We all have our Sierra Rushmores. The people we think of within our own Mammoth experience who stand as mentors, beacons, ballasts … the people who inspire us to push forward to the next moment, because you can’t imagine suffering the failure and limping to the sideline and then trying to explain to them what happened – because no explanation was gonna be sufficient. At least not for Robert Schaubmayer, longtime owner of the Alpenhof.
Because you know Robert would just wave away the words.
Because there was no problem, in his eyes, which couldn’t be solved by simply working harder.
The very antithesis of the modern adage to “work smarter, not harder.”
Not to say that Mr. Schaubmayer was not a very shrewd and very clever businessman.
But it was the work that brought him satisfaction. It was the work which was the measure of a person.
As Mr. Schaubmayer told me, “I never asked about the pay when I got a job. I just worked.”
He also told me that for many years, his late wife Petra would clean every bathroom in every one of their hotel rooms – every day. 57 rooms. She was team of housekeepers unto herself – never mind all the other tasks (wife, mother, et. al.) which occupied the rest of the day.
So I then asked him about his daughters-in-law Stacy (married to eldest son Kirk) and Heather (married to namesake Robert Jr.)
Without hesitation, he said, “They are good wives, good mothers … “ and then, with some emphasis, “ … and good workers.”
As are, of course, his sons, but Robert was not one to dish out effusive praise. As he told me over a breakfast in 2018 (at which I jotted down most of these notes), “You give a person too much praise, you make ‘em too comfortable.”
Some other witticisms from that breakfast:
“It’s better to be a little boss than a big help to somebody else.”
And, “The banker offers you the umbrella when the sun shines.”
Mr. Schaubmayer said that after he immigrated from Austria, he spent ten years living in L.A. and “never knew they had pine trees in this state.”
But once he located the pine trees, he knew where he needed to be.
The hotel, when he bought it, had just eight rooms.
In 1973, from July 4 through Thanksgiving, he and Petra added 48 rooms.
The furniture didn’t arrive in time for Thanksgiving so they couldn’t open, even though they really needed the money.
Two drought years came soon after that.
Which inspired the thought on bankers.
What saved him, he said, were the SBA (Small Business Administration) loans.
In operating a business, he said, “You gotta stay in touch with people.” Which naturally makes my mind drift to that Kipling line: “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue/Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch.”
But actually, when I think of Robert, I think of another poet and another Robert – Robert Service, who wrote “The Spell of the Yukon.”
“There’s a land where the mountains are nameless,
And the rivers all run God knows where;
There are lives that are erring and aimless,
And deaths that just hang by a hair;
There are hardships that nobody reckons;
There are valleys unpeopled and still;
There’s a land – oh, it beckons and beckons,
And I want to go back – and I will.
They’re making my money diminish;
I’m sick of the taste of champagne.
Thank God! when I’m skinned to a finish
I’ll pike to the Yukon again.
I’ll fight – and you bet it’s no sham-fight;
It’s hell! – but I’ve been there before;
And it’s better than this by a damsite –
So me for the Yukon once more.
There’s gold, and it’s haunting and haunting;
It’s luring me on as of old;
Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wanting
So much as just finding the gold
It’s the great, big, broad land ‘way up yonder,
It’s the forests where silence has lease;
It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.”
My own father passed in 2015. In his absence, Robert’s sons were gracious enough to allow me to borrow theirs from time to time.
And when I find myself whining too much about the latest crisis-of-the-moment, I check myself. And I get my ass back to work.
Forget teaching a man to fish. Teach a man to work. Value work. Applaud work.