I began my drive out Mill Creek Road (you may know it by Hwy. 1871). At the first cattle guard to the left, I followed a sandy lane with contented cattle grazing beside it to the house set before me. My knock on the door brought a cheery, "Come on in." ALEX HOWARD GROSSE stood smiling such an inviting grin I felt totally at home. The first thing to catch my eyes was the cowboy hat real Texans wear. It was situated close to his recliner as if just waiting to be grabbed for a trip outdoors. The next thing was the shelves filled with memory makers that surrounded him. Yes, this was a home where love filled the space.
Alex said, "I was born in a little house on Rainey Street February 4, 1925." His parents were Alex Egon Grosse born November 15, 1891 and Alma Bertha Willmann Grosse, born February 22, 1893. Siblings were William Richard and Jewel Elisabeth.
He attended the Mason Schools graduating High School in 1942 with a class of 42. Alex said, "There were 29 boys who graduated and all of them were drafted." Many Mason homes had a gold star in their windows that year. He commented, "Though there were some injuries, not a one of our boys died."
He and Jack Hoffman enlisted at the same time and were together throughout the time until they were discharged in 1946. Alex laughed as he recounted the day when he and Jack went to San Antonio to choose the branch they would join. He said, "We got to the post office where you had to go. There were all the different recruiters from their branch trying to get you to join up with them. A Marine recruiter came over to me and Jack and said, 'Here's two good looking young men the Marines could use.' Jack punched me and said, 'That son of a gun is trying to get us killed.''' They chose the Navel Air Corp instead.
He shared another episode during their service career. While in Atlantic City, New Jersey, they were to do mission training on this particular day. Each had a pilot with them. Well, it seems Alex's pilot got lost. When they finally found familiar territory and a road that led to the base, they were able to land. Jack told him, "They told me you was missing. If you had crashed, I could have got to go home for 30 days leave." You could tell from the remembrances Alex told about his and Jack's military time there was true camaraderie between them.
Alex took his basic training in Corpus Christi, Texas. From the Naval Air Training Center at Norman, Oklahoma, he graduated as a Seaman 1st Class. He was sent to Wildwood Naval Air Station, New Jersey. He was discharged as Aviation Ordnance Mate 2nd Class at the Naval Air Station at Shelton, Virginia after serving two years and seven months. He was entitled to the American defense and Victory medals.
He said, "We received overseas, pay but we were in the states". They flew their reconnaissance missions out over the offshore coastlines observing ships and watching for submarines.
When Alex was discharged, he came home to Mason to begin work in the family business, R. Grosse and Sons, where he spent the next 50 years as the third generation family member in the lumber yard.
This story would not be complete without the beginning of the family business.
Richard Ernest Grosse, Alex's grandfather, was born April 3, 1860 at Serkovitz, Germany in the province of Dresden. He studied at the Sate Architectural School and became a licensed architect.
On April 30, 1883, he sailed for America and made his way to Texas in August 1883. He worked as a stone at Art, Texas.
Using his architectural skills, he drew plans for many of Mason's buildings which still stand today. Among them are the Art, Hilda and Mason Methodist churches, the Lutheran Church , the beautiful Seaquist House which took five years to complete, Mason High School built in 1887 (the Historical Building) and the Mason County Jail.
He married Louise Caroline Von Donop and they moved to Mason where he founded the lumber yard known as R. Grosse, Lumber, Shingles etc. and Cement. As sons came to the marriage, he changed the name to r. Grosse and Sons as it remains today 122 years later.
His son, Alex Egon Grosse, came home to Mason to help his father at the lumber yard when his mother became ill becoming the third generation Grosse to work there. When Alex's son, Charlie, entered the family business that made him the fourth generation member.
R. Grosse and Sons purchased 1000 acres of land situated where Donop's Feed Store is now and land located behind there for $20,000.00 in 1931. That, my friends, is $20.00 per acre. Wells were drilled and houses built for resale in the area.
Alex remembered when a windstorm hit the grandstands at the fairgrounds. His Dad got the contract for the lumberyard to repair them.
I asked Alex what was one thing he most enjoyed while working for 50 years in one spot. He quickly said, "Meeting the people. I enjoy people."
