromm defended his position, 
claiming that the festival had be 
come too monolithic, narrow and 
exclusive in its esthetic outlook. 
With that he restructured the 
foundation in such a way as to 
make it more open to nonacadem- 
k, more experimental styles in 
cluding Minimalism, electronic and 
theater musk It was a courageous, 
even controversial, stance, but one 
that reflected the patron's deep 
commitment to encouraging thr 
musical diversity he fell mirrored 
today's pluralistic society 

Although Harvard is the Fromm 
Foundation's official residence, for 
years its working address has been 
an austere warehouse at 1028 W. 
Van Burcn St thai is the home of 
fice of the Greal Lakes Wine Co , 
which Fromm began in 1940 He 
later sold the business but for the 
past five years stayed on as consul 
tant, retaining his office and secre 
tary There, surrounded by dusty 
cases of wine and bundles of music 
manuscripts, Fromm held court in 
his thick German accent, making 
pronouncements on baseball (an 
other of Fromm's passions) and 
the crisis of American high culture. 

He grew up in a wealthy Jewish 
home before fleeing Hitler's Ger 
many, but he lived his entire life 
without ostentation believing that 
respect for humanistic values was 
far more important than wealth 
Through his foundation he gave 
away millions of dollars that could 
have bought him lakefrom apart 
ments, big can and other symbols 
of material success Instead, he 

chose to live his modest version ot 
the good life in Hyde Park, where 
his widow Enka, a distinguished 
psychologist, pursues her career at 
the University of ChkafO. 

The last time I spoke with 
Frumm w*s IB April it a piano re 
cital in Mandel Hall. I used the in 
termission to sound him out on 
my choices for a Tribune article I 
was preparing on Irving composers 
who would be remembered 100 
yean hence. He listened carefully 
to what I had to say, beaming his 
approval at some of my choices, 
vigorously disagreeing with others. 
Fromm had his own convictions 
about music, and he voiced them 
with the implacable moral authori 
ty of an ancient rabbi dispensing 
God's law to a terrified dock. 1 will 
miss our musical skull sessions. 

Over the years Fromm saw wide 
pendulum swings of musical fash 
ion, but he ne%er Ion his allegiance 
to the time-honored virtues of ar 
tistic quality and originality. Nor 
did he set himself up as a supreme 
arbiter of masterpieces. "I do not 
try to be the custodian of posteri 
ty," he once declared 

He nonetheless carried his advo 
cacy of new music throughout the 
nation, delivering speeches and 
writing articles on contemporary 
music. His many honors included 
honorary doctorates and awards 
from the American Symphony Or 
chestra League, Chicago Junior 
Assn. of Commerce and Industry, 
American Composers .Alliance and 
the U. of C. music department. 

Despite all this attention, Fromm 
harbored no illusions about the im 
pact he might have on the increas 
ingly market -oriented music indus 
try. "The influence of any 
foundation must be marginal," he 
once said. "We must realize that 
serious art does not appeal to 

What is needed instead, he 
added, was to foster an environ 
ment that is friendly to creative 
pursuits. "We can do this best not 
by trying to bring serious art to 
more people, but by educating a 
more knowledgeable and demoted 
minority of art patrons. We must 
look to them as a nucleus from 
which a healthy culture can grow." 

What directions will the Fromm 
Foundation in so many ways an 
extension of its founder's tastes and 
philosophy assume without 
Fromm around to sponsor or guide 
its activities? Composer Earte 
Brown, a Fromm Foundation di 
rector, will be primarily responsible 
for its continuance. The commis 
sions Fromm paid for before his 
death no doubt will be carried out 
Beyond that, however, lie many 
question marks that composers all 
over the nation must be contem 
plating with fear and trembling. 

For the death of the Fromm 
Foundation would be urJbrtunate, 
but the death of _ the kind of un 
compromising vision and high cul 
tural idealism that its founder 
stood for would be a tragedy be 
yond measure. 

Chicago Tribune 
July 9, 1987 


























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INDEX Alfred Fromm 


Adler, Kurt Herbert, 94, 99-100, 

141, 149-161 

Alioto, Mayor Joseph, 99 
Anderson, Brother Mel, 86-88 

Boley, David, 101-104 
boutique wineries, 106 
Bronfman, Samuel, 54, 79-82, 

Brown Bag luncheons, 32 

California State University at 

San Francisco, 78 
Christian Brothers Winery, 25, 

80, 101-103 

Church, Frank, 61, 62 
coolers, wine, 107 

Dennis, Professor John, 133 
de Rothschild, Baron Evelyne , 
54, 63, 64 

Fromm, Max (father of Alfred), 

3, 9, 15, 17, 20, 21 
Fromm, Music Foundation at 

Harvard University, 8 
Fromm, N. Company, Kitzingen, 

Germany, 1, 4, 12, 16 
Fromm, Nathan, 1 
Fromm, Norman, 8, 89-92 
Fromm, Paul, 8, 92, 93, 104 
Fromm and Sichel Company, 84, 102 

Geballe, Frances, 44 
Gianinni, A. P. , 70 
Goldman, Richard, 44 
Goldstein, Mark, 50 
Goldyne, Joseph, 45-50 

Hoadley, Walter, 68 

Inouye, Senator Daniel, 60 
Israeli wine exports, 54 

Feinstein, Dianne, 66, 67 
Ferrogiaro, Fred, 69, 103 
Fortgang, Helaine, 48, 49 
Friends of the Fromm Institute, 


Fromer, Seymour, 43, 44 
Fromm, Erich, 11, 12 
Fromm, Hanna, 19-24, 28, 38-39 

42, 89, 98, 110, 116-149 
Fromm, Herbert, 6, 7, 89 
Froram Institute for Lifelong 

Learning, Hebrew University, 

Jerusalem, 38-41 
Fromm Institute for Lifelong 

Learning, University of 

San Francisco, 28-37, 


Jewish Community Museum, 
San Francisco, 44-52 

Jewish Welfare Federation, 44, 

Joos, Kurt, 118 

Judah Magnes Memorial Museum, 
43, 44 

Kaye, Danny, 61 
Klemig, Dr. Roland, 46 
Koret Library, 35, 36 
Koshland, Daniel, 43-45 


lifelong learning, 28-41, ISO- 
Lurie, Brian, 44, 145, 158 

Maier, Peter, 66 

Masson, Paul, vineyards, 89-90, 


McCall, Governor Thomas, 60 
McEwen, Terence, 100 
Meyers, Otto, 10 
Mishkin, Millie, 30, 130 
Moldaw, Stuart family, 47 
Music in the Vineyards, 89-91, 


Wine Marketing Center, University 
of San Francisco, 71-77 

Wine Museum of San Francisco, 
83, 84 

Wise, Rabbi Stephen, 17, 18 

Yarden wine, 55 

Newton, Dr. Su Hua, 71-73 

Opera Association, 

San Francisco, 99-100, 

Osher, Bernard, 44 

Picker-Linz Importers, Inc., 
69, 101, 103 

Saitowitz, Stanley, 50 

Salkind, Milton, 93 

San Francisco Conservatory of 

Scenes From Our Lives, 35 

Seagram Museum, Waterloo, 

Ontario, Canada, 83, 84 

Seagrams [Distillers Corporation- 
Seagrams Limited] , 82, 103 

Shapiro, Bill, 65 

Sichel, Franz, 79, 83, 86, 

Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, 50 

Steinberg, William, 143 

Swig, Ben, 66 


Elaine Dorfman 

Graduate of California State University at Hayward, B.A. in 
Sociology; Lone Mountain College M.A. in Sociology /with 
Communications . 

Wrote advertising copy for theater agency in San Francisco 
and wrote a monthly investigative column for a Richmond, 
California newspaper. 

Taught Sociology at Diablo Valley College, Pleasant Hill; 
culture and history of Chinese cooking in the Martinez 
Recreation Department; business communication, business law, 
and business English at Heald College, Walnut Creek. 

Instructor in oral history classes for the Peralta Community College 
District at Vista College, Berkeley. Directs oral history program 
for the Western Jewish History Center, Judah Magnes Memorial 
Museum, Berkeley. Interviewer-editor for the Regional Oral 
History Office, University of California, Berkeley, in the 
Jewish Community Leaders series and areas of business and 



Native Californian; Stanford University, B.A., in 
political science. University of Geneva, certificate in 
international law. San Francisco State University, M.A. in 
linguistics. Royal College of Musicians (London), degree in 
organ performance. 

Press officer for San Francisco Opera, 1973-1979. 
Co-Director for Peace Corps (Eastern Caribbean), 1980-1983. 
Music reviewer for Peninsula Times Tribune. 1983-1988. 
Interviewer-editor in Regional Oral History Office since 1985 



Regional Oral History Office 
The Bancroft Library 

University of California 
Berkeley, California 

The Wine Spectator California Winemen Oral History Series 

Alfred Fronnn 

With an Introduction by 
Leon D. Adams 

An Interview Conducted by 

Ruth Teiser 

in 1984 

Copyright (c) 1984 by The Regents of the University of California 

All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal 
agreement between the University of California and 
Alfred Fromm dated October 2, 1984. The manuscript is 
thereby made available for research purposes. All 
literary rights in the manuscript, including the right 
to publish, are reserved to The Bancroft Library of 
the University of California Berkeley. No part of the 
manuscript may be quoted for publication without the 
written permission of the Director of The Bancroft 
Library of the University of California at Berkeley. 

Requests for permission to quote for publication 
should be addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 
486 Library, and should include identification of the 
specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the 
passages, and identification of the user. The legal 
agreement with Alfred Fromm required that he be 
notified of the request and allowed thirty days in 
which to respond. 

It is recommened that this oral history be cited 
as follows : 

Alfred Fromm, "Marketing California Wine 
and Brandy," an oral history conducted 
1984 by Ruth Teiser, Regional Oral History 
Office, The Bancroft Library, University 
of California, 1984. 

Copy No. 


CONTENTS Alfred Fromm 


INTRODUCTION by Leon D. Adams iv 


I GERMANY 1905-1936 

The Firm of N. Fromm 

Apprenticeship and Studies, 1920-1924 

Selling Wine for N. Fromm, 1924-1936 2 

First Travels in the United States 


Partnership in Picker-Linz, New York 8 

Association with the Christian Brothers, 1937-1983 10 
Joining Efforts With The Brothers 
Beginning to Market Christian Brothers Wines 

The World War II Years *** 
American Wine in the Latter 1940s 
Entering the Brandy Market, 1943 

Creating an Advanced Still ^ 

Agreement with Seagram's, 1954 20 
Business Principles 

Fromm and Sichel, Successors to Picker-Linz, 1945 22 

Association with Paul Masson 

President, 1944-1955 24 

Planting Vineyards in the Salinas Valley 26 

Associatioc With the Christian Brothers, Continued 28 

Selling Christian Brothers Wines 28 

The Vie-Del Company 29 

St. Regis Vineyards 30 

Growth of Christian Brothers 30 

The California Brandy Business 32 
Styles of Brandy 

Sale of Fromm and Sichel to the Christian Brothers, 1983 Jt> 

Key Men at Christian Brothers 37 

The Wine Museum of San Francisco, 1974-1984 38 

Industry Organizations 


Biographical Information ^5 

Alfred Fronnn, Who's Who in America. 1982-1983 46 

"100 million empty glasses," a 1957 speech by Alfred Fromm 47 

Purchase of Fromm & Sichel by Mont La Salle Vineyards, 51 
September, 1983 




The California wine industry oral history series, a project of the 
Regional Oral History Office, was initiated in 1969 through the action and 
with the financing of the Wine Advisory Board, a state marketing order 
organization which ceased operation in 1975. In 1983 it was reinstituted as 
The Wine Spectator California Winemen Oral History Series with donations from 
The Wine Spectator California Scholarship Foundation. The selection of those 
to be interviewed is made by a committee consisting of James D. Hart, director 
of The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley; John A. De Luca, 
president of the Wine Institute, the statewide winery organization; Maynard 
A. Amerine, Emeritus Professor of Viticulture and Enology, University of 
California, Davis; the chairman of the board of directors of the Wine 
Institute, who is elected annually; Ruth Teiser, series project director, and 
Marvin R. Shanken, trustee of The Wine Spectator California Scholarship 

The purpose of the series is to record and preserve information on 
California grape growing and wine making that has existed only in the memories 
of wine men. In some cases their recollections go back to the early years of 
this century, before Prohibition. These recollections are of particular value 
because the Prohibition period saw the disruption of not only the industry 
itself but also the orderly recording and preservation of records of its 
activities. Little has been written about the industry from late in the last 
century until Repeal. There is a real paucity of information on the 
Prohibition years (1920-1933) , although some commercial wine making did 
continue under supervision of the Prohibition Department. The material in 
this series on that period, as well as the discussion of the remarkable 
development of the wine industry in subsequent years (as yet treated 
analytically in few writings) will be of aid to historians. Of particular 
value is the fact that frequently several individuals have discussed the same 
subjects and events or expressed opinions on the same ideas, each from his 
own point of view. 

Research underlying the interviews has been conducted principally in 
the University libraries at Berkeley and Davis, the California State Library, 
and in the library of the Wine Institute, which has made its collection of in 
many cases unique materials readily available for the purpose. 

Three master indices for the entire series are being prepared, one of 
general subjects, one of wines, one of grapes by variety. These will be 
available to researchers at the conclusion of the series in the Regional Oral 
History Office and at the library of the Wine Institute. 


The Regional Oral History Office was established to tape record 
autobiographical interviews with persons who have contributed significantly 
to recent California history. The office is headed by Willa K. Baum and is 
under the administrative supervision of James D. Hart, the director of 
The Bancroft Library. 

Ruth Teiser 
Project Director 
The Wine Spectator California 
Winemen Oral History Series 

10 September 1984 
Regional Oral History Office 
486 The Bancroft Library 
University of California, Berkeley 


Interviews Completed by 1984 

Leon D. Adams Revitalizing the California Wine Industry 1974 

Maynard A. Amerine The University of California and the State's 
Industry 1971 

Philo Biane Vine Making in Southern California and Recollections of Fruit 
Industries. Inc. 1972 

Burke H. Critchfield, Carl F. Wente, and Andrew G. Frericks The California 
Vine Industry During the Depression 1972 

William V. Cruess A Half Century of Food and Vine Technology 1967 

Alfred Fromm Marketing California Wine and Brandy 1984 

Maynard A. Joslyn A Technologist Views the California Wine Industry 1974 

Horace 0. Lanza and Harry Baccigaluppi California Grape Products and 
Other Wine Enterprises 1971 

Louis M. Martini and Louis P. Martini Winemakers of the Napa Valley 1973 

Louis P. Martini A Family Vinery and the California Vine Industry 1984 

Otto E. Meyer California Premium Vines and Brandy 1973 

Harold P. Olmo Plant Genetics and New Grape Varieties 1976 

Antonio Perelli-Minetti A Life in Vine Making 1975 

Louis A. Petri The Petri Family in the Vine Industry 1971 

Jefferson E. Peyser The Law and the California Vine Industry 1974 

Lucius Powers The Fresno Area and the California Vine Industry 1974 

Victor Repetto and Sydney J. Block Perspectives on California Vines 1976 

Edmund A. Rossi Italian Swiss Colony and the Wine Industry 1971 

A. Setrakian A Leader of the San Joaquin Valley Grape Industry 1977 

Andre* Tchelistchef f Grapes, Vine, and. Ecology 1983 

Brother Timothy The Christian Brothers as Winemakers 1974 

Ernest A. Wente Wine Making in the Livermore Valley 1971 

Albert J. Winkler ViticulturaZ Research at UC Davis (2922 - 2972) 1973 



Alfred Fromm's interview is a fascinating narrative of 
the contributions by an emigre German expert in premium vine 
marketing to the post-Repeal advancement of California's grape 
and vine industry. Historians of the industry and of its 
important by-product brandy vill find explanations in his 
interview of some hithertoo little-understood aspects of the 
industry's progress since the late 1930's. 

