Family Ties That Bind

Posted by Graniterock on Mar 18, 2015

This interview with Graniterock Transportation Division Operations Manager Denny Mahler was published by the Hollister Free Lance in 2001.

Family Ties That Bind, by Linda Lee King

In 1972, Denny Mahler followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, father and two older brothers and went to work at the Wilson Quarry in Aromas. Since the 1930s, when his maternal grandfather, Charlie Herzog, left the Oklahoma “dust bowl” searching for work and found it at Graniterock’s quarry, family members have always worked there. In 1945, Charlie’s daughter and her husband packed up their belongings and three grandsons and left west Texas to join Charlie in Aromas. Denny’s dad, Jake Mahler, found a job with the quarry immediately. “Graniterock provided my dad with the opportunity to feed his family during some hard times”, Mahler said.

Like his grandfather, Mahler’s father began his career as a laborer. However, the company offered him the opportunity to train to become an operating engineer. “My dad got to where he could actually run the whole plant,” he said. In those days, if you were a good employee, you received an opportunity to live in company housing – something special in the 1940s; because of the war, decent housing was hard to find. Mahler spent the first year of his life living at the Graniterock quarry. In 1952, Jake Mahler was able to buy a home for his family in Aromas.

When Mahler was a child, his father would take him to work with him. “They allowed things like that back then”, he said. Mahler can remember his parents talking about how well the quarry paid its employees. “As a kid entering the job market fresh out of high school, that was my ultimate goal, to work for Graniterock”, he said. During the early 1970s, Denny Mahler, his dad and two brothers all worked for the Company. “But we rarely say each other because we all had different jobs and sometimes different shifts”, he said. “The quarry’s a big place.” Mahler’s father, Jake, worked in plant operations. His oldest brother, Paul, worked as an electrician and his brother Von had a job as a machinist while Denny was a truck driver.

He joined the Company in 1972, but in 1985 he started his own trucking company. “It was something I wanted to try,” he said. Mahler bought his own semi-tractor and got a contract to pull a set of the Company’s trailers. The relationship continued for fourteen years, and then Mahler decided it was time for a change and a time to grow. “I wanted to pursue a different aspect in the transportation industry,” he said. He talked with the Company and they offered him a job in management training. “It was an opportunity to grow,” he said.

Over the years, Mahler said technology has made an impact on the quarry’s operations. “While it’s still hard work and you can still sometimes go home dirty, computers have given us a lot more control over the operations,” he said, “and with automation, a lot of the jobs have opened up for women. Today, women make up a significant portion of the quarry’s workforce.”

But the sense of community that develops between quarry employees has not changed since Mahler’s grandfather started there in the 1930s. “I can’t remember exactly what or turnover rate is at the Wilson Quarry,” Mahler said. “But it’s very low.” His father would wake up in the morning looking forward to going to work because he loved his job and the men he worked with. “My father used to come home from work, and you knew he believed he was needed,” Mahler said. “Graniterock really focuses on making you feel like you’re needed and you’re a valuable member of the team.” On many nights, his father would come home and share the day’s events with the family.

Mahler said they were fun to listen to, “like big Tonka toys to us.” Most people look forward to vacation, but for Jake, working at the quarry was such a big part of his life that we would actually be excited about getting back. “He wanted to be with the guys; that’s how much he loved it.” Mahler said. His mother understood the camaraderie and thought the Company was wonderful. “My mother has always had a high regard for Graniterock,” he said. “She was very supportive even though she never worked there.  It was home to her father, husband and three sons.”

Graniterock is also where Mahler met his wife Debbie. They now have two sons and two daughters. “It’s a family-owned business and the Company’s philosophy places a strong emphasis on the importance of family,” Mahler said. “The family comes first and then your job. They encourage the family being together.”

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