The morning sky was pouring rain into the dry Mason county soil that has been experiencing many dry months of drought conditions. I was about to enter the building to meet a gentleman who years earlier had a vision of seeing irrigation as a means to help make production better for local farmers and he became its pioneer in Mason. ROY CARL LEHMBERG., with an outstretched hand and a brilliant smile, met me with a cordial, "Let's go to my office where we can talk." Yes, he still works, and talk we did. The next two hours were filled with the passions that motivate him: tennis, family, tennis, business, and more tennis. For you see, at the wonderful age of 83, he has played tennis for 78 of them.
Roy was born November 22, 1924 along with a twin brother, Rae, to parents Walter Lehmberg, born August 2, 1888, and Lydia Jordan Lehmberg, born September 1, 1893. His siblings were: Benellen, married to Kurt Hofmann, Bernice, married Roy Schmidt, Walter, married to LaBelle Schuessler, Firtz, married to Billy Splittgerber, Victor, married to Gloria Hofmann and Rae, married to Lou Schwanke.
He went to school at Art, Texas where he was introduced to tennis in the first grade, and it became one of the loves of his life. He came to Mason for three years of high school where he graduated in 1942. He said "When I came to Mason to school, I had seen one football game and one movie, World War 1. We didn't come to Mason. We had a church, the post office and a grocery store in Art."
He entered the United State Army on January 25, 1944. He was sent to Camp Roberts, California for basic training then to Camp Ord, California to the Replacement Depot. After one month he was sent overseas to join company C, 21st Infantry, 24th Division in New Guinea. His unit was then moved to the Philippine Islands. The next move was the invasion of Luzon where they encountered heavy fighting. After the end of the war in the Pacific, his unit was went to Japan for occupation duty. He was discharged at Fort Logan, Colorado on February 16, 1946. He was entitled to the American defense, Asiatic Pacific with three Bronze Stars, One Arrowhead, Distinguished Unit Award, Good conduct, Philippine Liberation with two Bronze Stars, Combat Infantry Badge and Victory Medals.
He attended Tarleton State and SMU where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in 1950. While at Tarleton, he won first place in pole vaulting. He commented, "I guess I chose pole vaulting because we cut so many pole for tennis at Art."
It was while he was a SMU, he met the girl who would become his wife, Jean Roberts. They were married January 25, 1950. Jean died July 1997 after they experienced 47 years together and raised five children.
Roy said, "Rae and I had to import our wives. You know if a girl wasn't married by the time she was 21 she was an "old maid". Since he was an 'old man' of 26, girls were scarce.
Their children are Mark, Deborah, Burce, Brenda and Paula. Grandchildren are Marcy, Brittny, Ross, Chad, Kaylin, Matt, Ben, Will, Katy, Chase, Kade, Salah, David and Diane. And great grandson are Rylan, Kinsley, Kelton, Carlton, Camille, Jackson and Gracie.
His love affair with tennis began at age six when he started first grade at the Art School. A Ms. Cleveland was the teacher who got him interested in playing. From then on there was no turning back. He said, "Our posts for the net were cut from the creek with limbs still attached."
Roy spoke with nothing but admiration for Helen Sell Talent who coached most of his children and many other Mason youth. He said, "She bravely fought a 27 year battle with cancer. She loved tennis too. Helen and Francis Kruse Bode and Rae and I played tennis in high school. She helped send many kids to State playoffs."
He shared, "You know years ago tennis didn't have the support or acclaim it does today. Many thought is was a game for sissies. That's different now. Many people of Mason support the Tennis Programs.
Space is too limited to tell you of all the tournaments that hold a special place in his heart. One of his family members told me, "I believe Roy can relate every tennis match he played and the score for each one." One match in particular he tole about was when his opponent wanted to flip a coin to see who won the match. No way for Roy. He went on to win his match.
There was a special glint in his eyes as he said, "Jean couldn't keep score until Mark won his first match. She learned really fast then. Jean was the one who kept us all together. Think about it. I was playing in the Adult division and all the kids were playing. She saw to it that we all had our water and anything else we might need for the match. It was a job, but she did it. She was the one who raised our kids."
He remembered the first time Alex and Jackie Grosse met Jean. Alex said, "She sure looks good, a lot better than the last one." Well, what are friends for it not to tell you the truth?