What his modest recital does not fully explain, is the 
part played by the late Samuel Bronfman, who headed the 
vorldvide Seagram vine and spirits empire, in enabling Fromm 
and his associates to build Paul Masson Vineyards and The 
Christian Brothers into major factors in the industry. 

In 1943 during the Second World War, vhen the U.S. 
government restricted vhiskey production, Bronfman had 
Seagrams purchase the Mt. Tivy vinery in the San Joaquin 
Valley, and also the then-small Masson mountain vinery in 
Saratoga, from Martin Ray. Bronfman's purpose vas to market 
brandy made at Mt. Tivy under the premium-quality name of Paul 
Masson. When that plan vas dropped, Seagrams sold Mt. Tivy to 
The Christian Brothers, and part ovnership of the Paul Masson 
vineyard and vinery to the partnership of Fromm and Franz Sichel. 

I have knovn Alfred Fromm since 1938, vhen, while still 
residing in New York, he first visited me and my then- 
associates at the Wine Institute offices in San Francisco. I 
later met his father and his brother Norman, and vas privileged 
to witness each stage of their achievement, vith brother-in- 
law Otto Meyer, in building Paul Masson into one of the 
nation's leading vineries. Visiting Brother John and Brother 
Timothy at the Brothers' vinery in Napa County, I also 
observed the renaming, inspired by Fromm, of their vines from 
"Mont La Salle" to "The Christian Brothers." Brother John 
shared Fromm's long-held viev that vines of different years 
should be blended in order to provide consumers vith uniform 
flavor year after year. This is vhy the Brothers and Paul 
Masson Vineyards resisted for many years and until quite 
recently, the trend tovard vintage labeling of premium 
California vines. 

The Christian Brothers Wine Museum (The Wine Museum of 
San Francisco), established in 1974 by Alfred Fromm, vas an 
unselfish effort to acquaint Americans vith the noble cultural 

history of wine. He made valiant efforts to preserve the 
Museum until 1984, when, after the sale of Iromm and Sichel, 
Seagrams decided to move the Museum to their headquarters 
in Ontario, Canada. 

Leon D. Adams 

Author of The Wines of America 
27 August 1984 
Sausalito, California 


Alfred Fromm was interviewed on two successive mornings, 
May 3 and May 4, 1984, at his office at 655 Beach Street in 
San Francisco, shortly before the building was taken over by 
Seagrams, which, as he explained in the interview, had pur 
chased it the previous year. Final conferences on the 
interview and the photographs to illustrate it were held in 
his new office at 655 Montgomery Street in San Francisco. 

Mr. Fromm's characteristic mildness and firmness are 
reflected in the interviews. A courtly man with the manners 
as well as the speech rhythms of his native land, he spoke 
with deliberation but without hesitation. His life as a 
highly successful salesman of wines and brandy in the United 
States was built upon the principles instilled in him during 
his early years with his family firm in Germany, principles 
which he articulated in the interview. 

Leaving Germany during the Hitler regime, he chose the 
United States because of the freedom here, as he explained, 
and that freedom, combined with his diligence and marketing 
ability, created his success. Together with Franz Sichel, 
whom he had known in Germany and met again in the United 
States through Samuel Bronfman of Seagrams, he created the 
firm of Fromm and Sichel in 1945 as successor to Picker-Linz, 
through which he had represented The Christian Brothers since 
1937. His part in the history of the development of The 
Christian Brothers' wines and brandy is told here, as well as 
the part played by his brother-in-law, Otto Meyer. Their 
part in the rehabilitation of the Paul Masson winery is also 
discussed here. It was during their leadership of Masson 
that the development of the Salinas Valley as a vineyard 
district began, when Masson and Mirassou, both looking for 
land beyond Santa Clara County, joined forces to investigate 
the potentialities of Monterey County. 



The initial interview transcript required little 
editing. Mr. Fromm corrected some minor errors and added a 
number of dates from his records. He preferred the spelling 
Seagram's, with an apostrophe. 

Related oral history interviews in this series are those 
completed in 1973, and Brother Timothy, THE CHRISTIAN 
BROTHERS AS WINEMAKERS, completed in 1974. 

Ruth Teiser 

10 September 1984 

Regional Oral History Office 

486 The Bancroft Library 

University of California at Berkeley 

I GERMANY 1905-1936 
[Interview 1: May 3, 1984]## 

The Firm of N. Fromm 

Fromm: The firm of N. Fromm was started by my great-grandfather, Nathan 
Fromm. He was a schoolteacher in a small wine village, and I'm 
told I didn't know him that he had eleven children. The salary 
of a schoolteacher in those days was really minimal, and there 
never was enough money to feed and clothe the children and buy 
them shoes. So my great-grandfather then started to help some of 
the winegrowers in this small wine village and advised them how to 
make better wines as he was a more educated man, and he taught them 
about sanitation and so on. 

As a result these vintners came up with a better product. 
They were not very flush with money either, and they paid him very 
often by giving him some wine as his fee. 

So then he started to sell the wine and gradually built up a 
little business. And after some years my great-grandfather decided 
he should go into the wine business because he could not make a 
living as a teacher, that he would buy the wines from those 
vintners he knew in the Franconia district of Germany. It became 
after a little while quite a nice business. He traveled within 
Bavaria (because the Franconia wine district is in Bavaria). He 
died, I understand, when he was in his sixties, and then my 
grandfather took over. 

By that time the family was already in the wine business. My 

grandfather, Josef Fronrn, developed the business further. He died 
very young, when he was in his early forties, and I did not know him 
either. Then my father, Max Fromm, who was thirteen years old when 
his father died, took over and left school, because someone had to 
make a living. He was an unusually capable man and developed later 

Fronm: on into one of the best-known wine tasters in Germany, and became 

then an adviser to the government, and over the years made the firm 
of N. Fromm one of the leading firms in Germany. 

The firm was at that time in Kitzingen on the River Main where 
there were very many small wine firms, but our firm of N. Fromm was 
the largest there. 

Apprenticeship and Studies. 1920-1924 

Fromm: When I was fifteen years old 1 had graduated from middle high 

school. I was apprenticed to a large wine firm, Feist and Reinach, 
in Bingen-on-the-Rhine, and I served a three-year apprenticeship. 
And, as it was in those days, my father had to pay for my education 
at this wine firm. But you really learned the wine business right 
from the ground up, starting with the vineyards and moving into the 
cellars. You learn an awful lot between fifteen and eighteen that 
you don't learn later on. If you are an apprentice in Germany, you 
are not nothing; you are less than nothing, [laughs] 

But it was very good training. In the winter you had to 
be in the office at six o'clock in the morning and stoking the fire 
for the office, and later on at eleven o'clock go out and get the 
sausages and the bread for the people for their second breakfast. 
But I really learned the wine business. 

The owner of the firm where I was apprenticed was one of the 
outstanding men in the wine industry. His name was Joseph Guembel. 
After I was there for two years, he took me into the wine tasting 
room. There was every day a wine tasting between twelve and one. 
I arranged the glasses and made notes for him, and then he said, 
"Try this," and "Try that." I learned from Herr Guembel how to 
taste and evaluate wine. He started to like me, and I was very 
much interested. In fact, I never wanted to be in any other 
business since I was a young kid, than the wine business. And I 
learned an awful lot. When I was eighteen years old, I thought I 
knew a great deal about German wine. But you know, when you are 
very young you don't know how many things you don* t know. 

Selling Wine for 1L-. Fromm. 1924-1936 

Fromm: So after I was through with my apprenticeship I went to the 

Weinbau-Schule, which was an agricultural college in Geisenheim, 


Fromm: which in those days was the leading viticultural school in Germany, 
and stayed there for about a year, taking various courses in wine 
chemistry, wine treatment, and so on. 

After that by that time I was nineteen years old I joined 
our firm in Kitzingen. My father then insisted that after I had 
worked another year in the cellars that I go out and be conversant 
with the selling business of wine, because the marketing of wine 
was always a problem for everyone. 

So I started to travel extensively in Germany when I was 
twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two years old, and I worked very, very 
hard. My father insisted that I only call on new customers. I was 
paid commission, but only half of what regular salesmen were paid, 
because that was a German educational idea, that a son during his 
learning period should not make as much as everyone else, but I 
made good money anyhow. [laughing] 

When I was twenty-three, twenty-four years, I had already in 
my travels six or eight young men with me whom I trained and who 
became good salesmen afterwards. 

Teiser: To whom did you sell? 
Fromm: We sold mostly to consumers. 
Teiser: Direct? 

Fromm: Direct. The wine business in those days in Germany was that way. 
You called on consumers, and it was a tough job because very many 
people didn't want to see you. But somehow I managed to do quite 

In 1924 our firm started to go into the export business, and I 
traveled very extensively then in the export business and became 
director of exports when I was twenty-five years of age. I 
traveled in England, in Belgium, in Holland, and particularly up in 
the northern states, in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Norway. 

First Travels in the United States 

Fromm: We were advised by our American agents that Prohibition would be 

repealed in the United States, which finally took place on December 
5, 1933. As 1 was the oldest son, I was sent here to build a 
market. (I had a younger brother who was in the business, too, 


Fromm: Paul, who's now in the import wine business in Chicago) On 

December 4, I arrived in New York, and I never have seen such 


Teiser: Would you describe it? 

Fromm: I never had been in such a large city as New York City. The people 
were all celebrating, and there were a lot of people who were drunk 
because it was the first time they could buy legally alcohol. On 
the other hand, the Depression was still on, and the repeal of 
Prohibition gave the people a great moral lift. They felt things 
would get better, so they took it as a good omen that times would 
improve, which fortunately they did. But in those days there was a 
tremendous amount of unemployment and very great hardships to which 
most of the people were not accustomed. 

I went to our agents, Picker-Linz importers in New York, and 
worked with them because none of the partners in the firm had 
anything to do with wine before. They had ran other businesses, 
and I was the only one who knew something about wine. And then I 
traveled very extensively throughout the United States. I had a 
little Ford car and I went from one end to the other, from north to 
south, from east to west. I think I have been in every city of 
fifty or a hundred thousand at that time existing in the United 

It was very, very difficult then because American people were 
not used to drink wine, and it was mostly an upper class that knew 
a little about wine, that had traveled to Europe before. But I 
managed to sell quite a bit and built a net of distributors. 

The most interesting experience I had was when I went in 
January of 1934 to Los Angeles, because I had heard there were many 
movie stars who made a tremendous amount of money, and there were 
no licenses yet at that time. I had some connections to Mr. Carl 
Laemmle, who was head of Universal Pictures, and he gave me some 
recommendations. I called on some of the big movie stars, and I 
was amazed how well they received me. They gave me very nice 
orders for expensive wines. In those days we had those fabulous 
1921 wines. You could get sixty or ninety dollars a case for 
ninety dollars you got a Schloss Johannisberg '21 Auslese, and it 
was a tremendous price. 

Then I wanted to call on William Randolph Hearst. I called 
him from my hotel in Los Angeles. He didn't talk to me, and his 
secretary told me they would come back to me and let me know if Mr. 
Hearst could see me. What I didn't know was that they were 


Fromm: checking up on me, who I was, because, the idea that someone could 
think I might be a gangster or bootlegger never occurred to me. 

Teiser: Let me interrupt you. You said somebody could be a gangster. 

There was a good deal of opprobrium, was there not, about any wine 
man, that carried over from Prohibition? 

Fromm: Yes. 

Teiser: Did you feel it? 

Fromm: Yes, I did, and I was very much upset by it, because when people 

talked about wine, they said we are in the booze business, and that 
hurt my feelings very much, because the wine business in Europe was 
always a highly respected business and really had nothing to do 
with hard liquor. I hardly knew any hard liquor. When I came to 
this country for the first time I tasted American whiskey and 
Scotch whiskey because I never before had an opportunity to do 
that. At home we had some German brandy that was always considered 
good for your health, and you drank it once in a while. But as 
children we never got any hard liquor. But we always got a little 
wine with dinner. So I grew up with wine, and I must say until 
today I am seventy-nine years old I have drunk wine every day. I 
don't touch anything during the day, but I have half a bottle of 
wine for my dinner, and I consider this better than vitamins or 

When I called on Mr. Hearst, he gave me orders for some 
rare, immensely expensive wine, the very finest that was made in 
Germany. Hesitatingly, I said to Mr. Hearst, "You know, Mr. 
Hearst, that wine sells for three hundred dollars a case." I 
have never seen or tasted anything like it since then. 

Teiser: What was it? 

Fromm: Nineteen eleven Steinberger Kabinett. Trockenbeerenauslese from the 
Prussian domain in Eberbach. It was marked "Jahrhundert Wein" by 
the Prussian government and it really was. 

Then I offered him some other very outstanding 1920 and 1921 
Rheingau wines and Franconia wines, and he gave me an order for 
thirty cases or so. It amounted to over five thousand dollars, 
which in those days was an enormous amount of money. 

Teiser: Where did you meet him? 

Fromm: Mr. Hearst visited with us when he was in Bad Nauheim, a very well 
known health spa. There was a Profesor Groedel whom he consulted, 

Fromm: and then after he felt better he wanted to make a few excursions, 
and he came to Bingen, which was not very far, and visited our 
winery and said to my father, "When your son comes over to America, 
have him call on me." Of course, we took this for a regular 
invitation and didn't know that this was often just a polite saying 
like "Let us have lunch together sometime." 

Teiser: Where here did you meet him? In San Francisco? 

Fromm: No. I was invited to San Simeon. He sent his plane. I was 

received by Marion Davies, who was a very charming and nice lady. 
I was a young, inexperienced man, and she was very kind to me. I 
was introduced to a lot of people, many of them famous movie 
stars, and other big people but I never had heard their names 
before, so it didn't make any difference. [laughing] But in those 
days a young European, who was in the wine business, was something 
new for better educated people, or people who had traveled widely. 
So apparently I filled the bill. 

Teiser: Did you go to San Simeon other times also? 
Fromm: No. 

