This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is being recorded on September 26, 2000, as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral History Project. The interview is being recorded at the home of Ed Grayson at 3097 Mann Road, Blacklick, Ohio. My name is Dave Graham and I will be interviewing Mr. Ed Grayson, and now we’ll begin. We’ll begin with the
1930s, toward the end of the 30s. How was your family relationship, family background if you know the origins and the ancestors would be a good place to start.
Grayson: Well in the 30s my mother and father were happily married. They, my
mother came from Riga, Latvia, or Lithuania. I’m not sure which it was. But
she spoke of both of them. I guess she was back and forth. And then she came to
Cincinnati, Ohio, when she was 16 or 17.
Interviewer: What was her family name?
Grayson: Her family name was Schiff and the Schiffs eventually came to
Columbus and started the Shoe Corporation of America. It was called the Schiff
Company at that time. Her brother Robert started, he started he was selling
shoes and shoe laces and things like that out of a pushcart and it became the
second largest shoe retailer in the country and the fifth largest shoe
manufacturing company in the country over time. He didn’t do that all at once.
But . . . .
Grayson: he had his, he had two brothers and three nephews in the business
with him and most of us, my father worked for the company as well in Chicago
before we moved to Dayton. You talk about the 30s, in the 20s and the early 30s,
the family was in Chicago and moved to Dayton, Ohio. I don’t really know where
my father’s ancestry came from. He was born in the states. Funny situation.
His father, got to get into names . . . .
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Grayson: My father’s name was Greenberg. His father’s name was Kahn who,
when he came from, when my father’s father came from Europe, his name was
Kahn. He lived with a family in this country by the name of Greenberg so he took
the name of Greenberg. It was easier and still Jewish and so my name originally
was Greenberg. Skipping some time . . . .
Interviewer: During the war was it?
Grayson: Yeah, during the war.
Interviewer: That’s why I couldn’t find you as Grayson in . . . .
Grayson: During the war my name was Greenberg.
Interviewer: In the history book of the 87th Division, it’s
Grayson: After the war, I’ll just skip how it got to be Grayson. My brother
married a girl from Columbus, Ann Gumble, and worked for Shoe Corp, which was
the Schiff Company at that time. Was transferred to Cleveland to work at the
Higbee Department Store in the leased department of Shoe Corp there. And they
couldn’t get a place to live because his name was Greenberg.
Interviewer: Oh is that right?
Grayson: They could not . . . .
Interviewer: So there was anti-Semitism?
Interviewer: Where was this?
Grayson: It was in Cleveland.
Interviewer: In Cleveland?
Grayson: He could not, they could not get a place to live and they were
married maybe six months at that time and they couldn’t rent a place. He
changed his name to Grayson. Got a place to live just like that. Yeah, and
eventually, a year later I married my sister-in-law’s sister. My brother and I
Grayson: And so it was kind of inconvenient to have different names being
that close. So my wife and I changed our name to Grayson like my brother had
changed his name to Grayson. So that’s how the names got that way. So we went
from Kahn to Greenberg to Grayson, really.
Interviewer: Do you know how Kahn was spelled?
Grayson: I think K-A-H-N, but I’m not sure. I’m not sure if that was a
metamorphosis from something more or not.
Interviewer: And you don’t know what old country . . . .
Interviewer: he came from or when?
Grayson: No. I think somewhere in Germany but I’m not, I’m not positive
of that. My father died in the 30s, I think 1936 ’cause I was about to be Bar
Mitzvahed and I kind of rebelled after that and I didn’t, I guess it
affected me a little bit and I didn’t, I wouldn’t go through with the Bar
Interviewer: Is that right? Why, how did the Bar Mitzvah relate to his
Grayson: Well I was turning 13 and he died. He actually committed suicide.
And it was pretty traumatic at the time.
Interviewer: What was your family’s religious orientation? Did you keep a
Grayson: Well my mother kept a kosher household. My father was, came from, my
mother came from an Orthodox background. My father came from a Conservative
background. We kept a kosher home.
Interviewer: Attended Temple?
Grayson: Oh yeah, went to Temple and so on. And so my brother was Bar
Mitzvahed. My brother is five years older than I am.
Interviewer: What is his name?
Grayson: Howard. And when it came time for me, my father committed suicide
and it tore up the family a little bit and I just didn’t do it. But we’ve
all turned out to be normal since and everything is fine.
