December 7th, 2009

chicks-Steve-Anne-PatrickPatrick, Stephen and Anne with new baby chicks (1956)

Wolf Road in Cupertino was and is a major thoroughfare in Santa Clara County. In those days it was a gravel road that ran through the countryside where mailboxes marked small plots of family farms. Lester Floyd Grube was born at home there on April 14, 1923, the third child of Nina May Secor  and Arthur Meigs Grube. Richard was the eldest and Rosemary the beloved daughter. This is where the story starts.

Arthur was a carpenter, like his father, and like his father he was a hard worker. Nina, a schoolteacher, stayed at home to care for the family. They had a vegetable garden and a small flock of chickens. A few extra eggs were sold to friends at church and then to markets in the town nearby. They added a few more chickens and then Arthur built a chicken house. Slowly there was more work to sort and deliver the eggs. More work than Nina and the children could handle so Arthur cut back on his other jobs committing to fewer and fewer until the egg business became a full time endeavor. One evening when some friends were over he said he needed a name and after some beers and some laughs he chose the name Kackleberries. Markets near by were asking for more eggs and the neighbors wanted him to sell their eggs as well. On their small plot there was no building large enough to handle the necessary work. Every available nook in the house was used as they all took part in the sorting of baskets and buckets of eggs into bags and boxes.

Nina and Arthur decided to take a chance. They bought a house in San Jose that had a cellar and a large single wall garage in back. They gave up raising chickens and sold their country place. They concentrated on distributing eggs. That is how a flock of chickens grew into a flourishing business. Of course there is more to the story but that is the main point of it.

Lester’s passions in high school were playing drums in the school band and the orchestra and dreaming of horses.  Arthur wanted him to have a business education so he sent him to the University in Berkeley. Being war time he enrolled in the Reserves in order to continue his education, but in his Sophomore year the Reserves were called up and he was sent to San Diego, then Santa Maria and Bakersfield to train for the Army Air Corp. That was when I dropped out of school and we were married before he went to fly a B-24 over China. Sometime I will write a story about that.

When the war was over he enrolled in Cal Poly to learn the chicken business from the chick to the egg to the frying pan. Although he, Richard and Rosemary had inherited a very successful distribution business, he wanted to go back to the farm. He graduated the end of January and we bought a farm, 106 acres, with an all year spring halfway up the mostly unusable hillside. It was on Willow Springs Road just north of Morgan Hill. His chicken dream came true with many hundreds of chickens employing the most up to date methods witch included candling the eggs at the farm then rushing to the retail markets. The business included a large warehouse and office on Lenzen Avenue in San Jose.

As the business continued to grow, our family grew as well and this will be a future story. I’m trying to keep focused on the chickens. We bought a larger ranch on Narvais Road near San Jose. It was fewer acres but more usable space, enough space to move the distribution business from Lenzen Avenue to that location. Eggs came from farmers in the Central Valley and the coast north of Carmel. Days were busy with trucks coming and going; employees checking in and out. We also had a vegetable garden to tend, other animals to feed. We raised them for meat. We also had a goat to milk; we borrowed her because one baby was allergic to cows milk.  We enjoyed being close to the land and welcoming the new baby chicks.

Then one day we dreamed a new dream: to go to Africa and help to set up small chicken farms.  After selling the business and the farm, Lester signed a contract with Zambia as Provincial Poultry Officer in the Copper Belt. It was a great adventure for the whole family and that is, of course again, another story. This seems to be just an outline for at least a half a dozen stories that will come later.

This story about chickens is to tell you why my Christmas money this year is to buy chickens to send to a far away land in memory of Arthur and of Lester. This story and the chickens are my Christmas present to everyone.