Main Support Co EM Club Operations



............................Ken Mahler


The beer was a matter of what was available. Simple. Toss of luck. A pallet, I seem to remember was maybe 1200 cans or 50 + cases , frankly I remember 80, but the numbers don't add up. The weight, my brain cells fire and report 1820 lbs. This will be important later.

There were two type of beers: Premium & Regular. Believe it or not Schlitz, Bud, and Miller were premium. Falstaff, Black Label, Pabst, Ballantine, Rheingold and a few others were regular. I only remember getting Coors once. There were likely other brands, non foreign, but I don't remember them now. I just remembered in proofing I got one pallet of Korean beer when nothing else was available. I avoided lynching by just my good looks and happy smile!!

The hit and miss that we had with beer was the same with soda.  We almost always had a cola.  Coke or Pepsi.  I don't think RC was a frequent option.  I also tried to keep variety in soda as well.  We had orange, root beer, Dr. Pepper, 7-Up, ginger ale and a great little drink now defunct called WINK from Canada Dry.  The adds used to call it the "sassy one".  I'd like to see it produced again.  It was a sharp soda, not to sweet, with a little grapefruit taste with lemon.  It far surpasses Mountain Dew, Sprite, or Fanta.

We paid 9.2 cents per can for regular, and 10.3 cents for premium. I always tried to have as much variety (brands) as possible. I do remember Schlitz as being the most available. Pabst being the most available from the regular beers. Sometimes I had no choice and the Main Support guys were angry with me for having way too much Ballantine (the least favorite). Schlitz was favored among the premiums. Everyone wanted Coors from home comfort memories, or from curiosity hearing what a great beer it was.
We sold regular beer at 10 cents/can and I think premium at 15 cents. Soda was always a dime. To get rid of profit (we had to be non-profit) we had a club night once a month or when excess funds permitted. That led to a singing group, maybe a pretty gal, more often broken English Vietnamese or Filipinos We bartered for special meats: ie: hamburgers, hot dogs or maybe steaks. That was done by the shops. Parts, tires, borrowing, or something. My inventory was monitored so closely we could never trade off beverages. Even damaged cans had to be carefully accounted for. The black market was a major factor. We gave away all the free beer & soda we could to get rid of our surplus funds. Our cooler on these nights was a jeep trailer loaded with ice. The officers at Battalion Hq wanted me to get them the beer for their little "lounge" but I remember the inventory was so carefully guarded we had quite a hassle over that, and I stood my ground and finally Capt. Dotson spoke to Battalion and we came up with some sort of compromise, but details are not important and escape me. However, there was a lot of "blowing smoke" over the issue.

The guys in the welding shop made us a great can opener.  You'll remember in those days there were no pull tab cans, and the cans were made of steel.  The opener was just tall enough for the can to slip into the angled "V" of the vertical shaft.  Then the handle on a pin as a hinge would come down punching a nice big "V" in the can for the lips and a small hole on the opposite side for air to flow in.  Just one of those GI creations, made to order.  We could have used a "church key" but that was way too slow when we opened so many hundreds of cans a day.  Especially the press of cans needed for the parties.  I remind you ALL cans by regulation had to be opened.  None, even soda, could be sold without opening.  Reason:  The black market again.

Let me pause and give you an idea of the strength of our sales. We became a stop off point for units, trucks, Koreans along the route because I was serious about cold beverages. I carefully rotated stock so anytime of the day you always got a cold one. We bought several coolers to increase our capacity and provide good cooling rotation. I looked for the report I wrote when I left with all the total figures of what I sold the time I was in charge (May or June 67 - April 22 '68). However, as much as I looked I have mislayed the report, but I did find a monthly report to give you an idea from 26 Feb.'68-26 Mar.'68. Imagine this over many months. Pee Wee, the other boy and I moved a lot of cases of beverage in and out of the cooler....One Month:

Soda 42,510; Prem. Beer 9.115, Reg. Beer 5,330; Corn Chips (BBQ) 1,416; M&M candy (we kept them in coolers) 2,281; Pepperoni, 440; Cocktail nuts, 482; Cashew Nuts 341; Potato sticks 318. The chips were all in easy open cans, not bags, the dampness. Beer was not to be consumed until after 6:00 PM, but I seem to remember with a note or some sort of pass a GI could get a beer in the afternoon if off duty.

When reading this report in my files I noticed a name for the president of the Sundry Fund (which was the unit governing body) Claudio A Lardon De Guevara. Maybe you can look him up, or already know of him.

Beer and soda was from the depot run by Korean civilians, a sort of Halliburton, and they had a couple of GIs there from Post Exchange PEPAC (Pacific). The snacks I think I got from the exchange warehouse Qui Nhon, but I am not completely sure. The checks to pay for the goods was sent to Post Exchange HQ in Saigon.

The depot for most of the time I was there was just across the street and it was easy to take a 2-1/2 ton there and pick up six pallets (the last two sat on the open tailgate) and sometimes I dragged a trailer and got another two. It was well above the load limit, but we were close. Later they moved the depot some miles away. I don't remember the name of the valley, but you took a left out the main gate. Down to the main road where right was to Qui Nhon and left was to this new depot. It was then up the road for maybe 30 minutes? Back at Main Support I used the little Tow-Motor fork lift to empty the trucks. I used a chain to drag the pallets that were up front to the tailgate where I could grab them with the forks. That was a great little machine, and I have to say it was the most fun I had in Vietnam!!

I tried the overloaded 2-1/2 ton stunt for the new depot and got caught. The MP was good about it and I did not get more than a warning. Later I took the 2-1/2 when I could not get the 5 ton, a trailer and the driver who drove the water truck. ( I have slides of our driver and the depot. Was that Ken H.?). The 2-1/2 ton was a problem because of our volume of units sold. (see above). If I had to make more trips, it was long and the 2-1/2 ton the motor pool gave me was not always available. The wait at either depot was often long for loading and I could only get one load a day in order to get back for night. You'll remember I was the only daytime GI at the club and Pee Wee and later the other boy had to leave at 5:PM +-, and I had to be there to supervise the part time bartender for evening beer. ....................................................................Ken