I got some other recommendations from them. Some of the most 
famous movie stars gave me very nice orders. In those days if you 
paid for a case of wine fifty, sixty or ninety dollars, it was a 
big price. So I sent these orders to Germany, and I spent 
. altogether six months in the United States and then went back. 

Teiser: Were you in Northern California? 

Fromm: Yes. 

Teiser: Did people in San Francisco buy the same way? 

Fromm: Being more conservative, they didn't buy this way, but I called on 
Mr. Paul Verdier, who was the president and owner, I believe, of 
the City of Paris. A Frenchman. Quite well known, quite well 
versed in wines. He gave me a very nice order. 

We did some good business in the U.S.A. and actually between 
1933 and 1936 my own sales amounted to almost 26 percent of the 
wine imports from Germany. Of course, the total business was small 
in those days, but they were all good wines, because I could see 
right from the beginning that the only chance German wines would 
have would be to sell the very best, and address myself to a 
special group of consumers; it was not for the average man who 
didn't drink wine and drank whiskey or beer. 

Teiser: That certainly gave you a good idea of the United States, then. 
Fromm: Yes. 

Teiser: At that time did you like it veil enough to think you might ever 
come back here? 

Fromm: The fact is at that time the Nazis were already in power, and our 
family is Jewish, so it was always a consideration: should one 
stay, could one stay in Germany or not? After my first visit to 
the United States I made up my mind this is the place I wanted to 
live. I had traveled in England, and I liked it very much there. 
But I loved the freedom here and the chances offered. If you did 
the right thing, you really were on your own, something which to a 
German was entirely new. 

So I came back by the middle of 1934 to Germany, and I was 
traveling in the European countries for the export of our wines, 
where we did quite well. I think we sold to about forty foreign 
countries altogether, our German wines. 

The next year again I went to America and spent again in '35 
and '36 six months each year traveling and completing a net of 
distributors. I got acquainted with a lot of very good people. 
They were very kind to me, and I really felt it was the place I 
wanted to live. 


Partnersip in Picker-Linz. New Yorl 

Fromm: By 1936 the Nazi situation looked very threatening, and I decided 
that we had to get out of Germany. I was the first one of our 
family to come to the United States. I got married in 1936 to a 
girl that I had courted since she was sixteen years old, Hanna 
Gruenbaum. We are married now forty-eight years and we are still 
very happy. 

Teiser: You came to New York first? 

Fromm: Yes. We came to New York. Then the firm of Picker-Linz, who were 
our agents, offered me a small partnership. It was a very small 
firm. And we came with almost nothing because we couldn't take 
anything out of Germany. They let us take out some furniture and 
our clothes and some personal belongings, but no money. 

So I became a partner in this firm with a minimum investment 
of maybe a thousand or two thousand dollars advanced by my wife, 
and this is the way we started here in this country. 

I went for Picker-Linz to Europe quite a few times in the 
following years, in '36, '37, as they were in the imported wine 
business. And I traveled extensively in Europe in the wine 
countries, in France, Italy, Spain, and so on. 

Teiser: Buying for them? 

Fromm: Buying the wine, because I was the only one who was qualified to do 


Teiser: Were the wines shipped in bulk or were they bottled? 
Fromm: We only bought bottled goods. 

Alfred Fromm in 1936, the year he came 
to the United States. 

Alfred Fromm at an interview conference, 
July 19, 1984. 

Fromm: But I could see the preparation for war of the Nazis. I saw the 

underground bunkers in Germany, and I saw in the Ruhr, which was a 
heavy industrial part of Germany, the armaments they produced. I 
could see that this would lead to a war. I told my partners that 
one day we will be completely cut off from our foreign sources, 
that wines cannot be shipped anymore, and that if we wanted to 
remain in this business, we'd better make sure we find an American 
source of supply. 

Many people didn't believe that there was a war coming. My 
partners were skeptical, too, but they said, "Well, if you are so 
convinced, why don't you go to California and see what you can do?" 

I just want to show you how I got into the California wine 

Teiser: That's a missing link that I had not known. 

Fromm: So in the middle of 1937 I came to California. At that time there 
were just a few wineries, and I looked around and called on every 
winery in California to see what could be done. 

Teiser: What was your impression? You had been to wineries all over the 
world what did you think of the California wine industry at that 
time from that survey you made? 

Fromm: The industry as such in those days hardly did exist. The aftermath 
of Prohibition was still very much in evidence. There were many 
vineyards with the wrong kind of grapes. The equipment in the 
wineries was very old because there was no money to replace it. 
The winery buildings were very old. There was really nothing there 
to be particularly attractive. Most of the wineries that I called 
on said, "Well, we would be glad to give you the agency, but you 
must put some money in," and this was something that we didn't 

Teiser: Let me take you back again. You had a sudden view of something 
that most people saw developing. What were the outstanding 
wineries among those that you visited? 

Fromm: There was Beaulieu. There was [Louis M.] Martini. There was Wente 
[Bros.]. And there was Martin Ray, who had the Paul Masson winery. 
There were maybe four or five premium wineries that made quite 

acceptable wine. 

Teiser: Was there a quality relationship to the fine wines of Europe? 


Fromm: No, absolutely not. However, as I traveled so extensively in 
California, and particularly in the Napa Valley, and as I knew 
something about vineyards and saw the soil and the various 
scientific reports that had been made, I had the feeling that if 
this was bandied properly, we can make in California a wine that 
ultimately could be world class. I was a young man, but of course 
when you are young you are enthusiastic and optimistic. I felt it 
could be done. 

Association with the Christian Brothers. 1937-1983 

Joining Efforts with the Brothers 

Fromm: So in my travels I came to the Christian Brothers in Napa. The 

Christian Brothers at that time were in financial difficulties. As 
you know, they are a religious order of the Catholic church, and 
they had built monasteries and some colleges like St. Mary's 
College, during the heyday of the boom, and then when the 
Depression started they couldn't pay their bonds any more, and they 
were in some sort of bankruptcy, like today we have Chapter 11 or 
something like that. 

So I called on them. There was Brother John, who was the head 
of the winery, who was a few years younger than I, and Brother 
Timothy, who was probably two years younger than I, and the three 
of us, we put our heads together and we said, "Well, we have to do 
something," because the only way the Brothers could get out of 
their financial difficulty was to sell some wines. 


Inasmuch as they were not bootleggers, they had accumulated an 
inventory of old wines which they did use for sacramental wine. 
This inventory was among the best in California. 

So we put our heads together and we were good partners, 
because they had no money and we had no money [laughing]. But we 
all -were young, and I felt we had to make a success, otherwise we 
wouldn't eat, because many more members of my family had arrived in 
the U.S. without hardly any money. 

Teiser: Did you consider an association with any other wineries before 


Fronm: No, I really didn't. None really appealed to me as much as 

Christian Brothers, and one reason for it was, too, that I had a 
great feeli :g for the integrity of religious organizations in the 
vine business, because in Germany, particularly on the Moselle, 
some of the finest vineyards are in the bands of religious organi 
zations, and also in Franconia. In the Rheingau the church always 
had very important holdings of some of the very finest vineyards. 
That was one reason why I thought it might be a good thing to 
inspire confidence in the consumer. Even so, I was connected with 
Christian Brothers for 46 years and we never mentioned the religious 
angle, because it's a poor way to sell. If you ask a Catholic to 
buy Christian Brothers wine because it's made by a Catholic order, 
it's a poor way to do business. So this never in any way came into 

So in 1938 I spent about four months at Mont La Salle 
vineyards in Napa up where the monastery is. I slept in the 
bishop's room but I always had to get up very early because at 
five-thirty one of the Brothers came through all the corridors 
with a bell and said get up for mass. And breakfast was at six- 
thirty. If you were not there at six-thirty there was 
no breakfast because they did not run a hotel [laughing]. 

But I got up early, and Brother John, Brother Timothy and I 
went into the winery and we took a sample of every barrel, a few 
hundred small and larger, we tasted the wines, and we made some 
blends. At that time there were no varietal wines, so we blended a 
burgundy and a sauterne, some Riesling, and a few wines of this 
sort. Then by late fall of 1938 we were ready to go to into the 

Beginning to Market Christian Brothers Wines 

Fronm: The wines were considered in those days premium wines. (They 

wouldn't be considered so today, but after all this was 1938, 46 
years ago). We developed a unique label. In fact my wife, who is 
more artistically inclined than I, first drew it up with lipstick. 
We thought a Christian Brothers label in the shape of a triptych 
would be the right label, and we had it printed by a printer who 
helped us a little, because money was so scarce that we really had 
to save every penny, and we did a lot of the work ourselves. 
Brother John and Brother Timothy worked in the winery and I worked 
in it too, so it was really a joint undertaking. 


Fromm: When we started out to sell the vine, first in New York and then in 
some other places 

Teiser: Through Picker-Linz? 


Fromm: Through Picker-Linz as exclusive agents for the Brothers it was 
very hard to sell California wines. There were really only two 
lines of American wine available that made some claim to quality 
and that had wider distribution that the few premium wineries in 
California. They were Taylor, New York, and Christian Brothers. 
Those two lines were the two lines that were in almost every 
store in New York and in many other states. 

Teiser: I have been told that wine drinkers in New York were used to the 
taste of European wines so that they had to get accustomed to 
California wines. Is that correct? 

Fromm: It is correct to some extent. Those were wine drinkers, and it 

took us quite a few years before we really got to the consumer that 
was used to European wines, because at that time we hadn't got 
American people yet to drink table wine. They drank sweet wine, 
port and sherry, also because it was the cheapest form of fortified 
alcohol. The tax on fortified wine was much lower than it was on 
distilled spirits. But we were quite successful in a small way, 
and we then extended the business into New Jersey, into the middle 
West, into Chicago and California. I traveled very extensively 
six, seven months a year calling on distributors, traveling as a 
salesman, because we were in fact missionary men. Most of the 
wholesalers said there was no chance to do anything in the wine 
business anyway, "Why do you waste your time here?" I answered, 
"Give it a chance and you will be surprised." 

So the business grew in a small way, and we opened up maybe 25 
states within two or three years, and then in 1941 World War II 
broke out. 

Teiser: Did you before World War II establish a pricing policy that was 

Fromm: Yes. Our wines were all priced at the same level. In New York it 
was one dollar a bottle, which was then a very high price because 
you could buy a lot of California wine for 35 to 40 cents. One 
dollar a bottle. We had this price throughout the country; we only 
had one price. This was also new. We had only one label. The 
only change in the label was the name of the wine. 

Then we did something else. We found out that an educational 
campaign had to be started, because otherwise people just wouldn't 
buy any wine. We needed people to sell wine. Our wine wholesalers 


Fromm: just didn't care because a case of whiskey was selling for three or 
four times as much, and the commission was much higher than on 
wine. And the people just didn't know wine. It was really a 
wasteland, America, as far as wine was concerned. 

I still was optimistic. I always felt that it would come, 
because the American people are very flexible, and if something new 
comes up that is good they take to it. I think what has been done 
in California in the last fifty years has taken Europe 250 years. 
The American people, if they have faith in something, the money is 
available, the people are available, the market is right there, and 
it is just a question how to sell it. So our problem in the first 
few years of the firm was to train salesmen of distributors. 

Teiser: At that time, didn't Cresta Blanca have some reputation on the East 

Fromm: Yes. In a small way. 

Teiser: Was it priced below Christian Brothers? 

Fromm: I don't think so, but it was not large. Later on it was taken over 
by Schenley and it became a mass producer. 

Teiser: Italian Swiss Colony was on a lower level 

Fromm: On a lower level. Gallo was in the business but was not yet as 

important at that time. Italian Swiss was very much larger. But 
most of the wines in those days were shipped from California in 
tank cars, and if the wine did not ferment on the trip and the tank 
car did not blow up on the way, it was considered acceptable wine. 
It was 90 percent sweet wine. It was bottled by the distributor, 
very often under his own label, and not very frequently under the 
label of the winery. This was a radical change that took place a 
few years later. Then wineries promoted their own brands, like 
Italian Swiss and Gallo and Roma and others. 

Teiser: But Christian Brothers was shipping everything in bottles all the 

Fromm: All bottled at the monastery. We never shipped anything in bulk. 

Teiser: Did you consciously adopt the standardized label and the single 

price, and shipping everything in bottles as a good merchandising 


Fromm: Yes. 

Teiser: Because it surely was. 


Fromm: It was. And what was new was that we had what we called missionary 
men, a few but as many as the firm could pay for, to help the 
distributor to train some salesmen so that we would sell some wine. 
I talked to thousands of salesmen during those years. If we went 
to a large distributor who had, say 75 or 100 salesmen and three or 
five were interested in wine, we were already lucky. I think we 
were the first to adopt uniform label, uniform pricing, and had 
missionary men that were paid by us and helped the wholesaler in 
the fullest sense to sell wine, to train him to sell wine. And 
that really paid off very handsomely for us. We were the first 
ones to do that. Those steps resulted not from great smartness but 
from necessity. 

Teiser: [laughing] It sounds like a well thought out plan. 

Fromm: Well, we had to do it. I always believed that if you are in this 
business you have to go to the stores; you have to call on the 
people who buy the wine, not go to the wholesaler and leave it up 
to him, because if you do generally nothing happens. But if you 
talk to the people direct and rather extensively, and call on 
restaurants in the evening And we worked extremely hard, twelve 
hour days. But of course we were young and we wanted to make a 

The World War II Years 

Fromm: In the meantime I brought out [of Germany] all my family. We were 
seven children, and they had children. We were four brothers and 
three sisters. 

Teiser: Tour father came too? 

Fromm: Yes, but he came very much later, because he didn't think that the 
Nazis could mean him. He was the last one to leave because he was 
such a well known and highly regarded man, had a very important 
title from the German government, "Kommerzein Rat," only given to 
people who have made an outstanding success and contribution to the 
country. So he felt that he was safe from the Nazi terror, but 
unfortunately he was not. 

So I brought out all these people, and we are one of the very 
few large Jewish families that live all in the United States where 
we have our roots today. Most Jewish families were dispersed all 
over the world. It is a very fortunate thing for us. 


Fromm: When the war broke out, very quickly the shipments from Europe 

stopped. We were the only California winery that was ready with a 
certain quantity of good wines sweet wines and some table wines. 
We became very succesful during the years, let's say, from 1941 to 
1945. Our business increased rapidly. We went into every state of 
the union. 

We didn't do any advertising because there was no money for 
advertising, and in those days the wine business was a small 
business basically, but the firm made fairly good money. All of 
the partners had a good salary. I drew only $25 or $50 a week out 
of a total yearly salary of $10,000, but the difference was never 
paid out until many years later. We needed every penny in our 
developing wine business. In the beginning we had no credit. 
Nobody knew us and we couldn't get any money from the bank in those 
days because the firm was too small. 

But we did between 1941 and 1945 what would have taken us 
fifteen years of normal development, so the war situation 
accelerated our business to a very considerable extent. 