Interviewer: Devastating event.
Grayson: So now we’re in the mid-30s. My mother, after my father committed
suicide, we went back to Chicago which was where we were better situated I
guess, for lack of a better word, and my brother and sister went to University
of Michigan and when I was 16 or 17, I guess 17, my senior year in high school,
we moved to Columbus where my mother’s family, the Schiff family, was. And
that’s where my brother and I met our wives and . . . .
Interviewer: Where did you go to high school?
Grayson: I went to four different high schools.
Interviewer: Ohhhhhh. You got to know a lot of people in Columbus?
Grayson: Well no, not in Columbus. I only . . . .
Interviewer: Oh, oh.
Grayson: I only went to Bexley High School in Columbus my senior year.
Interviewer: Bexley in your senior year?
Grayson: Yeah. Right. Then I went to Ohio State and that’s when the war
Interviewer: While you were at Ohio State?
Grayson: Yeah. I was in the Class of ’45 at Ohio State so I started in ’41
and I remember sitting in the fraternity house when Roosevelt made his
announcement that the Japanese had committed a dastardly act and we all knew
then that we were going to be in a war and it was funny how it affected us. That
was December ’41. I started college in September of ’41 and Ohio State was
on the quarter system and we all registered for the draft and got ready to go
and I remember school didn’t mean too much. I went to three movies a day, didn’t
go to classes, flunked everything.
Interviewer: Now was this after the war started?
Grayson: Yeah after the war started.
Interviewer: What fraternity, by the way, was that?
Interviewer: Is that a Jewish affiliation?
Grayson: Yes. And my roommate and I, we went to three movies a day. I flunked
every course for two quarters prior to my entry into service which didn’t
happen ’til February of ’43. Then fortunately when I got back from the war
and went back to school, they let us cancel from our transcript all of the bad
grades we had prior to . . . .
Interviewer: Oh after the war?
Grayson: After the war, yeah.
Interviewer: So this didn’t hurt you?
Grayson: So it didn’t hurt a bit. So I graduated with about a three point.
Interviewer: What courses were you taking at the time of the war . . . .
Grayson: Well I had planned to become a CPA and was taking, I was in Business
and taking a lot of Accounting courses. But after the war decided that that
would take a little too long ’cause you had to apprentice for some time and so
on after you got your degree. My original plan was to get a master’s in
Accounting and then go into Accounting. But after the war I wanted to get
married and so just majored in Business. Got a bachelor’s degree in Marketing.
And went to work for Shoe Corporation upon graduation.
Interviewer: Or jumped ahead? You tied in your college years, . . . .
Grayson: Yeah, right.
Interviewer: getting back into the groove of things?
Grayson: Okay. . . . want to get back into the war.
Interviewer: Pearl Harbor Day, you registered for the draft. You’re not too
interested in school at that time?
Grayson: That’s exactly right.
Interviewer: Okay. What happened then?
Grayson: And just kind of fooled around. We were all debating: should we
enlist or should we wait and be drafted and so on. I waited to be drafted and
fooled around and wasted some time really.
Interviewer: Do you remember any of the guys in your fraternity at the time
that we’re . . . .
Grayson: Almost all of them did the same thing. One or two might have
enlisted, I don’t know. But the fraternity went down to nothing during the
war. It just went off campus ’cause there wasn’t anybody here. But got
drafted, oh, an interesting thing, at Ohio State at the time, it was a land
grant school and we had to take R.O.T.C. And I was in the horse-drawn artillery
in the R.O.T.C. and had the choice of staying in school and coming out with a
commission or going in. And so I didn’t enlist. I figured I’d better get in
and not stay in school and waste that time. So because of the R.O.T.C. training
I had when I was drafted, I was put into the Field Artillery and sent to Camp
McCain, Mississippi in February of 1943. I remember we left here it was freezing
cold and we were in winter uniforms with overcoats on. We had a three and a half
day train ride down to Mississippi and in these hot uniforms and we got there,
it was 80 degrees and we had to march four miles from the train station to the
camp with our duffel bags on our back in overcoats and that was almost the
hardest part of the whole war, (laughs) ’cause we weren’t in shape for that.
