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Monday, May 2, 2016

Claude Grey makes his mark

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

After recently urging you to collect old stories, I seem to be taking my own advice.  

When the fledgling Marcus Historical Society was offered the use of the vintage wrecker from Grey's Garage for the Marcus Fair Parade, I recalled the story of the truck's original owner. His grandson, Brian Nelson, whose family has preserved the truck, is one of the enthusiastic members of the society.      

Claude Grey, who was born near Sioux Rapids in 1899, was destined to grow up with the budding auto industry. He once said he'd seen all he wanted of horses as a young farm lad so, by the age of 18, he had bought his first car -- a second-hand 1914 Model-T. He loved tinkering with these new-fangled vehicles and soon realized this was the way he wanted to make his living..

The industry was setting up training centers for mechanics around the U.S. The two closest were in Detroit and Kansas City. In 1921, right after harvest, he set out to drive to Detroit, but it was one of those "bad" Iowa winters. He was snowbound in eastern Iowa and had to postpone his dream. The following year he headed, instead, to Kansas City. Arriving there after a three-day drive, Claude enrolled in the eighteen-month course that launched his career.

He was employed for a time in a garage in his home town where a man named Joe Martinson was shop foreman, but this wasn't quite what young Grey had in mind. He wanted to "see the world." Convinced that he could get a job anywhere with his newly-acquired skills, he was determined to do just that until fate intervened. 

In 1928 he lost an eye in an industrial accident. Many years later, he told us that people back then weren't very understanding about such matters. Convinced that no one was going to hire a stranger with one eye, he decided he'd better give up and go where he knew someone. That happened to be Marcus where his friend, Martinson, had purchased the Chevrolet garage several years earlier. Though it seemed a cruel fate at the time, it now seems more like destiny. It was not long until Martinson retired and sold the garage to Claude. About the same time, he met and courted Marcus native, Clara Jobst.They were married in 1932 and, in time, adopted Clara's niece, Nancy Ziegler (now Nelson). Their little family was complete.

Grey's Garage became a fixture on Main Street. Excellent service was as dependable there as the sun's rising. The garage owner went out of his way to accommodate his customers.One time, while reminiscing of the days when businesses stayed open on Saturday nights for the farmers' convenience, Claude said, "Every once in awhile a fellow would come in at 5 or 6 wanting an overhaul job. I'd do it, too, just to oblige him even if I had to work 'til 2 AM." 

It is refreshing to think of those days, when pride in a job well done was of nearly as much value as the money earned. Claude Grey epitomized that standard.

He passed from this earth in 1980 at the age of 81, having worked at the craft he loved until shortly before his death. This shy, quiet man of inherent wisdom and integrity enjoyed what he did and took pride in doing it well. We are grateful for his example and happy to do our part in preserving his memory.