American Wine in the Latter 1940s 

Fromm: In 1945 there still was no real California wine business or 

American wine business. There was a poll made by Elmer Roper, who 
interviewed 5,000 people in America at random to find out what they 
thought about wine and what they thought the industry could do. 
The result was, according to the survey, 90 percent of the wine was 
bought by bums who wanted to buy cheap alcohol; 6 or 7 percent was 
used by ethnic groups like Italians and others and foreign born 
people. And maybe 3 percent was purchased by people who knew 
already a little bit about wine. But as far as table wine was 
concerned, the business was almost non-existent. 

In 1945 and up to 1950-1955, it was very difficult to get any 
good hotel or restaurant to list any California wine. We made great 
efforts in this respect, and finally we got some wines listed. I 
had a lot of connections with the finest stores in the country 
through my earlier sales of imported wines, and they said, "Well, 
Alfred, if you insist, we will buy five cases," but then they 
languished some place in the corner and nothing ever happened. 
There just was no demand in the finer stores for California 
wines. And if a hotel or a good restaurant listed one or two 
California wines, one white and one red, one burgundy and one 
sauterne, then we felt we were quite successful. 

ss did not exist in the sense me know it today. 

the large wineries eventually found out if they 
a success and earn enough money to improve the 

and whatever was necessary to conduct a 
ss, that they had to make some money and that 
to sell their ova brands. This is when Callo, Boma, 
Italian Swiss, and some of the others started to sell wine under 
the wineries' own labels, and this is really the start of their 


They sold maybe 90 percent sweet wines, fortified wines, 
because their type of customer was less used to table wines than 
rs were, which vere already a step higher. So this 
reased, and by 1960-1965 you could see some nore 

elopmemts. People had some faith that thi 
business could be developed in the United States. 

Barn-ing the Brandy Market, 1943 

Fromu: Our vine business grev consistently, and vhat vas particularly 

successful for Christian Brothers vas that ve vent into the brand; 
business in 1940, and by 1943, vhen ve had enough inventory, ve 
vere able to come out vith a very acceptable American brandy. At 
that time many people thought it should be called American cognac, 
which I opposed very much because we have to stand on our own, and 
if you have to borrow the foreign names, it's not good business in 

Bow ever, ve came out vith a clean, good product that was 
entirely different from French cognacs, which were 99 percent of 
the brandy category imported into America. Ve came out with & 
product that was much lighter, less high in fusel oil and in 
aldehydes than imported brandies, and was particularly fashioned to 
mix well with other things like vermouth or whatever mixed drinks 
were made in those days. Because I could see in my wide travels, 
in so many restaurants and hotels and bars, that mixed drinks were 
the big thing, and people rarely drank straight brandy. If they 
did they bought cognac, but this was not a bar iten. It was sold 
in the finer stores and in the good hotels and restaurants as an 
after-dinner drink. But I felt very strongly that brandy had a 
place in the American way of life, particularly in spirits, because 
it is such a versatile drink and it mixes with almost everything 
and had to become a bar 


Teiser: In the development of the brandy at Christian Brothers, who tasted 
and who decided what? 

Fromm: Otto Meyer, who is my brother-in-law he married my late sister he 
was in the brandy business in Germany. His family was in it for 
generations, too. He knew a great deal about it, and he helped the 
Brothers tremendously by advising us about the best way to blend a 
brandy that was different from foreign brandy and that was more 
eligible for use in mixed drinks. It was a lighter brandy and a 
more palatable brandy. You know, French cognacs very often have 
that soapy taste, which is very good for someone who likes it, but 
the average person in America didn't like it. You see, in those 
days, don't forget, people were a lot less sophisticated in 
drinking than they are today. 

Teiser: As I remember Christian Brothers brandy when it first came on the 
market, it was rather sweeter than it is now. 

Fronra: Yes. In those days sweetness was one thing that people were 

looking for. It was not really sweetness in a sense but it was 
softer and mellower. Then later on when people got more 
sophisticated and really appreciated fine spirits, the Christian 
Brothers reduced the level of sweetness considerably. 

At that time, when we came out with Christian Brothers brandy, 
the inventories of French cognacs in America were almost 
nonexistent, and this became an instant success. 

Teiser: How were you making it? Were you using pot stills? 

Fromm: We didn't use pot stills for about three years, because we didn't 
have the pot stills. When I say we I mean the Christian Brothers. 
We didn't have a pot still in the beginning, but we picked out the 
brandies very, very carefully from a large pool, and Otto Meyer 
did really an outstanding job. Our brandy was far superior to 
anything that was on the market and had an instant success. 

Teiser: This was from the prorate pool? 

Fromm: Yes. We went throught the whole pool, Otto and I. I think we must 
have tasted probably six or seven hundred samples of brandy, which 
was no pleasure. But we picked out those maybe fifteen, twenty 
lots which were clean, which were nice, and which had some bouquet, 
and then Otto made some blends. We came out with some brandy that 
was & highly successful product and far superior in quality to 
anything which was on the market. 

Teiser: Thee you started using pot stills? 


Fromm: Yes. Then the Brothers saw that pot-still brandy was a heavier, 
richer brandy. It had to be aged between six to ten years to 
really attain its full quality. You cannot use it as young as 
regular brandy. 

Teiser: The brandy made in a column still? 

Fromm: Yes, the column-still brandy. It's pretty well at the proper age 
when it's four years old. But by blending in ten to fifteen 
percent of pot-still brandy, it gave our brandy that quality that 
didn't exist before. 

So we sold to every state in the union. We could have sold 
more brandy if we had had the inventory. 

Teiser: Were you making that at Mont La Salle? 
Fromm: No, it was made at Mt. Tivy. 
Teiser: Oh, you'd bought Mt. Tivy by then. 

Fromm: Yes, the Christian Brothers bought Mt. Tivy from Seagram's. 

Seagram's owned it at the time. We arranged that the Christian 
Brothers could buy it at some very favorable terms of payment. On 
each case that was shipped they paid a few pennies to Seagram's, 
and after six or seven years the winery was paid off. 

Teiser: That put you in a Thompson Seedless area, I assume. 

Fromm : Ye s . 

Teiser: So that you had a good source of supply. 


Thompson Seedless makes good brandy. It makes a very neutral 
brandy, and that is desirable, but in order to get more taste and 
flavor into the brandy, we felt very strongly that we needed some 
pot-still brandy. That's what got us into the pot stills, because 
it's much more flavorful and gives you more substance. Because 
you had blended whiskeys which were very light and didn't have much 
taste, and vodka came into the market, and to me this was always 
something that I never could understand why people drink anything 
that had no taste and no smell and no nothing and was just ordinary 
alcohol. But it became very successful, and there was a trend to 
lighter drinks. The heavy bourbon drinkers gradually disappeared 
and people wanted lighter drinks. 


Did you use some marketing strategy on that? 
bottle was a distinctive shape. 

As I remember, the 



Fromm: Yes, it was a nice bottle that we developed and a nice label, but 
nothing really fancy because we always felt that the money had to 
be spent on the product and not on the package. So we had a nice, 
clean, good package, and the package has hardly ever been changed. 
There was a slight improvement in the label but the package 
basically is still the same. 

Teiser: It's distinctive. 

Fromm: Yes, because it's a recognized package and the bottle shape has 
been copied by many others. 

Creating an Advanced Still 

Fromm: So the brandy business then became very large, made large revenue 
for us. And then the Brothers put in a special large continuous 
still down there, which was entirely different from the stills that 
existed in California, because the California brandy stills are 
generally high-proof stills, and we wanted a still with more 
plates. A much finer product could be developed. 

So we went to Seagram's, and Mr. Samuel Bronfman, the one who 
developed Seagram's and the largest owner of the Seagram's company, 
became a good friend of ours, and we asked him for some advice, 
since he was an outstanding expert in spirits. He said to Franz 
Sichel*, my partner, and to me, "There is only one way you can do 
it. We will give you our best technical people from Louisville, 
our still people, who build their own stills, and they will tell 
you how it should be done." Then we had the right advisers how to 
build stills, and the Christian Brothers stills today still are the 
only stills of this kind in the United States. 

Teiser: What did this type of still do that other brandy stills flon't do? 

Fromm: Well, it was a much more sophisticated still than any still existing 
until today in California. It had a lot of improvements that the 
whiskey people had worked out over many years for their products, 
which of course was a big business and a lot of money was spent by 
them on research. So we were the beneficiary of that and had a 
brandy still that made cleaner brandy and brandy that did not have 

*For an account of the formation of Fromm and Sichel, successors to 
Picker-Linz, see pages 22-23. 


Fromm: as much fusel oil and aldehydes as other brandies produced here. 

Actually, we were very anxious that the Christian Brothers produce 
for our sales a brandy that was lighter, softer, and would lend 
itself particularly for blending in mixed drinks. 

Teiser: Does a more sophisticated still "recognize" more sensitively the 

factors in the brandy as it's being made and separate them out? Is 

Fromm: Yes, that's exactly what happens. It gaves us the means to double 
distill the brandy and clean up any impurities. 

So it was not all accidental that the brandy was successful. 
It took a lot of planning and thinking. But as I have so often 
said, the marvelous thing in America is that if you talk to the 
right people they will advise you honestly and give you advice that 
you couldn't buy for money. That happened to us. 

As the brandy business developed further, we had of course to 
borrow money for inventory at the Bank of America. The Bank of 
America was very good to us. Very shortly after we started, we got 
our first credit because we needed to make more brandy and at that 
time you couldn't get any money in New York on brandy because the 
banks in New York said, "We will loan on whiskey, but we don't loan 
on brandy; we don't know it." So we went to the Bank of America; 
who gave us the first credit, and were very good to us, and I have 
worked with them since then and never been with any other bank 
either for the firm or personally. 

Agreement with Seagram's, 1954 

Fromm: However, the business ran away, and millions were needed to really 
build the inventory, because at that time we sold already six or 
seven hundred thousand cases per year of brandy. Your brandy, 
let's say, is an average five years old, including the pot still, so 
if you sell five hundred thousand cases you have to make two 
million cases or two and a half million cases in order to have the 
inventory at the same level and not even figuring on any increase. 
So that took an enormous amount of money. So again my partner 
Franz Sichel and I went to Samuel Bronfman, who was a very good 
friend of ours. (I have his picture here on the wall; I'll show it 
to you later) And we said, "What should we do?" 

So he said, "Well, Seagram's will buy a 70 percent interest in 
your firm if you want us to. However, on the condition that Franz 
oichel and you remain partners at a sizable share. Because," Mr. 


Fronm: Bronfman said to us, "I believe that the most money can be made if 
you have partners who are financially very much interested in the 
firm." I said, "Sam, I do not want to work on a salary regardless 
of what the amount is. I have never worked on a salary. When I 
was young I worked on commission and I just don't work on a 
salary." He said, "Well, we want you as a partner for that reason. 
We don't want a man just on salary." 

So Seagram's bought 70 percent. However, the understanding 
with Seagram's was and they kept this until last October, 1983, 
when the firm was sold back to the Christian Brothers that this 
was run as a completely autonomous business. 

After Franz Sichel died, in 1967, I was president and chief 
executive officer. I moved in 1941 to California from New York 
because it was important that a partner of the firm would be here 
in daily contact with the Christian Brothers, the winery, in 
California. We moved in '41 to California, and the business 
developed very well and made money every year except in 1947, when 
the Christian Brothers and we had a large inventory of wine and 
then the price controls were dropped, and wine went from $1.20 
(sweet wine) to about thirty or forty cents. But that was the only 
year we lost some money, because we had a large expensive 
inventory. Otherwise we made some money every year. 

Business Principles 

Fromm: I have, in those many years that I have been with Picker-Linz as a 

partner and then with Fromm and Sichel, never have taken a penny out 
of the firm except my salary and a bonus, because I wanted to 
increase my stake in the firm, which I have done this way. So this 
is one of the good things I can say about the German method of 
running a business. 

As I mentioned, we started in the export business of Christian 
Brothers wine and brandy. We were one of the better known 
exporters. We shipped to about sixty foreign countries. And the 
nice thing was that we got a lot of re-orders. See, when you get 
your first order and you don't get a re-order within six months, 
then the wine doesn't move. But it worked out quite well. We sold 
for less money in the export business than we sold in America. We 
had one price. Nobody could get a different price from us. It was 
an absolute principle. There was no discount; there was no under- 
the-table business. I never found it necessary to bribe anyone or 
to pay off someone. That's just no way to do business. 


Fromm: In all these years that I'm in business in America, I found out you 
don't have to be a mental giant, but you have to have certain 
principles by which you stick, and this is honesty, and that you 
know what you are doing and that you know the field in which you 
are working. And if people trust you and that's why I like it so 
much in America if people trust you, you really have no problems. 

Another principle I always worked with is only to deal with 
the best people, because if you are not so smart yourself and you 
deal with sharpies, you mostly get the short end. If you deal with 
honorable and first-class people you do all right. Sometimes 
people asked me, "Alfred, how come you have so many good 
distributors in the country?" I said, "Well, for a very simple 
reason. Because they're people I could talk to, who trusted me, 
and they're people who would pay us right away." We needed the 
money right away because in a firm like ours that had developed 
that fast there was never enough money, because all the money had 
to go into the inventory. 

Teiser: This arrangement with the Christian Brothers group and your group, 
was there a parallel in the United States at all for such a 

Fromm: I don't think so. 
Teiser: It was unique? 

Fromm: Yes. And as the Brothers often said to me, which pleased me very 
much, before they made the contract with us they dealt with some 
people in the East, and they said, "You know Alfred, since we were 
dealing with a Jewish firm, we never had a better deal. You are 
honest, you are men of integrity." I said, "Well, it's no more 
than good business to be honest and have integrity." I have told 
this to hundreds and hundreds of young men who have worked for us. 
It was a principle that applied to anyone who worked in the firm. 
So many of the young people, particularly today, think if you are 
successful in business that you must have some tricks or that you 
have some crooked ways of making money. I always tell them, "If 
ever anyone told you this, they didn't tell you the right thing." 

Fromm and Sichel, Successor to Picker-Linz, 1945 

Teiser: When did Picker-Linz become Fromm and Sichel? 

Fromm: Nineteen forty-five, on January 1. I associated myself as a 

partner with Franz Sichel, who comes from the wine firm of Sichel- 


Fromm: in- Mainz. He was ten years older then I am, a very good wine man, 
and a very fine person. We were partners for almost twenty-five 
years and never had one cross word. So it was a very happy 
relationship. He knew I was more adventurous than he was and more 
active and younger, so he let me handle things without interfer 
ence. We talked every Sunday for an hour or an hour and a half on 
the telephone, discussed everything that was going on, and then we 
made our decisions right then and there. That worked out very 

I had already bought out all my other partners. And Franz 
Sichel joined me in 1945. I needed a large credit in the Bank of 
America. And just to give you an illustration of how things were 
in those days, I got a three-year credit at 1 3/4 percent interest 
per year. Those were different times and it was a very good rate. 
But one of the top men in the Bank of America who liked me quite a 
bit, had complete trust in me. He said, "Alfred, the fact that you 
are so anxious to get the lowest rate of interest only people who 
want to pay want the low rate. The ones who don't want to pay, 
they don't care what we charge them." 

