Betty Clay Recalls Her Career at Central Supply Company and Graniterock

Posted by Rose Ann Woolpert on Mar 18, 2015

Betty Clay shared her memories with Rose Ann Woolpert in April, 2012.

In the early 1920s, the Gross family migrated west from Missouri to the state of Washington. Betty was born there in 1928, but her parents soon moved on to settle in California.  Betty was a student for awhile in a one room school house in Pleasant Valley, but when her dad found work farming with Elwood Mann, the family moved to Brown’s Valley, near Corralitos. At the time, Betty recalls, farming was still being done with horse and wagon teams and spreading rigs in the fields.

While a student at Watsonville High Betty landed her first office job. Mr. Stromberg, the high school business teacher, recommended her for a position at Camp McQuaide, which had been turned into a disciplinary barracks after the World War II. The Red Cross was looking for a student to help in its office, and Betty remembers how nervous she was just starting out. One day she was flustered and answered the phone, “Red Gross, Miss Cross speaking.”

After a year of business studies at Salinas Junior College, Betty married Ralph Clay and started work with the Bank of America as secretary to the manager. Five years later, Betty and Ralph were both injured in an auto accident so serious that it was a year and a half before had they recovered. By then they were anxious to start a family, but after their children Janet and Stephen were born their many medical bills had wiped out their savings. Betty started to look for work, and a Granite Construction manager who had known her boss at the bank sent her over to meet Jerry Hansen at Graniterock’s building materials company, then known as Central Supply. According to Betty, “Jerry said, ‘Well, I’m interested, but I don’t want you to come to work for just a year to buy a new couch or something, I want you to think about staying for awhile.’ I said, well, I really plan on doing that.” She stayed for thirty-three years.

Betty was hired to work for Central Supply Company in March of 1959. She recalled working with Florence Spiegle, the Central Supply Office head bookkeeper in the original old building on Walker Street. “Florence oversaw the girls under Jerry Hansen. She was very good, and in those days you had to balance to the penny. My job was concrete and building materials inventory and control. Central Supply’s books were kept separate from Granite Rock Company books, which complicated the bookkeeping because charges would come in that were partly charged to Granite Rock and partly to Central Supply. We would have to split all those invoices up.”

Betty was the youngest of the group, joining a team already in place. “It was hard to be a working woman at that time. Most of us worked because we needed to, and with so few of us in the department, we all worked together. There wasn’t much turnover in those days and we raised our families together. We became very close friends and it was a fun place to work. Mabel Popek was the jokster, she kept us laughing all the time. Emily Jennings’ desk was right behind mine. Vi Gardiner, Jean Vjeda and Eileen Estes were also there.”

“We were all in one big upstairs office. Central Supply was in the biggest area, and Granite Rock Company was in a little office behind. In those days we had to do everything manually. We had an index file, and everything that came in on building materials had to be logged on cards and their cost manually computed. Every purchase had to be logged on quantity and cost, and when inventory was taken we could cost them out on those cards. We had file cabinets with little slots – they were all arranged by type of material.

Rock and sand purchases all had to be recorded in ledgers. Granite Rock Company had two accounting employees who kept track of aggregate sales and the sand plant, but there were ten or twelve in the Central Supply office. The rock company sold its materials to Central Supply, who in turn sold these materials to our customers. Bob Rettick was in charge of building materials, and after him Harold Beatty, and I worked very closely with all the branch managers. When I started, Art Dresser was manager of the Seaside Branch, which in those days also carried lumber. Later we started lumber sales in Salinas, but it never took off. Sally Wasson was the manager of Salinas, Les Biersch was at Watsonville and Austin Zelmer was credit manager.

Betty recalls the work involved when Graniterock was formed from the merger of Granite Rock Company and Central Supply, and also the work to switch to computerized accounting. “Everything had to be entered, new commodity codes set up and we had to work out new systems for the computer, but it was so helpful. Ike Osgood was the first Data Processing manager and he had a couple people helping him out. We gave our figures to the Data Processing people who would then enter then into the computer.”

Although Betty retired in 1992, Graniterock has remained a part of her life. Three generations of Betty’s family have worked for Graniterock, including  son-in-law Stan Petrik and grandson-in-law Don Brower, and she is still a part of our Graniterock family.

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