He and Jean built a tennis court at their home. He said, "I would go home from work and haul gravel from the creek. Loaded it with good old-fashioned scoop. Couldn't seem to get it all done, so I got Check Airheart to pour the concrete slab for me. I still remember what it cost, $998.00 in 1963. We enjoyed that court and a lot of other people did too."
The Lehmberg Family has made their name in tennis in Mason. The children won eight-championship games at Sate and the grandchildren won eleven.
Roy, along with Billy Bode, was instrumental to bringing tennis downtown Mason. They erected several temporary tennis courts on the square on the south side of the courthouse. He said, "These courts were to be for the Junior Division, but when the adults got wind of Sports Illustrated Magazine coming to town to interview and write articles about Mason, they wanted to be in the photos."
His business ventures are like tennis, a full time job, but somehow managed it all.
It all began with a crop failure. He had planted sweet potatoes. Half of the crop was on top of the ground waiting for the workers (who never showed up) to put them in crates. Short story. That night a hard freeze came and all was lost. They became hog feed. The other half sat in a warehouse waiting for a trucker until they shriveled up. End of story. He lost $1,700.00 on the crop. But wait, this is not the end, but the beginning.
He and Jean were talking about the loss when she asked him, "Didn't you go to college? Didn't you get a degree? So, why don't you go to town and get a job?" The wisdom of a wife and the authority in her voice can cause things to happen.
Roy went to town and got a job Western Auto where his brother, Victor owned a share in the business. His wage was $7.00 per day from 7 to 5, and then, he made deliveries until dark. He purchased a share in Wester Auto in 1959. He sold it to Gary Zesch in 1963.
In 1963, he bought Lange's Butane and Plumbing (where Nu-Way is now). He said, It only had half a roof and the rest leaked so bad we had to cover the telephones when a cloud came up so they wouldn't short out. I had to borrow the money, $5,000.00."
He bought the five acres where Community Service & Supply Inc. is today in 1968 for $1,800 and built the building in 1972.
He believed farmland could produce more with irrigation. So, he bought a used truck for $700.00 and had Milton Vater rig it like he needed with a wench. "Then I started visiting the farmers. Those who caught the vision and had to finance their operation could usually pay the debt off the first year of operation. We were the only irrigation business in Mason and the surrounding towns. We serviced all of them and even out of state too," he said.
He mentioned getting up real early and driving to Plesanton. I asked why he had opened an operation that far away. "Well, we had every thing sold around here." Good enough answer.
The business was incorporated in 1975. He and his children are the stockholders. Family business is popular in Mason. His daughter, Brenda, works for the Community Service & Supply Inc. and his sons, Mark and Bruce work in Lehmberg Realty which we haven't gotten to yet.
Lehmberg Realty was stated in 1975 selling real estate. Roy said, "People would ask me about a piece of property. I helped some acquire what they needed." He became a Realtor and another business was created. It is the oldest continuing real estate business in Mason.
He is so full of life, I was wondering what sort of answers would come with my next questions.
I asked about his first auto. It seems he and Rae bought a used car in college. But when they got it off the lot it wouldn't crank again. Dead battery. Then they found it had a busted head. They apparently still walked where they wanted to go. He said, "It was 1948 before I had a decent car".
His answers to my question about important inventions would naturally be about business. "We got our first calculator in 1966. Wonderful invention. The fax machine is good too".
Roy is a member of the First Methodist Church in Mason. He was confirmed at Art Methodist.
He has participated in many organizations: The Chamber of Commerce, Retail Merchants Assn., Farm Bureau, School Board, Mason Jaycees, American Legion, VFW, Mason's Lions Club, and these are the ones I found out about.
He was the recipient of the Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame Award in 2006. He grinned and said, "You do know the first requirement for that is to be old."
He recounted when he was a small boy his dad would buy a bag of jelly beans to bring home. "You understand that one bag had to be shared by all seven of us. There were not a lot of extras. We learned to work." He's been at it ever since. It appears that he didn't require a lot of sleep, which was good, since there wasn't a lot of time for it. His theory about daylight savings time, he doesn't save daylight he uses it.
He never developed a taste for coffee because it took too long to cool off. It would burn his tongue. So, he quit drinking it.
He told me, "I always say, I had more nerve than sense." This man doesn't understand the word quit. Early to late, is his motto. If you want something accomplished go after it. His shoes are mighty big ones to fill.