Teiser: Do you want to name him? 

Fromm: Fred Ferroggiaro. He was an executive vice-president of the Bank 
of America and chairman of the finance committee. A really old- 
style banker. 

Instead of three years, after one and a half years I was able 
to pay off my loan at the bank. That was one of the happy days of 
my life. I had a lot of deferred salary coming that I hadn't 
drawn, so I drew that, and the taxes were low in those days. So I 
paid off the bank. Franz Sichel borrowed, too, in the Bank of 
America, and Seagram's had to deduce that I didn't need any help 
from them. They knew me in the bank and I didn't need any 
guarantees or anything. But they didn't know Franz Sichel, so he 
borrowed in the bank, too, with Seagram's backing, and that was 
paid off a little later. It was always a very excellent relation 
ship of trust that we had with the Bank of America. 

In those days the bank was a lot smaller, and there was much 
more of a personal relationship. I mean, I had many good friends 
most of the presidents of the Bank of America have been personal 
friends of mine because they liked to talk to a small businessman, 
too, get his ideas and suggestions. 

San. Armacost, the new president of the bank, I know him well. 
He's a personal friend. But if you want something, if you go to 
Sam Armacost you are being turned over to someone else, because the 


Fromm: man has so many responsibilities. It's not the same as it was 
forty years ago. 


Fromm: In 1950 Seagram's became a partner in Fromm and Sichel. The 

partnership consisted 70 percent of Seagram's and 30 percent was 
owned by Franz Sichel and myself. 

As I told you, we were completely autonomous. Seagram's was 
always available when we wanted advice, but we never came to them 
and said, "This is a problem and that's a problem." We said, 
"Here, this is the problem; that's what we expect to do. Do you 
have a better solution?" They always said, "Go ahead and do what 
you described." 

You know, as I so often say, the good Lord had his hand over 
us. That you have to work hard, that you have to be honorable, 
have integrity, that you know your business that's only 50 
percent. But the other 50 percent is being there at the right 
time, getting together with the right people. And some people say 
that's good luck, that's good fortune; I say it was a good hand 
that was over us. In all those years. And I'm very grateful for 

Association with Paul Mas son 
President, 1944-1955 

Teiser: There was quite an overlap, was there not, with your interest in 
Paul Masson? 

Fromm: Yes. Paul Masson was owned by Seagram's. They didn't do anything 
with it. It was very small. They bought it from Martin Ray. It 
was a premium winery, had some very, very good wines there. But 
they had no sales organization. One day the head of Seagram's 
called Franz Sichel and me and said, "We would like you to take it 
off our hands." We said, "We'll be glad to do it, but we will pay 
you only as we sell the inventory, because we cannot afford to 
invest additional money and we don't want to borrow any more 
money." They said, "Fine, do that." 

Then I became president of Paul Masson, and I spent quite some 
time down there. At that time my father was already here, and he 
tasted every barrel of wine, and he was really an outstanding 


Fronm: taster. And we put a small quantity of wine into the market at 

that time at, I think, $36 a case, which was an unheard of price. 
They had some beautiful wines there. That business developed very 
quickly. The purchase price to Seagram's was paid off within two 

Teiser: You were president from '44 to '55. 

Fronm: Yes. I ran the business in addition to our business here for 

Christian Brothers, and we did very well with it, but there was a 
limit how far we could grow because the inventory did not exist, 
and the winery up in the hills in Saratoga was very, very small. 
So we did a few things up there, like Music in the Vineyards, 
started by my late brother Norman. You have heard about Music in 
the Vineyards? It's already in its twentieth year at Paul Masson. 
Open-air concerts. We founded that, and it has been done now by 
other wineries, and the nice thing is if you do something right, 
other people will do it, too. But it always takes someone to stick 
his neck out and try to do it. 

So we developed this firm, and then we could see there was 
quite a chance in Paul Masson as a premium winery, as they were 
only in the table wine business at that time. Otto Meyer, who was 
with me in the firm, was asked to take over management of Paul 
Masson and run it, and he became president and ran it quite suc 

Teiser: Let me take you back if I may. As I remember, at the time that you 
took it over, the winery wasn't very much and it had little vine 
yard land. Is that right? 

Fromm: It had a few hundred acres of top-grade vineyards up on the hill, 
but the production was extremely small. We replanted quite a few 
vineyards, and then in the early 1960s we bought a lot of new 
vineyard land down near Salinas because there just was no land 
available in Santa Clara County, as you know, with the development 
of the whole Silicon Valley, at a price where you could afford to 
have a vineyard. So we went down there and we planted about 1500 

Teiser: In the meantime, did you have others making wine for you? 

Fromm: Yes. We got some wines from Mirassou and from some other people 

down there. They made it under contract for us. Then we built the 

winery in Saratoga. That was at that time quite an undertaking. 
And the champagne business was developed, the wine business was 
developed. And then in Soledad another vinery and crushing plant 
was built. 


Fronm: When Otto vent to Paul Masson, there was some sort of jealously 

between the Christian Brothers and Paul Masson, even though we ran 
it separately and never had any difficulty in our mind to separate 
those two and do the right thing for both. But the Brothers felt 
maybe that I would spend more time on it, so we split it off and 
made it a completely separate operation. 

Teiser: For both of them. 

Fromm: by Picker-Linz first, and then by Fromm and Sichel. 
it up and they had their own organization. 

Teiser: Masson was no longer distributed by your firm? 

So we split 

Fromm: No. They built their own organization and became quite big in the 
meantime. They went more and more into production of large 
quantities of wine. They now have another plant in the San Joaquin 
Valley. But at that time when Otto and I were in charge, we really 
ran it as a premium wine business, as a top-quality producer. 

Planting Vineyards in the Salinas Valley 

Teiser: When you bought the acreage in the Salinas Valley, was that a big 
decision? Were you part of that decision? 

Fromm: Yes. It was a decision that gave me many sleepless nights because 
we didn't know how well a vineyard would do. We were the first 
ones to do that. And after that Mirassou came in, and after that 
Wente came in. But we were the pioneers. We were the first ones. 
Masson bought acreage in 1960, Mirassou in 1961, and in 1962 their 
first commercial plantings were made. 

What we found out later was that the white grapes down there 
were absolutely excellent but the red grapes needed something else. 
Red grapes there are not as good as the grapes in Napa or Sonoma. 
We planted only the best varietal grapes. Then later on the red 
grapes were mostly grafted over to white grapes like Johannisberg 
Riesling and Chardonnays and Semillon and Sauvignon blanc. 

Teiser: You planted the vines on their own roots? 

Fromm: No, they were all grafted on American rootstock. 

Teiser: Originally? 

Fromm: Yes. Even so, it's no phylloxera yet down there but it's coming 


Teiser: Then the Masson vineyards there won't be affected? 

Fromm: Yes, they can still be affected; even a grafted vineyard can be 

affected to some extent by phylloxera in a small way. But it's a 
danger, you know if you have pests in a certain territory you 
never know how far it can go. Some of the chemicals that we used 
before in spraying the vineyards are outlawed and the new ones are 
less effective today, so we were very, very careful on that. 

Teiser: Did you work with the university on various plantings for Paul 

Fromm: Every vineyard has been plotted and planned by UC Davis. They were 
absolutley marvelous. They sent their groups down there; they made 
the surveys and they made us plots of the various soil conditions 
and all that, and we followed strictly their advice, and it turned 
out very well. They are the best people in the world. I have been 
around in my life, and I really can say that. 

Teiser: Who there did you work with mainly? 

Fromm: There are quite a few people, mainly, Dr. [A.J.] Winkler. We also 
talked a great deal to Dr. [Maynard A.] Amerine, and to Dr. [Emil] 
Mrak. Dr. Winkler was really in charge at that time. He sent 
students down, and it was a good experience for them, and it helped 
us and hardly cost us anything. It's a marvelous service. And as 
I have often said, the California wine industry would not be where 
it is today if it wasn't for Davis, because they are really the 
tops in wine-making techniques and all that. They developed a 
combination of modern American technology and European traditions, 
which is what makes a good mixture. 

Teiser: In the rehabilitation of both Christian Brothers and Paul Masson, 
did you draw on your knowledge of European wineries to select 

equipment for these wineries? 

Fromm: We advised the Brothers, we helped the Brothers to get the best 
equipment. We gave them the names and we put them in touch with 
the various people. But in the meantine, the Brothers had 
developed their own staff of really good people, BO that was not so 
much necessary any more. But we always consulted with each other 
and worked very closely together. Unfortunately, Brother John 
died very early, and there were a few successors who were not as 
well versed in the wine business as Brother John was, who really 
grew up with it, the same as I. 

Teiser: Was champagne an important product for Paul Masson all along? 


Fronm: Yes, it was. Champagne was the main product of Paul Masson, but 

with the chances that we all saw in the wine business, we felt that 
the wine business had to be developed and came very fast, and that 
made it necessary then to build the new plant and to put the 
vineyards in. And then Masson had a lot of contracts with other 
vineyardists down in Monterey County, so the grapes were then 
available. They were the first ones to put in a large vineyard, 
and as I told you, then Mirassou and Wente followed afterwards. 
There are good grapes from there. 


Association With the Christian Brothers Continued 

Selling Christian Brothers Wines 

Teiser: One thing that you said yesterday that I was thinking about you 

said that when you started working with the Christian Brothers, you 
decided that it was necessary to educate Americans about wine 
drinking. How did you undertake that? 

Fronm: Well, the first thing was that we had what we called missionary men 
that called on our wholesalers and distributors and tried to 
educate the salesmen so that they, in turn, would talk to the 
retailers. In addition to that, we talked to a lot of wine 
writers. There were not too many in those days, and they were all 
new in the business and I was able to give them some helpful 
information. It was amazing how much good will I found as far as 
education of wine is concerned, because it's a very pleasant sub 

Teiser: Another thing occurred to me: When you were tasting with the 

Christian Brothers, were you trying to create a wine that was not 
European, and not like previous California wines? What was your 

Fromm: Our aim in tasting all the wines was to blend together the wines 
which were most suitable for this purpose because the Christian 
Brothers, and in particular, Brother John, Brother Timothy and I, 
felt that we should come out with a product that was on a quality 
level but at the same time, would appeal to the American taste. 
And that meant, among the red wines that the wine should not have 
excess tannin, that the wine had a certain softness to it. As you 
know, particularly for a neophyte in wine, the scale of 
taste generally goes from sweet to dry. As I said to you 

Gathered for a 1967 meeting in Montreal, left to right: Brother 
Gregory of Mont La Salle; Samuel Bronfman, head of Seagrams; 
Brother Charles Henry, first American Superior General of the 
Christian Brothers; Alfred Fromm. 

At the Christian Brothers' Greystone winery, late 1970s, 
left to right: Brother Gregory, Alfred Fromm, unidentified 
person, Brother Timothy, Walter Neihoff of Botsford Ketchum 
advertising agency. 


Fromm: yesterday, America was really a wasteland in those days as far as 
wine is concerned. We had to come out with something that would 
appeal to the consumer but at the same time was on a very much 
higher quality level then the California wines that were in the 
market and were mostly shipped in tank cars from California and 
were bottled and sold at very low prices. 

The Vie-Del Company 

Teiser: I don't know where it fits in, but I want to ask you about the Vie- 
Del Company. Was it connected with either Christian Brothers or 
Paul Masson? 

Fromm: No, it was not. However, Vie-Del supplied blending sherry to 

Seagram's, and we were talking to Jim Riddell and Mike Nury, who at 
that time were running the Vie-Del Company. It was a very small 
firm at that time, and we built, later on, brandy warehouses at 
Vie-Del to store the brandy produced by the Christian -Brothers. 
Under our contract with the Christian Brothers only brandy produced 
by the Christian Brothers could be sold under the Christian 
Brothers label. This was in effect in all those years. 

So we had our brandy warehouses there, and Vie-Del supplied to 
Seagram's blending sherry, and we became very friendly. It took 
considerably more money than Vie-Del at that time had of their own 
to build the brandy warehouses, and their credit with the banks was 
not very well established. So Fromm and Sichel purchased the 
majority of the Vie-Del shares. We also got an option on the 
balance of the Vie-Del shares, and after the death of Mr. [James] 
Riddell all his shares would have to be purchased by us. So Mr. 
Riddell knew that there was a market for his share in the business. 
He did die some years later [in 1973]. And Mr. Nury 
acquired from us some of the shares at a very advantageous payment 
schedule, because he is an extremely capable man and has made a 
great success of the Vie-Del Company. I was a partner in the Vie- 
Del Company, too, but when I sold my shares to Seagram's in August 
of 1983, they acquired Fromm and Sichel's shares in Vie-Del, too, 
and own something like 87 percent of the Vie-Del Company, and Mike 
Nury owns roughly 13 percent. 


St. Regis Vineyards 

Teiser: I think I read that in 1939 you bought some vineyard land in 

California, maybe it was a small amount, and I think I noticed that 
from time to time you had invested in other vineyard land. Is that 

Fromm: No, our firm did not invest in vineyard land as early as that, but 
we did later on. It must have been about 1975 that we founded the 
firm St. Regis Vineyards, that was a subsidiary of Fromm and 
Sichel, that acquired 350 acres of first-class vineyard land in Napa 
Valley in order to produce additional top varietal grapes that the 
Christian Brothers needed. The Christian Brothers did not want to 
put their money in or were not able to put their money in for those 
additional vineyards so we financed it, and then as the vineyards 
produced grapes, we turned the grapes over to the Christian 

St. Regis Vineyards still has this land under long-term 
leases. It's right on the highway and near St. Helena and then 
further up in the hills. 

Growth of the Christian Brothers 

Teiser: Over the years, then, since you have known and worked with 

Christian Brothers, it's really developed considerably, has it not? 

Fromm: Yes, it has developed to one of the leading wineries in the premium 
business. It's not a boutique winery, it's a medium-sized winery 
and sales were something like a million and a half cases of brandy 
and between a million and a half and two million cases of wine. So 
it's not a small winery. 

Teiser: And it's grown physically, also? 

Fromm: Yes, very much so. The Christian Brothers built additional facili 
ties in the Napa Valley and they purchased, quite a few years ago, 
the Greystone Cellars in Napa Valley. They purchased the Bisceglia 
winery in Fresno. They built a big warehouse near St. Helena. 
They put in additional vineyards of their own because it was 
needed. They have invested quite some money in their facilities, 
and we generally helped them in doing it. The Brothers own 
approximately 1400 acres in Napa Valley. 

Teiser: I read about Greystone being possibly not earthquake-proof. 


