Interesting Tale of Austin Zelmer's life at Graniterock - Part 1

Posted by Rose Ann Woolpert on Mar 18, 2015

The first of two installments of the story of Austin Zelmer, who worked for Graniterock for thirty- five years.

Austin Zelmer, 1934-1969 

In September, 1934, Austin Zelmer was hired to work as a bookkeeper for Central Supply Company. A.R. Wilson founded Central in 1922 as a building materials and sales operation managed completely separately from Granite Rock Company. The two businesses were finally merged and became Graniterock in 1973. Austin worked for Central Supply Company for thirty-five years before retiring in 1969 and moving with his wife, Sarah,  to Grass Valley, California.

In 1934, Austin Zelmer was thirty years old and worked as bookkeeper and office manager for Holmes Lime and Cement Company, which was located at 2 Market Street in San Francisco. Central Supply Company shared the office and warehouse space, and Austin got to know and like Central’s local manager, Jack Jansse, and salesman, Gus Anderson. The manager at Holmes was a man who spent little time at the office and would greet him with, “What’s the good word, if any?” when he arrived and,  “Hold the fort!” as he was leaving.  When Austin was offered a job as bookkeeper for Central Supply Company, he readily accepted.

Austin went to work in San Mateo, where Central Supply’s main office was then located. As bookkeeper, he worked at a solid oak desk, about seven feet long, divided in the center by a raised rack for pens and pencils. “There may have been high stools on which to sit, but it seems that with the Company’s journals and ledgers it was usually more convenient to stand than to sit.” On the other side of this desk was “a rather loud , although congenial Irishman,” the bookkeeper for San Mateo Feed and Fuel Company, with whom Central shared the office.  Austin soon became Office Manager, and recalled that “in the midst of the Great Depression money was extremely critical and Central Supply was struggling to break even.  I undertook to dole out small payments, a little each month, to those suppliers of the cement and other building materials we needed.”

Shortly thereafter, the San Mateo Branch was closed and Louis LeHane, who was then Central Supply Company’s General Manager, gave Austin the job of moving the office to the San Jose Branch location on Emory Street.

“It was quite an experience for me in logistics, arranging for new banking facilities in San Jose, notifying all customers of our changed location so they would be informed where to make payments, packing all files, equipment, furniture, fixtures, office machines, etc. in trucks on a Friday evening to be moved to San Jose and an office set up to begin operation on Monday morning. Central Supply was then a comparatively small operation, so there were not too many people to be hired.”

Then, in 1937, the main office was once again relocated, this time to 411 Walker Street in Watsonville, and the entire exercise was repeated.

“Our Branch Manager in Watsonville, Lester Biersch, helped me find some very fine people to hire. Florence Spiegle was in the chief accounting position, Delo Lechleiter was Accounts Payable bookkeeper and Ruth Johnson on Accounts Receivable. The Raymond twins, Nita and Rita, and Helen Webb and Hazel Kerr were also there, a remarkable combination of young ladies who were both skilled and loyal to the Company.  All accounting operations were done by hand both in journals and ledgers, with the exception of Accounts Receivable, done on a Burroughs Posting Machine. In general during this time we could produce a balance sheet and profit and loss statement within the first ten working days of each month. ”

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