He reminisced about his dad helping people get started by charging their purchases. He grinned as he said, "Oh yeah, we had a drawer full of some that couldn't pay, but people usually tried." He shared about the time Mr. T.O. Reardon came into they lumberyard and told his dad he wanted to build a feed store but he only had about half the funds on hand. His dad told him, "That's alright. We'll make a five year note for the balance." Mr. Reardon came in the second year to pay the note off. Alex said, "Dad told him, I hate to see you do that. That interest is gone now."
Alex and Jacquelene (Jackie) Weaver were married June 16, 1950. They had three children: Charlie, Nancy Gay and Karla Kay. There are four grandchildren: Scott Andrews, Kathy Beardon Loeffler, Howard Grosse and Nancy Jo Grosse.
As he spoke of Jackie who died October 2, 1991, his eyes lit with the light of love. He said, "Jackie raised three good kids. I give her a lot of credit. She loved teaching them. She just loved teaching. She was a librarian. She was just plain good with kids. She especially enjoyed helping a child who didn't seem to be doing too good. One thing she always taught was abstinence before marriage. Well, she was just one of the best."
I asked him to tell me a family story. Karla, you were the chosen one. It seems liquid got spilled at mealtime because of a little sibling rivalry going on. (Sound familiar parents)? He told Karla, "Let's go to the bathroom." Now, the bathroom was not only for baths but also the paddling room. He said, "Little Karla began pleading, 'Daddy, oh Daddy, I don't need to go to the bathroom. I really don't need to go.''' He evidently got so tickled at her imploring little voice, I doubt she had to make the trip. The rest of you kids got spared so you can breathe easy now.
We talked about happenings during our lifetime. I asked him what he thought was the best invention he had experienced. He said, "Electricity. The coal oil lamps were finally done. Electricity brought lots of changes."
His comments on the space program were, "I've wondered a lot of times what's up there. It doesn't bother me for them to spend money on the program."
He talked about as a kid going with his folks by the old ice house to get block ice for the old wooden ice box before the time of electric refrigerators. He said, "They always gave the kids little chips of ice to eat."
"Christmas was a time of cutting a cedar tree and decorating it. I remember the church parties where you got a bag with an apple, an orange and some hard candies. We like those," Alex said.
Alex has been a member of the Methodist Church since confirmation. This man at 84 has a mind like a steel trap. He recited all 15 names except one of his confirmation class of 1939. His comment on that one was, "Maybe it will come to me." Here they are: Alex Grosse, Ilene Bishop, Dorothy Mueller, Howard Leifeste, Mary Alice Jordan, Sadie Schuessler, Nolan Donop, C.C. Hoerster, Lilian Pluenneke, Lorene Mueller, Genevieve Loeffler, Aubrey Loeffler, George Max Brandenberger, Hugh Shearer, Rosline Weaver, and Glendola Leifeste (I thank all who helped me get the last names on the list). I told you! How many of you know where your shoes are? He was confirmed at The Methodist Episcopal Church which is now Springstreet Gospel Church. He served as a Sunday School teacher. One of his students he mentioned was Sammy Hoerster. I had to wonder whether it was because Sam was such an exceptional student or other issues we should check out. It was because Alex said Sam still always calls him his Sunday School teacher when they meet down town. Kids remember good teachers.
Alex has served Mason County in many ways. His father was a charter member of the Lion's Club organized June 5, 1929. Alex was tail twister for 15 years as well as serving as president also.
Alex was the recipient of the Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame Award in 2007.
He has been president of Mason Fair Assn., Mason Memorial Hospital (for four years where he tried very hard to help keep the hospital open), Friends of the Library, Methodist Men, Gooch Cemetery Assn., Mason County Roping Club, Mason County Registered Angora Goat Breeders Assn., and possibly others he didn't mention.
He said, "when I quit working at the lumberyard, I did a bit of ranching. "Right now, I don't do too much."
I believe with the history of this man it's about time for a little R and R He was such a delightful person. It was hard to leave. Maybe some day I can go back and look at all the photo books he has especially those his mother left him. Alex Grosse is an asset to Mason County.