7romm: Yes. Well, they will make a lot of seismic investigations now 

to find out. That building looks like a fortress, and it has big 
stone walls and all that, but it is earthquake country there, and 
there is a certain danger, and it is such a popular place for 
visitors to visit. I know there are sometimes a few hundred people 
there, and God forbid you had something collapse. It could be 
really catastrophic. Greystone was built in 1889, and of course 
in those days one did not know how one could build better 
earthquake-proof buildings. It is a beautiful place and a great 
tourist attraction. 

Teiser: The Christian Brothers champagne cellars are on the southern edge 
of St. Helena 

Fromm: Yes. 

Teiser: Can you say something about that? 

Fromm: Well, we asked the Brothers to produce champagne, and then they put 
in the Charmat process because in many tastings we found out that 
we could make a more even-bodied champagne and stabilize the 
quality. It's made in small tanks and they really have put out 
a product that is very well accepted by the trade and by the 
consumer because it is a very good champagne. It was made at 
Greystone but now, of course, they have to relocate this and put it 
where they have the big warehouse and storage capacity in St. 

Teiser: They were not making the methode champenoise champagne at Grey- 

Fromm: No, it was all Charmat process champagne. Yes. They were making 
it there at Greystone at first, and it was well aged there on the 
upper floor where the champagne facilities were, and there was a 
lot of room. We put the bottles aside for aging, and after some 
time it was a really good product. 

Teiser: The South St. Helena Charmat process facility itself was quite 
advanced, was it not, when they built it later? 

Fromm: Yes. Brother Timothy and some of his assistants had been to France 
and to Germany and talked to a lot of people. And then we all 
decided that the Charmat process for Christian Brothers would be a 
better process than a bottle-fermented methode champenoise because, 
as I said, we would have a more even quality product. 


The California Brandy Business 

Teiser: Have Christian Brothers' sales increased or have they hit a 

Fromm: Well, in the last few years, brandy sales were rather flat. They 
increased every year by maybe thirty or fifty thousand cases and 
there was a certain plateau. The Brandy Advisory Board, which 
unfortunately is being discontinued, was able to promote brandy in 
a way that a private firm could not do legally. On the other 
hand, the brandy business is one of the businesses in hard liquor 
that is more stable and has not receded; in fact the total 
consumption of brandy has increased. 

Teiser: The Brandy Advisory Board was started in 1972 

Fromm: Yes. At that time the president of our firm, Jack Welsch, was 

instrumental in establishing the Brandy Advisory Board. And all 
the brandy producers were members of it, and there was a certain 
assessment on each gallon of brandy produced. 

Teiser: It was a California state marketing organization? 

Fromm: Marketing order, yes, it was. 

Teiser: Has it accomplished what it set out to do? 

Fromm: We think it has, yes. 

Teiser: Why is it being let go now, then? 

Fromm: Well, there is a very large factor the Gallos. And apparently Mr. 
[Ernest] Gallo felt that if he spends the money on production that 
he supplies to the Advisory Board on assessment, he could get more 
for his money. However, now they're changing because, for the 
first time, Gallo seems to be willing to cooperate with the 
vintners, with the producers, to have a joint order for wine. This 
is quite a change in his attitude. The Gallos are farsighted 

Teiser: The rise of brandy sales by Gallo, which has been overtaking 
Christian Brothers 

Fromm: It has overtaken to a very small extent, and right now sales of 

Gallo and Christian Brothers are about equal, but Gallo brandy is 
selling for a much lower price than Christian Brothers in 
general, and they give very large discounts. They are a privately 
held firm and I think a very profitable firm, and they can well 


Fromm: afford to do that. They have the enormous scale of size. Gallo is 
the lowest-cost producer of any winery in the United States. So 
they spend considerable money, but generally their brandy sells for 
less than Christian Brothers'. They do not use any pot-still 
brandy in their blend. That's a good part of it, so we think it 
will always be neck and neck, the competition between Gallo and 
Christian Brothers. 

Teiser: The implication in Gallo's effort is that brandy can have a larger 
market than it has. Do you believe that? 

Fromm: Yes, I definitely believe that. 
Teiser: Where would it come from? 

Fromm: Well, brandy has a lot of versatility and can be used in very many 
ways. We are getting away more and more from trying to sell to the 
public brandy in a snifter because there is a different way of 
using brandy. Brandy is a very nice and soft drink. It is a very 
agreeable drink. It is made from grapes, so it has all the advan 
tages in the public eye. A very good brandy is really a very good 
drink. As people get away more and more from harsher whiskeys, the 
brandy business has increased and will further increase the same as 
the business in cordials has tremendously increased in the United 
States imported cordials and American produced cordials. And 
they're being consumed mostly by the younger people. 

Then the brandy market could expand at the expense of whiskey or 
vodka or 

Yes, well, the whiskey business is receding and I think brandy can 
take some of it. Brandy is only a small part, about 4 1/2 to 5 
percent of the consumption of spirits. We feel that progress will 
be slow but there will be progress every year and it is quite 
possible that brandy will ultimately have maybe a market share of 8 
to 10 percent of the spirit consumption. 

Teiser: One of the brandy mysteries, I believe, is its heavy sale in 

Fromm: The consumption of brandy in Wisconsin was for many years much 

larger than the consumption of whiskey, and nobody has found out 
the real reasons. Of course, there are a lot of European families 
there with people of European origins Germany, in 
particular who really didn't know any whiskeys, but brandy was 
always considered a medicine and very healthy and a good drink. 
But nobody has explained why the people in Wisconsin just drink 
brandy so much. They drink a shot of brandy with a glass of beer. 
A strange way for us to think of it, but that's what happens. 




Fromm: Minnesota is a large market and we have done there very 

considerable business. However, in Wisconsin the brandy business 
was strictly a price-cutting business and, while we were there for 
many years, we did not choose to give the brandy away and lose 
money on it. So a lot of cheap brandy was sold. 

Teiser: Are there imported brandies that are competitive with California 

Fromm: Well, certainly not the cognacs that sell for at least two and two 
and a half times as much, but the so-called French brandies which 
are not cognacs which are made in other parts of France from low- 
priced wines. These grapes that are used in the cognac districts 
are very expensive. There is a very limited production. So, yes, 
there are some there to give us competition. Low-price brandies 
particularly from France. And every wine-producing country in the 
world produces brandy, too. 

Teiser: Can you make brandy out of any old wine? 

Fromm: Well, you can, but you can not make good brandy out of poor wine. 
The wine has to be clean, it has to be fresh and has to be made 
from the right kind of grapes, otherwise you have no flavor. And 
if you have wine that is half-spoiled and you have so much fusel 
oil in it, it becomes almost like gasoline; it's undrinkable. 

Styles of Brandy 

Fromm: Actually, when the Christian Brothers went into the brandy 

business, there was hardly any brandy business in America. I think 
we were really the ones who put brandy on the map. There was very 
little brandy sold here. 

Teiser: The California Wine Association had A.R. Morrow brandy. 

Fromm: Yes, that was a very heavy brandy and there were some people who 
liked it, but it was not really for the American taste. I think 
Christian Brothers was the first one to find out what the American 
people would like to drink, and then we tried to fashion a good 
product and told the Brothers what we needed, and had a lot of 
tasting on that and checked it continously, and decided that pot- 
still brandy ae I mentioned before was a necessary ingredient that 
would give it quality. 

Teiser: Just now there is at least one winery making pot-still brandy 
Schramsberg Vineyard, in a joint venture. 


Fromm: Yes, yes, that's together with Remy Martin who is from France. But 
pot-still brandy needs a lot more aging than continuous-still 
brandy. It will probably take quite some time before it will be on 
the market. All of the specialties can only be helpful to the 
brandy business. I always have been of the opinion that good new 
products a product that has a special interest that can be produced 
in small quantities can only help the industry. It's, you know, 
like going into a store to buy a dress. You want to look maybe at 
ten dresses before you buy. That's how most women do. So you have a 
certain variety that adds some interest to the search. 

Teiser: Is there a "boutique" brandy industry starting? 

Fromm: If there is there a boutique brandy, I think Christian Brothers had 
it by putting out X Brandy. X [Rare Reserve] had 50 percent 
pot-still brandy and 50 percent continuous still brandy and was 
made from the oldest reserves of the Brothers. The Brothers today 
have by far the largest inventory of old brandy and the largest 
inventory of brandy altogether in the United States. 

Teiser: They served it at your testimonial dinner, did they not? 

Fromm: Yes, yes they did. I think that X Brandy is something that can 
well compete with good French Cognacs. 

Teiser: I would think there would be a temptation for the same kind of 

people who have a lot of money and don't mind losing it and want to 
make fine wine to get into experimenting with pot-still brandy. 

Fromm: The brandy business is a very capital-intensive business. It takes 
a lot of money to do that. As an example, if you sell a thousand 
cases of brandy, the pot-still brandy would have to be six or eight 
years old; you would have to produce each year enough for six or 
eight thousand cases plus whatever you expect your sales increases 
will be. So it takes a tremendous amount of money. It was the 
fact that it takes so much money that led us to go to Seagram's and 
find a very secure large financial basis where there was no limit 
to how far we could extend the business. 

Teiser: I remember having been in the experimental brandy distillery at DC 
Davis. Have their studies contributed to the industry? 

Fromm: Yes, Dr. [James F.] Guymon did a very creditable job. I would 

certainly say that without the people who work in Davis, the wine 
industry and the brandy industry in California would not be what it 
is today. They have a great share, they can take a large share of 
credit for that. 


Teiser: I am told by industry members that the Data Annual summarizing each 
year's California wine and brandy statistics, was of great value to 
everyone. Would you tell about how Fromm and Sichel happened to 
undertake the job of compiling and publishing it? 

Fromm: We felt that as a public service we should give pertinent 

information to the American wine writers, trade associations, and 
others interested in this material that was not available otherwise 
to them in such a comprehensive form. We felt that at the same 
time it would build some good will for our firm. 

Sale of Fromm and Sichel to The Christian Brothers, 1983 

Teiser: To come back to recent events, Fromm and Sichel continued until 
just this last year? 

Fromm: Fromm and Sichel was sold to the Christian Brothers on October 1, 

Teiser: What part of the holdings of Fromm and Sichel went to the Christian 

Fromm: Only those holdings that they needed to run the sales business of 
their products. 

Teiser: You said that the reason for the sale 

Fromm: The issue was that the Christian Brothers were very anxious to 

combine marketing and production to synchronize that because this 
became sometimes a problem. And it had something to do, too, with 
my retirement, as I was running the firm for so many years. So we 
turned over a lot of the brandy inventories the inventories were 
all made by the Christian Brothers, but we paid for them at time of 
production because the Christian Brothers couldn't afford to keep 
brandy inventories of something like $80 million to $90 million. 

So we turned over to the Brothers the amount of brandy that 
they needed for their sales. They asked if they could continue 
with the name of Fromm and Sichel because we have a respected name 
throughout the country, which we agreed to. And they took some of 
our top people, including our general sales manager, who was with 
us for many years, Al [Allen] Nirenstein, and so we have helped 
then as much as we can and we will continue to help because we want 
to see them succeed. 


Fromm: I have a personal reason in that, too, I was for 47 years connected 
with the Christian Brothers, and the firm Fromm and Sichel has my 
name in it. I was a founder of Fromm and Sichel, and the best part 
of my business life I spent with the Christian Brothers, so I have 
a very warm feeling for the Brothers in my heart and I help them 
whenever possible. 

Teiser: Do you still work a little with them, then? 

Fromm: Well, they ask me sometimes about certain things, and they know 

that if there's any problem coming up where I can be of help, that 
I will be glad to do it and so will the Seagram's company. 

Teiser: What is the organization known as the Brandy Association of 

California with which you continue to be associated as chairman of 
the board? 

Fromm: It was until the sale of Fromm and Sichel to the Christian Brothers 
a subsidiary 100 percent owned by us. Over the years Brandy 
Association sold brandy produced by Vie-Del to other brandy 
marketers. After the sale of Fromm and Sichel, substantial 
assets, including our office building, not sold to the Christian 
Brothers were transferred to Brandy Associates, now a Division of 
Joseph . Seagram and Sons, New York, and 100 percent owned by 
them. They have taken over certain pension matters and other 
obligations of Fromm and Sichel. 

Key Men at Christian Brothers 

Teiser: Have you tasted for them all these years? 

Fromm: Yes, we have done a lot of tasting. That was, I think, maybe one 
of my main contributions that I could make in the production in 
tasting because it was with Brother Timothy and in former years, 
Brother John. Brother John was a dynamic guy and he died, 
unfortunately, much too young and I would say, Brother John and I 
really put the business on the map. It was a very close 
cooperation and, as I think I mentioned, in the beginning neither 
the Brothers nor we had any money to speak of, so it was necessaary 
to do a lot of things together and fortunately, it did work out 
well for both parties. 

Teiser: Did the two of you sort of teach Brother Timothy? 


Fromm: Well, Brother John probably did to a large extent, but Brother 

Timothy has a very good palate. And Brother Timothy is very good 
in public relations. I mean his whole appearance. And he's a very 
kind man and a very knowledgeable man. He has been very helpful in 
the development of the business, and we have asked Brother Timothy 
very often to call on certain customers, together with some of our 
sales force, which has always been successful. 

Teiser: Are there others among the Brothers who have become experts? 

Fromm: Well, there are some and then, of course, they have some lay people 
who run the wineries and their production. There was John Hoffman 
who was in charge of production of table wines in Napa, and he is a 
brother of the late Brother John. And then down in Mt. Tivy 
winery in the San Joaquin Valley, there was Herman Archinal a very 
capable man who worked very closely with Brother John. Those 
people are not there any more. They have retired now. There are 
new people now there. They were there for many years; you know, we 
all have gotten a little bit older in the last 47 years. 

Teiser: But they haven't been able to bring up any Brothers as experts? 

Fromm: Well, I always told them how important this was, and they have some 
people, but they are not as conversant with all the new production 
techniques that are required today. So they hired some very good 
lay people. 

Museum of San Francisco. 1974-1984 

Teiser: There were other assets of Fromm and Sichel that were disposed of? 
Fromm: They were not disposed of to the Christian Brothers. 

This building here, that was owned by Fromm and Sichel, was 
sold recently and this is one of the reasons why the Wine Museum 
has to be dissolved, because it's part of this building. I built 
this building twelve years ago as headquarters for Fromm and 
Sichel, but since I sold my stock 100 percent to Seagram's, Sea 
gram's actually, now is the owner of this building. It's held by 
Fromm and Sichel, but Fromm and Sichel is owned 100 percent by 
Seagram* s. 

Teiser: So it was really Seagram's, through Fromm and Sichel, who made the 
sale to the Christian Brothers is that right? 

The Wine Museum of San Francisco, incorporating The Christian 
Brothers Collection, was opened in 1974. 

Above 3 Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Fromm at the opening reception, with a 
grape vine sculpture by J. B. Blunk commissioned for the museum. 
Below, the Thomas Jefferson Gallery. 



Fronnn: That's correct. 

Teiser: But Seagram's held on to this building? 

Fromm: Yes. 

