Memories Of Mazey And Weber At Christmas

by Dave Williams

It’s no secret to anyone that knows me how much I love Christmas and the holiday season. It’s a tremendous time of year that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, and also gives us time to reflect upon all of the joy and blessings that have been bestowed upon us as a nation. In honor of that tradition, I have carried on with a long established custom that was handed down to me by one of the great marketing minds of AMF, John Mazey.

That practice is the creation of a homemade Christmas card, which I have continued in honor of Mr. Mazey for almost 40 years. John was a very unique individual. He had a way of using everyone involved when it came to AMF’s award winning advertising campaigns. On more than one occasion I witnessed his uncanny knack of visualizing a slogan during filming or direction of a particular advertising campaign.

One such moment that I remember so well was an advertisement that was completed in the hallway of an agency director’s home. After reviewing the basic elements of a bowler’s delivery, the decision was made to go ahead and complete the scene right there in his home, rather than having to set up and reimburse a proprietor at a bowling establishment. The director kept commenting about my smooth approach and delivery as I focused on a doorknob down the hallway as my ‘range finder.’

Mazey’s miracle slogan for the print ad commercial became — “AMF… The Best Approach.”

The Weber Christmas Cards

Another benefit of being involved with AMF was a business and personal relationship with Dick Weber. He was such an incredible individual that never ceased to amaze me with his charming wit, amazing ability to remember names, and a genuine enthusiasm for living. Our Christmas card exchange each year was a particular joy for me, with many cherished notes inscribed within the cards from the world’s most recognizable bowler.

When I first arrived at AMF’s corporate offices in 1982, I began another tradition of mailing a box filled with a dozen pears from Harry & David every year at Christmas to the thirty or so bowling news publishers around the country. I also included a few noteworthy individuals on the list that had helped me along the way… Primo Liberatore, Jim Decker, Rex Golobic, Sam Weinstein, Remo Picchietti, Joe Antenora, Bruce Gobbi, and of course, Dick Weber.

Dick loved those pears! On more than one occasion he wrote and thanked me. Here’s one of his acclamations:

“Dear Dave, Thanks for the pears. So good! Hope all is well and we will be in  touch soon. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.” – Dick & Juanita

Another time Juanita, Dick’s wife of more than 50 years, wrote that Dick was on the road but was sure that he would be enjoying the pears when he got back home. “He just loves those pears!”

A different exchange that we had on more than one instance was regarding seagulls. Whenever I would visit a particular Starbucks in Jersey City, I would purchase a scone or other pastry item and have a seat outdoors along the waterfront with a beautiful view of Manhattan. There was one gull that seemed to be waiting for me and would hover in anticipation of a treat. I would break off a piece of the scone and fling it high in the air. The gull never missed snatching the piece of pastry in mid-air! A photo of that gull fluttering over the Manhattan skyline was the subject matter of my 1998 Christmas card.

Dick wrote back about my encounter with the seagull:

“Dear Dave, Nice to know your bowling arm is still in good shape, especially for that seagull! All our family is doing well.” Dick & Nita

Weber replied another time that I had mentioned my favorite seagull and said that he and Nita had a similar experience while on a cruise. Dick said that every morning he would spot a gull outside their private balcony and toss a snack to the bird as he flew in harmony with the ship, at the exact same speed.

Perhaps my favorite Weber story is the one where I got lost with him on the way to a bowling event in Muskegon, Michigan. He never let me forget that day and would always ask, either by phone or when meeting personally, “Dave, do you have your roadmap?” What an honor for me to be remembered by such a famous person.

It wasn’t until many years later, in one of my recollections of that story, that Juanita confided in me that Dick had his own issues when it came to using a roadmap:

“Dear Dave, Thanks for your story on the roadmap! Bet Dick never told you the story about us missing our tee time in Canada with the Seniors because he needed a map but wouldn’t stop to ask directions. He got razzed for a long time for that by his buddies.” – Nita

Dick passed away on February 14, 2005. Juanita, his wife of 57 years and matriarch of pro bowling’s most famous family, died in 2020. They are survived by their children Rich, Paula, John and Pete, as well as many grandchildren, and also great grandchildren. Weber once humorously remarked on Eyewitness 5 News in St. Louis, “All of my children have had 300 games. My wife bowls in self-defense.”

As I was looking through my collection of cards from the Weber family, I noticed a card from December of 2004 (in the very center of the photo). Dick’s handwriting was not as solid as I had remembered, but I just chalked it up to old age. He died less than two months later. Now that I’m in my seventh decade, I’ve noticed on certain days that I also share that same shaky handwriting.

Whenever that happens, I put the pen down and head outside for a walk, and share an apple with a friendly deer that walks along the creek flowing through our complex. Just like the seagull that seemed to always be there when I visited the Starbucks in Jersey City, that deer also seems to be there whenever I stroll along what I like to call “Deer Path Creek.”