The Stroh’s Bros: a timeless friendship

Riley Lynch '18, Supervising Editor

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

High school cliques become forms of lifelines for students across the world, and Grosse Pointe South has never been an exception. Some groups shift and change over time, and some have remained constant since youth. One of those long-lasting groups claims to have brought fame to their name: the Stroh’s Bros.

According to Jacques Wolfe ’81, the Stroh’s Bros have been friends since they were five years old, and adopted their name in high school. “We became friends when we were in grade school together at St. Paul Catholic School,” Wolfe said. “We were all excited to get to South. We each pursed individual interests: sports, Student Association, school plays, etc. Throughout all of this, our friendship that had formed many years before carried over and, in fact, grew.”

Tom Willetts ’81, another Stroh’s Bro, said the group’s name began when he attempted to start a sponsorship with Stroh’s Brewery Company during the winter.

“This was the start of the Stroh’s Bros (name), and from that time on, I used to go to the brewery each year and pick up over 5 thousand Stroh’s shirts, coats, koozies, hats and sweaters,” Willetts said.

However, that was only the beginning of the obsession with the beer brand. During their senior year, the Stroh’s Bros paid for an ad in the yearbook that depicted a golf club hitting a can of Stroh’s beer, shot by Willetts. In addition, Wolfe recalls their senior prank, which occurred during their commencement ceremony.

“My friends climbed up on the roof of the main building the night before graduation and rigged a very large banner that was unrolled during the commencement ceremony,” Wolfe said. “I have reached out to my friends and the banner said ‘Stroh’s.’”

Wolfe recognizes that times have changed, though, between his time at South and that of his daughters’, Rachelle Wolfe ’18 and Elizabeth Wolfe ’20. One of the main differences was the system of ethics, which Wolfe noted didn’t seem to apply.

“I do not recall that there were any published guidelines,” Wolfe said of the Code of Conduct. “Consequences, in general, were much less severe when I attended South.”

Rachelle claims from what she’s heard, her father and his friends got into some trouble, but never had severe consequences, which she noted is radically different from today.

“Since my father attended South, policies have become much more strict and students’ lives out of school have become more regulated,” Rachelle said. “Things that my dad did in high school with no punishment would land him in the principal’s office today.”

According to the Student Handbook, in 1995, South adopted a new policy enforcing the underage drinking laws. Under MCL 380.1308, any minor in possession during school hours or during a school-related activity will be suspended for a minimum of five days and can be referred to the authorities. In addition, wearing clothing that sponsors alcohol or any type of drug can be punishable by detention through separation.

Both Jacques and Willetts admitted to attending parties with drinking, and neither faced any form of punishment because of it.

“When we were drinking below age, we always tried to go to one of the groups’ basement and make sure to stay off the streets,” Willetts said. “I cannot comment on what (current) kids that are drinking are doing to ensure they are not putting themselves at risk and causing a lot of pain for their parents. I made a promise to my mother that she would never have to worry about me calling from jail after we had been out having fun. I kept that promise.”

Willetts thinks that because the group was safe and didn’t make life-threatening decisions while they weren’t sober, the administrators during their time at South didn’t mind as much and may have even been oblivious. He also noted that there is no true way administrators can stop parties altogether, as they have been around for decades.

“Parties on the weekends always had alcohol, and sometimes got out of hand. But I had sisters that told me that they had these same type of parties in the 60s. What has changed is that the tolerance to it has seemed to hit a breaking point,” Willetts said. “I believe that this is due to those that have pushed the boundaries and many kids are getting hurt. While I was at MSU, we never had anyone killed during fraternity hazing, but today, it has gone too far, and so I can understand how the administrators have tried to make sure it does not happen on their watch.”

Wolfe said the Stroh’s Bros typically had fun at the parties while remaining responsible, recalling one time where another friend rented out a venue to host a gathering during 1981.

“There were a few times where the parties were really big– maybe a hundred or more kids,” Wolfe said. “My friends and I would stop by, and we would always see people there we knew. My senior year, some girls from my class booked a room at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dearborn and we all went there for a party after the Homecoming dance.”

Although the high school days are over for the Stroh’s Bros, they all keep in touch, according to Willetts. As for Wolfe, the traditions and memories get to live on through his daughters, who walk the same halls he did over 30 years ago.

“I thought South was a great school when I was a student there, and even better today,” Wolfe said. “The fact that my two girls walk the same hallways and sit in the same classrooms as I did is pretty cool.” Rachelle shares the same sentiment, adding that it has strengthened their bond.

“I think it’s really cool that I get to go to school where my dad went,” Rachelle said. “It’s like I get to relive his experiences and he can relate to mine. I feel more connected to the school since my father attended it.”

Wolfe said he still maintains contact with the Stroh’s Bros, and aims to see them whenever possible.

“Of course, like all people, we have moved on with families and busy careers,” Wolfe said. “To this day, however, we continue to keep in touch and get together whenever possible. Somehow, someway, we became lifelong friends and I am truly grateful for my Bros.