Teiser: There's a picture of you and several other men standing on a board 
in what looks like London after the blitz, with glasses of 
champagne. And it's the site just before construction started. 
It was clearly a very happy occasion. 

Fromm: Well, you know, this building site was really a slum, with some 
miserable schlock stores. But we bought this lot because it has 
such a marvelous location particularly for the museum, you know 
the end of the cable car line. And there's a tremendous amount of 
visitors here in this neighborhood, so we were very anxious to get 
the lot. It was very expensive in those days, but today it's 
probably worse three times as much. 

Teiser: Who designed the building? 

Fromm: Worley Wong, architect in San Francisco. 

Teiser: You must have worked very closely with him, did you? 

Fromm: Yes, we did, yes. 

Teiser: Was the wine museum conceived as part of it originally? 

Fromm: As soon as we built the building we created space for the wine 
museum and built an extra addition for it. 

Teiser: The wine museum may I ask you about it? 

Fromm: Well, I always felt that a wine museum that would deal exclusively 
with wine in the arts would be a great asset to our industry. In 
fact, the Wine Museum of San Francisco is the only museum in the 
United States that deals exclusively with wine and the arts. We 
don't show any old barrels or any big wine presses or things like 
that, but we really deal with wine in the arts. My late brother, 
Norman, and I and my wife, we collected for about forty-five years 
and got some marvelous artworks which today are almost 
unobtainable. Even if today, say, you want to spend a few million 
dollars, you couldn't get those collections together because the 
stuff just isr.'t available or you can buy it at some auctions one 
thing here and one thing there but it takes many years to get a 
collection together. 


Teiser: Did you buy through agents in Europe, or 

Fronm: Well, we bought through agents in Europe and people we know that 
had connections. We bought things here, and I had a very large 
collection of wine books, about a thousand wine books, some of them 
very, very rare and old, going back to almost the earliest type of 
printing, in Latin and in Italian* English wine books are, of 
course, a much later date. And I own this collection and it will 
end up at the new Seagram museum in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, 
which was just built and will open very shortly. It is a very 
large museum for wines and spirits. Most of our collections will 
go there. 

Teiser: I'm so sorry San Francisco is losing all that. 

Fromm: Yes. It was really a labor of love. It was a special project of 
mine, but that's the way those things go, in very large companies 
decisions are being made that are very difficult to change and the 
very top management of Seagram's just didn't want to overrule them. 
They felt the Wine Museum wouldn't produce any revenue. Well, 
that's of course the wrong attitude. You know, man doesn't live by 
bread alone. 

We had in the museum every year between 100,000 and 125,000 
visitors. We were very choosy we never accepted any bus tours. 
We could have had 500,000 people a year if we had bus tours, but we 
didn't want it because a museum should be a place where you can 
leisurely browse around and really enjoy what we have, and I think 
it has created a lot of good will not only for Christian Brothers 
but for the whole industry. And I am very industry-minded. I 
always felt that what's good for the industry is good for us too. 

Teiser: Could you speak a little of Mr. Ernest Mittelberger's part in the 

Fromm: Yes. Well, when we opened the museum, Ernie Mittleberger, who had 
worked ae Public Relations Director of Paul Masson and who had 
worked with me for many years before in New York when our firm was 
in New York the old Picker-Linz Company he was there with us, and 
I knew that Ernie was always very much interested in art. He was a 
real student typical German student, you know; they were very, 
very thorough. He had to know. So when we opened here, I said, 
"Ernie, I want you to take that over." 

First he said to me, "Well, I don't know if I could do it, if 
I'm qualified." 

I said, "Ernie, you are qualified. You just find out what you 
have to do." And within a couple of years, it was amazing how well 




Fronnn : 


Fronnn : 



Frourm : 

things ran and how people came to him for information as be was 
very sound in what he was doing. Ernie and I, we planned then 
together those various exhibits in the museum which were very well 
received. We were very anxious that the museum not be used for 
propaganda and not for trying to sell something. We never sold 
anything in the museum. Yes, you could buy a few postcards for 
twenty cents or the book that Ernie wrote as co-author. 

I have a copy of it, In Celebration of Wine and Life 
Lamb and Mr. Mittelberger. 

by Richard B. 

You probably saw the foreward that I wrote. 
Yes. I'm about to ask you to autograph it. 

There was also a second book, wasn't there, on art? 

Yes, there have been quite a few books. Some odd publishers came 
to us and wanted to reproduce a number of our artworks and they 
did, and they were always very well received, but we never in any 
way whatsoever promoted any sales of them because I felt this was 
the wrong way for a museum. A museum should be a public place and 
a place for the good of the public, and ultimately you get some 
benefits out of it, too. 

What will happen to the glass collection? 

The glass collection belongs to the Franz W. Sichel Foundation. 
Franz Sichel, as I mentioned, I think, to you yesterday, was my 
partner for almost twenty-five years. After I started to collect 
wine antiques, I finally induced Franz that he should do something 
too (this goes back now about thirty years) and he started to get 
interested in wine glasses and he had some very excellent advisers, 
true experts, because those things you have to know. He got a 
fabulous collection together and this was exhibited in our office, 
of course. Not all the glasses could be. That was one of the 
reasons we wanted to show them in the wine museum. Unfortunately, 
when we opened the museum years ago, Franz was not alive anymore, 
and then I was appointed president of the Franz Sichel Foundation, 
and we got the glasses here on loan from the Franz Sichel 
Foundation. They own the glasses. We didn't want to buy them. 
That would have been a very sizable investment. His collection is 
worth, I don't know, probably something between $600,000 and a 
million dollars. But we were very happy to see the exhibit that 
carries Franz's name, and it will go to the De Young Museum In 
Golden Gate Park here for permanent display. 


Industry Organizations 

Teiser: I wanted to ask you about the Wine Institute. Did you feel that it 
did a good job educating the consumer, a matter you spoke of 

Fromm: They did a good job while they had the means. Then they had to 
stop it, because the [Wine Advisory Board] assessments were 
discontinued, but the Wine Institute has many other important 
functions. It looks out for the industry, and almost everybody in 
the wine industry is a member of the Wine Institute. It takes care 
of all the legal matters. As you know, every state has a different 
law for alcoholic beverages, so we are not in that respect in the 
United States. And there is a federal law. There are continuous 
changes, continuous difficulties by smaller states that produce a 
little wine that want to enact preferences and tax wines higher 
from California. 

You wouldn't think such things would exist in the Dnited 
States, but under the change in the Constitution the states really 
have the first right it follows in many ways the guidelines of the 
federal law. And then we have of course those state monopolies, 
where only the state can sell wine and liquor, and they have not 
been very helpful to the wine industry. It's a bureaucratic sys 
tem, and it's been not good for the consumer by its limited choice 
of offerings. 

Teiser: Do the same or similar regulations apply to brandy? 

Fromm: Yes. Whatever alcoholic beverages there are. 

Teiser: I believe you served on a committee of the Wine Institue. 

Fromm: Yes, I did serve on several committees years ago, but I never 

wanted to be a director of the Wine Institute because actually it 
is a producers' organization. Jack Welsch and some other people 
from our organization were directors. I felt I had more impact in 
talking through them. 

John De Luca [president of the Wine Institute] is an 
absolutely outstanding man. It is a very difficult job to balance 
the various forces. You know, after all, Gallo is the largest 
contributor to the Wine Institute. 

Teiser: Has James McManus of the Brandy Advisory Board been a help to the 
brandy industry? 

Above Ernest Mittelberger, director of the Wine Museum of San Francisco, and 
Alfred Fromm examine a wine jar of King Solomon's time that was given to the 
museum by Teddy Kollek, mayor of Jerusalem. 

Below, at a reception given at the museum, 'left to right, Philip Hiaring 
publisher of Wines and Vines; Baron Philippe de Rothschild, guest of honor- 
Alfred Fromm. 


Fromm: Yes, he has. They were able to do certain advertising and tastings 
that under federal lav we could not do. It has been a useful 

Teiser: Is there now going to be a voluntary brandy organization to follow 

the Brandy Advisory Board? 

Fromm: We don't know yet. There probably will. 
Teiser: Is there something more I have not thought of to ask you? 

Fromm: Well, you know what the set-up is at the Christian Brothers. The 

Mont La Salle Vineyards is owned by the De La Salle Institute. The 
Mont La Salle Vineyards is a taxpaying organization, and the De La 
Salle Institute is not. The money that the Brothers are making is 
being used for the maintenance of several of the schools, and this 
has been successful enough so that the Provincial has had enough 
money out of the business so that they never had to close down any 
of the schools. They are good educators, and any good school is 
good, regardless of what faith you are. In the end if it's taught 
with the right principles it only can do some good. 

As you probably know, I have been a regent of St. Mary's 
College for many years and was awarded an honorary degree in 1971. 
My wife and I founded the Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning at 
the University of San Francisco ten years ago. Both my wife and I 
got an honorary degree, Doctor of Public Service, for the formation 
and funding of the Fromm Institute, because it was something new 
and needed. It has become the most successful institute of its 
kind in the United States. We educate retired people during the 
daytime at an advanced university level in an age group from fifty 
to nintey years. Students are taught exclusively by prominent 
retired professors, chosen from the University of California, Stan 
ford University, San Francisco State University, University of San 
Francisco, and others. 

Transcribers: Sam Middlebrooks and Lindy Berman 
Final Typist: Ernest Galvan 


Alfred Fromm 


Interview 1: May 3, 1984 
tape 1, side A 
tape 1, side R 
tape 2, side A 
tape 2, side R 

Interview 2: May 4, 1984 
tape 3, side A 
tape 3, side R 




Regional Oral History Office 
Room 486 The Bancroft Library 


University of California 
Berkeley, California 94720 

Your full name 

(Please print or write clearly) 

ft L^f & f^R O M tf 

Date of birth I ' 3-3 

Place of birth 

Father's full name 



Occupation D U N K 


Mother's full name fl fffl+t L.Q tL 




tfA ///?) 


Where did you grow up ? i\ i Vt\ \ 

Present community 


Occupation^ ) U /A/5 J) '7% A. A 5 

Special interests or activities 

' , rfS F. 


Otf *' 



FROMM. ALFRED, disibf . co. cue.; b. Kitimien, Germany. Feb. 
23. 1905; s Mu and Mathilda (Maier) F.; student Viticulture! Acid . 
1920; LH.D (hon.), St Mary's Coll., 1974. D.Public Service (hon.). 
U. San Francisco; m Hanna Gruenbauro, July 3, 1936; 
children David George. Carolynn Anne. Came to U.S.. 1931. 
naturalized. 1943. Export dir. N Fromm, Bingcn Germany, 1924-33; 
v.p. Picker-Unu Importers. Inc., N.Y.C, 1937-44; eec. v.p. Fromm 
A Sichel, Inc., N.Y.C, aUo San Francoco. 1944-45. prei.. 19*5-73. 
chnm. bd . chief eiec omcer, 1973 . dir. Joieph E. Scafram A Sons, 
Inc. Dir Calif. Med Clinic for Piychotherapy. San Francuco, 1964 . 
Mem. nat- council Eleanor RooKvclt Meml. Found, N.Y.C; trmtee 
San Francisco Conservatory Music; relent St Mary's Coll., Morata, 
v.p. Jewish Nat Fund, bd. din. San Francisco Opera Assn., founder, 
pro. Wine Mus., San Francisco. Clubs: Concordia, Commonwealth 
(San Francisco). Contbr. articles prod joon Home: 150 El Camino 
del Mar San FraociscoCA 94121 Office: 655 Beach St San Francisco 
CA 94109 

From Who 's Who in America 
42nd Edition, 1982-83 



Address by Alfred Fromm, Executive Vice President, Fromm and Sichel, Inc., 
San Francisco, New York, and Chicago, World Sales Agents for 
The Christian Brothers Wines, Champagnes and Brandy, before the 
Advertising Club of San Diego, National Wine Week Luncheon, at the 
El Cortez Hotel, San Diego, October 16, 1957 

Mr. Chairman, honored guests, members and friends of the Advertising Club 
of San Diego, ladies and gentlemen: 

It is my great pleasure to bring you the warm and friendly greetings of 
California's 35>000 grape and wine growers growers who, at this very moment, 
ore busily gathering in the vintage. 

For this is the peak of the harvest season, and in the hills and valleys 
of our great State, from San Diego to Eureka, from the coast to the Sierras, busy 
hands move the crop from vine to vat amid the fresh aroma of the bubbling Juice. 

And this, too, is National Wine Week set aside each year at this time 
by official State proclamation to honor one of California's most important indus 
tries and to focus public national attention upon the products of our abundant 

I am most grateful for this opportunity to speak to you of wine in the 
historic City of San Diego. It was almost at our very door step here, beside the 
Mission bearing your fair city's name, that the first wine grape vineyards were 
planted by Father Junipero Serra just 186 years ago, marking the birth of grape and 
wine culture in California. 

Wine, it has been said, is one of man's greatest gifts, bestowed by Nature 
in one of her more loving moods. To the truth of this, we of the wine industry 
most emphatically subscribe. It is sometimes difficult to be prosaic about the 
product by which we live --a product extolled in Bible and legend, in verse and 
narrative, in song and art. Yes, even completely outside of our industry there are 
tens of thousands of men and women in all of life's walks who regularly foregather 
to pay homage and tribute to the vintager's artistry. To mention but a few: 
The Wine and Food Societies, The Societies of the Medical Friends of Wine, The Wine 
Appreciation Societies, The Gourmet Societies, and many more. They form the inner, 
active circle of an ever growing public on whom the quality producers of California's 
premium wines and champagnes largely depend. They do not represent, however, the 
great American public whose attitude toward wine, we were glad to have confirmed in 
a recent study by opinion analyst F.I mo Roper, is friendly and favorable. The great 
American public, Roper found, thinks of wine in most cordial receptive terms but 
they think of it as something special, to be enjoyed not just every day but chiefly 
on special occasions. 

We produce in California a wide range of good wines in different price 
classes. Coming from an old wine family in Germany myself, I can tell you with all 
my conviction that the average wine of California is consistently better than the 
average wine of Italy, France, or Germany. Too, wine is made here under more 
advanced scientific and sanitary conditions than is the case in Europe. 


I am not talking about the very small quantity of fine European vintage 
wines that are produced once in a while in good years and due to their rarity have 
to be sold at very fancy prices, but about all other European wines. This is not 
only a personal conviction but a fact that has been proven time and again in an 
extended series of blind wine tastings. People of all classes and tastes from 
layman to connoisseur have participated in these tastings, and have not only, in 
the majority of cases, failed to identify the origin of the wine as being European 
or Californian but, furthermore, the overwhelming majority have expressed their 
taste preference for California premium wines. 

We are proud and happy as Americans of the high score California has had 
in these tastings. Most heartening to us was the average cost of the California 
wines which were subject to these tastings and which were purchased in stores through* 
out the country. Their cost averaged $1.35 per bottle of wine, whereas the European 
wines cost an average of $3*57 per bottle. The average cost of the California 
premium champagnes, which scored so heavily over the champagnes of our French col 
leagues, was i?k.kl compared to $6.83. 

i The growing of fine wines in California has been, and is being, spearheaded 
by the producers of premium wines. None of these is a volume producer and their 
aggregate production amounts to only about 5$ of California's total production, but 
it is a significant group indeed from the standpoint of pioneering the name of 
California as one of the world's great wine producing regions. 

However, the fact that wine has not found the place it rightfully deserves 
in the American pattern of living is not caused by economic factors. The large 
producers in California furnish to the consumer a worthwhile product at very reason 
able cost, and even the finest premium wines are within the reach of millions of 

What, then, is our problem? A few figures will give you the idea: Wine 
consumption in Western Europe varies from 15 to 30 gallons per capita annually. In 
the United States, on the other hand, the figure is only 0.9. What's more, beer 
consumption in this country is a whopping 16 gallons per capita, coffee 27 gallons, 
and even soft drinks are consumed at the rate of 12 gallons per inhabitant. In 
California the situation is, of course, much better than in the rest of the country 
for here we consume close to 3 gallons per capita annually, but even here we feel we 
have not begun to tap the potential of the market for wines. Looking again at the 
country as a whole, our best estimates tell us that 85$ of all the wine is consumed 
by roughly 15$ of the population or, conversely, that 85$ of the people consume only 
15$ of the wine. You do not need a slide rule to see what would happen if we could 
bring these 85$ who now use little or no wine to consume only as much as the remain 
ing 15*. 

Actually, we as an Industry have been hard at work to develop a larger 
market for wine In this country. We are critical of ourselves though, and engage in 
continuous self examination as to what we can do. The problem of increased con 
sumption has been tackled on seven broad fronts, as follows: 

First, we developed several new wine types that have found high public 
favor, particularly with people who seldom had used wine before. Outstanding among 
these new type-, are. the mellow red w:.nes often called "Vino", and the gay, colorful 
Rose's whose popularity is increasing rapidly. 

Second, we took wine out of the category of a commodity and began to create 
wine brand consciousness. This was done by greatly intensifying our efforts in the 
areas of merchandising and advertising. 

- 2 - 


Third, we stepped up industry trade educational work with store keepers and 
clerks, rest aur ant eurs and waiters, and our distributors and their salesmen. The 
Wine Institute and the Wine Advisory Board have contributed importantly to the 
success of this phase of the program. 

Fourth, we broadened and extended industry public relations work wlwh 
consumers. The Wine Institute's Study Course in which I would urge all of you 
to enroll -- has been of significant value in communicating facts about wine to the 
public. Recently the public relations firm of Hill and Knovlton has been retained 
by the Industry to assist in developing public interest in our wines, particularly 
with people who mold public opinion. 

Fifth, we have undertaken many new research projects in such diverse fields 
as wine economics, consumer taste preferences, consumer attitudes, the great benefits 
of wine in the field of medicine, and numerous others. These have helped materially 
to improve our understanding of the industry and some of this research may one day 
open up whole new vistas of wine as an integral part of the American way of life. 
At this point, it is befitting to express the Industry's gratitude to the University 
of California for its unselfish devotion and high standards of achievement in many 
of these research projects. 

Sixth, and most important of all, we intensified our work in quality 
improvement in all phases. Large acreages of improved grape varieties were planted 
to produce finer wines. Lessons learned from intensive research were applied to the 
handling of grapes, crushing and fermentation. Larger and larger inventories of 
wines were set aside for aging each year to create a solid foundation of improved 
quality on which to build the increased sales we confidently expect. 

And, finally, we invested many millions of dollars in wine production, aging 
and bottling facilities and equipment that are the most modern to be found anywhere 
in the world. All of these things were done -- and, for that matter, are continuing 
to be done to bring the consumer the best possible product we are capable of 
producing. Truly, it can be said that California wines in all price classes today 
are of distinctly higher quality than ever before in history. 

These efforts have paid off handsomely, particularly in three products of 
the wine industry Champagne, Vermouth and Brandy. 

Sales of California champagne have risen 150$ in the last 10 years, compared 
to about 35$ for table wines and less than 10$ for dessert wines. The reasons for 
this remarkable growth are quite clear. We have improved our quality tremendously, 
heightened the attractiveness of our packaging, developed strong point-of-sale 
techniques and kept prices at moderate levels. 

While California champagnes were tripling in volume, imports increased less 
than half as much during these past ten years. People discovered that California 
champagne quality is second to none in the world including the choicest imports 
selling at double or more the California champagne price. Today, American champagnes 
outsell the foreign product almost three to one and the spread is widening. 

Much the same thing has happened with Vermouth. Right after Repeal in 1933* 
and for years thereafter, Prance and Italy supplied practically all the United States 
Vermouth demand. Now the pattern is changing rapidly. California vermouth sales 
have more than doubled in the past ten years and are fast catching up with the import 
volume. The American public has learned just as they learned with champagne - 
that the California product is tops in the vermouth field and twice as good a buy as 
the import. 

3 - 


So, too, with California brandy. Only even more so, because the California 
product now sells at two and one-half times the rate of foreign brandy. Here is a 
shining example of quality improvement, merchandising and brand development paying 
off. California brandy is achieving fast-growing recognition as the most versatile, 
the most pleasing of all spirit beverages. Patiently aged for years under United 
States Government supervision, California brandy is enjoying the greatest market 
advances in its long history -- and the outlook is for more of the same. 

You will now have realized that we are faced with an inherent paradox: on 
the one hand we are proud of the association of wine in the minds of the public as 
a contribution to better living. Yet, on the other hand, we must fit wine into the 
picture of hamburger, apple pie, and the general pattern of everyday American living. 
Ladies and gentlemen, the necessity of resolving this paradox is what we as an 
industry bring before you. And it is only you who can work with us on this job. 
To do this we must, through you, communicate to the American public the good and 
simple facts about wine. We must convey the fact that wine is a food beverage, to 
be enjoyed with other foods, or just by itself, and for its own goodness. It must 
help to motivate the millions of people who are friendly toward wine to emerge from 
their apathy, and to discover wine's pleasures. 

In which direction should our advertising be channeled? 

Today, there are uncounted millions of younger people the newly marrieds, 
the thirty and forty-year olds -- women especially - who know little or nothing 
about wine. Many of them yearn to know, or would if their attention were directed 
to the virtues of wine. 

Wine's most important place, however, is in the home, on the family table. 
Its pleasurable and temperate use will set the pattern for the generation now 
growing up and a civilized approach to wine when they become adults. In this area, 
more than in any other, the future of the wine industry rests. 

Effective advertising can help sell a worthy product or service. And wine 
is no exception. At this point you are in a key position for you are the connecting 
link between our industry, ready and anxious to serve the public, and a public 
enjoying an unsurpassed standard of living, with more leisure time than ever in 
which to enjoy the good things of life. 

We realize that advertising alone cannot solve our problems but it must 
carry a very important share of the common effort. 

I think I speak for all of us in the wine industry in saying that we today 
have a very different idea of the relationship between advertising and our work. 
Whereas only a few years ago, an advertising agency meant to us only an intermediary , 
we realize today the many other vital services that the advertising profession 
offers us and we gratefully avail ourselves of them. 

We now work closely with the advertising agency of the Wine Advisory Board, 
Roy Durstine Co., and the agencies for our respective brands in all matters concern 
ing merchandising, such as packaging, the development of trade marks, point of pur 
chase material, promotional literature, etc., and even production has often been 
influenced considerably by the advertising profession who is in daily touch with the 
consumer, his needs, and his preferences. 

Last year wher I had the pleasure of speaking during National Wine Week to 
the Advertising Club of Los Angeles, I stuck my neck out in predicting a 100$ in 
crease in wine consumption within the following five years. I am happy to say a yeeu 
later that my head is still on my shoulders, and it is my hope to keep it there for 
the next four years. There is no telling how far the wine business can go in this 
country, and I believe that you and we together will succeed in fashioning the key 
to unlock the cabinets and shelves throughout the Nation, behind which 100 Million 
Empty Glasses stand ready to be filled with the good wine of our own State. 


1882 CENTENNIAL 1982 


For further information contact: Ron Batori 

Director of Public Relations 
Mont La Salle Vineyards 
(707) 226-5566 

NAPA, CALIFORNIA, September 22, 1983. . . Brother David 
Brennan, F.S.C., President and Chairman of the Board of Mont 
La Salle Vineyards has announced an agreement to acquire for 
an undisclosed sum certain business assets of Fromm & Sichel, 
Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, 
Inc., related to the distribution of THE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS 
brandy and wines as well as the facilities for the aging and 
bottling of brandy. 

The acquisition is being made by a newly formed company 
in which the majority of common stock is to be owned by 
senior management of Mont La Salle Vineyards and the newly 
formed company, and the balance by Mont La Salle Vineyards, 
producers of THE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS brandy and wine. In 
making this announcement, Brother David said, 

"The new company, which will retain the name 
Fromm & Sichel, -Inc., will provide the foundation 
for growth in the marketing and sales of THE 
CHRISTIAN BROTHERS brandy and wine. 

more. . . 


Page 2. 

Brother David has also announced that R. Paul Toeppen is 
Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer 
of the new company. Allen M. Nirenstein will be appointed 
Executive Vice President/Sales. 

Brother David added, 

"Importantly, the firm of Albert E. Killeen 
& Associates, Inc. has been retained to direct 
the structuring and implementation of marketing, 
sales, merchandising, promotional and advertising 
plans, and the development and positioning of new 

Albert E. Killeen, President of the firm that bears 
his name, was formerly Vice Chairman of THE COCA 
COLA COMPANY, and President and Chief Executive 

In concluding, Brother David said, 

"The formation of the new company, along with new 
senior management at the winery and significant 
capital improvements currently in progress, provide 
a strong foundation for the resurgence and position 

for growth of THE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS brandy and 
wines. " 




A. R. Morrow (label) brandy, 34 

Amerine, Maynard A., 27 

Archinal, Herman, 38 

Armacost, Sam, 23 

Bank of America, 20, 23 

Beaulieu Vineyard, 9 

Bisceglia winery, Fresno, 30 

brandy, 5, 16-20, 32-35, 36, 42 

Brandy Advisory Board, 32, 42 

Brandy Association of California, 37 

Bronfman, Samuel, iv, 19, 20-21 

California Wine Association, 34 

Christian Brothers labels, iv, 11, 12, 13, 14, 19 

Christian Brothers, 10-43 

City of Paris department store, 6 

Cresta Blanca wines, 13 

Davies, Marion, 6 

De La Salle Institute, 43 

De Luca, John, 42 

de Young Museum, 41 

Distillers Corporation-Seagrams Limited. See Seagrams 

Feist and Reinach, Bingen-on-the Rhine, 2 

Ferroggiaro, Fred, 23 

Franz W. Sichel Foundation, 41 

Fromm and Sichel, 19, 21, 22-24, 26, 29-42 passim 

Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning, 43 

Fromm, Hanna Gruenbaum (Mrs. Alfred), 8, 39, 43 

Fromm, Josef, iv, 1 

Fromm, Max (father of Alfred Fromm), 1-3, 24-25 

Fromm, N. company, Kitzingen, Germany, 1-3 

Fromm, Nathan, 1 

Fromm, Norman, iv, 25 ,39 

Fromm, Paul, 4 

Gallo, Ernest, 32 

Gallo, [E. & J.] winery, 13, 16, 32-33 

German wine industry, 1-7, 11 

Greystone Cellars, 30-31 

Guembel, Joseph, 2 

Guymon, James F., 35 

Hearst, William Randolph, 4-6 

Hoffman, John, 38 

In Celebration of Wine and Life, 41 

Italian Swiss CoTony wines, 13, 16 

Jews under Nazi regime, 14 

John, Brother, iv, 10, 11, 27, 28, 37, 38 

Joseph E. Seagram and Sons. See Seagrams 

Laemmle, Carl, 4 

Lamb, Richard B., 41 


Martini, Louis M. , winery, 9 

Masson, Paul, [Vineyards] iv, 9, 24-28, 29, 40 

McManus, James, 42-43 

Meyer, Otto, iv, 17. 25, 26 

Mirassou [Vineyards], 25, 26, 28 

Mittelberger, Ernest, 40-41 

Mont La Salle Vineyards. See Christian Brothers 

Mt. Tivy, iv, 18, 38 

Mrak, Emil, 27 

"Music in the Vineyards," 25 

Napa Valley, 10, 30 

Nazi regime in Germany, 7, 8, 9, 14 

Nirenstein, Allen (Al), 36 

Nury, Mike, 29 

phylloxera, 26-27 

Picker-Linz, 4, 8-9, 12, 19, 21-23, 26, 40 

prices for wine, 12-13, 14, 21, 25 

Prohibition, 3-4, 5, 9 

prorate, 16 

Ray, Martin, 9, 24 

Remy Martin [et Cie.], 35 

Riddell, James, 29 

Roma [Wine Company], 13, 16 

Roper, Elmer, poll, 15 

Salinas Valley, 25, 26-28 

Schenley Distillers, 13 

Schramsberg Vineyard, 34-35 

Seagrams [Distillers Corporation-Seagrams Limited and 
subsidiaries], iv, 18, 19, 20-21, 23, 24, 25, 
29, 35, 37, 38-39, 40 

Sichel, Franz, 19, 20, 21, 22-23, 24, 41 

St. Mary's College, 10, 43 

St. Regis Vineyards, 30 

stills, 17-20 ' 

Taylor Wine Company, New York, 12 

Timothy, Brother, iv, 10, 11, 28, 31, 37-38 

University of California, Davis, 27, 35 

University of San Francisco, 43 

Verdier, Paul, 6 

Vie-Del Company, 29, 37 

Weinbau-Schule, Geisenheim, 2-3 

Welsch, Jack, 32, 42 

Wente Bros. , 9, 28 

Wine Advisory Board, 42 

Wine Institute, 42 

Wine Museum of San Francisco, iv, 38 

Winkler, Albert J. , 27 

Wong, Worley, 39 

World War II years, 12, 14-15 



burgundy, 11, 15 

champagne, 25, 27-28, 31 

Johannisberg Riesling, 4, 26 

port, 12 

Riesling, 11 

sauterne, 11, 15 

Schloss Johannisberg [Riesling] 1921 Auslese, 4 

sherry, 12 

Steinberger Kabinet Trockenbeerenauslese, 1911, 5 


Chardonnay, 26 
Sauvignon blanc, 26 
Semillon, 26 
Thompson Seedless, 18 

Ruth Teiser 

Born in Portland, Oregon; came to the Bay 

Area in 1932 and has lived here ever since. 
Stanford University, B.A. , M.A. in English; 

further graduate work in Western history. 
Newspaper and magazine writer in San Francisco 

since 1943, writing on local history and 

business and social life of the Bay Area. 
Book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle, 

Co-author of Winemaking in California, a 

history, 1982. 
An interviewer-editor in the Regional Oral 

History Office since 1965. 

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