The barracks at Camp McCain, the grass was growing up through the floor of the
barracks. They put it together in a real hurry there to take care of us and the
division was put together there. I think that’s where the whole division was
Interviewer: The 87th?
Grayson: The 87th Infantry Division, yeah. And a little incident,
I remember when we got there, before we were assigned to units, we were just in
the barracks and we played a little football and I remember I was a fairly good
football player and I blocked one guy and knocked him on his can and a little
later on they had the ball and he knocked me on my can and we became good
friends. We got separated though into different outfits and really didn’t
maintain the friendship but the respect was there from the athletics, and in my
outfit, crazy things happened. I was in the Army three weeks and we were having
a class in the Day Room on chemical warfare and the Battalion Commander came
into the Day Room and we all snapped to attention and he went up to one of the
guys and he says, “Who’s your Battalion Commander?” And he says,
“I don’t know sir”. And then to another guy, “Who’s your
Battalion Commander?” “I don’t know sir”. He came to me,
“Who’s your Battalion Commander?” And he had a nameplate tag on. I
said, “Colonel Lupskin sir”. He said, “Make that man a P.F.C.”.
Can you imagine anything like that? He was the most egotistical guy I ever saw
in my whole life. He was a West Pointer and eventually, I don’t know what
happened to him. He got transferred out someplace.
Interviewer: You got a promotion?
Grayson: I got promoted to a P.F.C. for knowing the Battalion Commander’s
name. To me that was the most ridiculous thing in the world even then when it
happened but it got me out of K.P. and a lot of things.
Interviewer: Uh huh. That’s interesting. How about your religion and your
orientation then? Was there any . . . .
Grayson: There was one other Jewish fellow in my battery. Walter Zevatowsky
was his name. We had a great Battery Commander, Captain Bodkin. He had been a
high school coach and math teacher and was a terrific guy and he was very
careful to make sure that the two of us who were Jewish were not treated badly
and were able to observe holidays when they occurred and so on. He was terrific.
Interviewer: Did they have on base a rabbi or did they have . . . .
Grayson: I don’t think I came in contact with any there. There might have
been but I don’t think I came in contact with any there. But this was near
Greenwood, Missis- sippi and there was maybe a few Jewish families and he saw to
it that on holidays we could go and be with the families.
Interviewer: Oh, oh with the local families?
Grayson: Yeah. Yeah.
Interviewer: Is that right?
Grayson: Yeah, he was terrific. And there was anti-Semitism in our outfit. It
didn’t manifest itself ’til later.
Interviewer: How did you know this? How did that come across to you?
Grayson: “You dirty Jew.”
Interviewer: They . . . . to your face?
Grayson: Yeah. And where it came from was surprising to me. We had a Mexican
guy, Kurasco was his name, in our outfit. And he was the one who was the
ringleader of this and I didn’t understand that at the time. It wasn’t
horrible and . . . .
Interviewer: Was he from Mexico or was he . . . . someplace where he . . . .
Grayson: I really don’t know. I didn’t pay too much attention to him. And
our First Sergeant it turned out was anti-Semitic and Zevatowsky eventually
became Tech 5 and worked under the First Sergeant in the office and he decked
him because the First Sergeant make some slurring remarks and Zevatowsky knocked
him on his can.
Interviewer: That’s an offense to be court martialed for that.
Grayson: That’s right. And nothing happened. The First Sergeant, because of
the Captain, the Captain was terrific.
Interviewer: Were you there when it happened?
Grayson: No, no. I was, from moving around the 105mm howitzer, I got a hernia
and after, during basic training, and I was in the hospital. Had an operation in
the Army hospital. Almost died from the operation, from the hernia.
Interviewer: How was that?
Grayson: The day that I was operated on, the sterilizing equipment I think
they call it an autoclave, didn’t work in the station hospital and there were
six of us who were operated on that day, one for gall bladder and five for
hernias, and we all got the same infection and they could not clear it up. I was
in the hospital six months with that infection. They, and my temperature early
on went up to 106 and stayed there and they called my family. So then my brother
who was a lieutenant at the time in the Army stationed at Fort Hayes, came down
and my mother came down. They thought I was going to die. But fortunately they,
I didn’t . . . .
Interviewer: How did they have any penicillin at that time?
Grayson: No penicillin. They had, the mycins were drugs of choice at that
time and fortunately they brought the fever down and I was all right. They
reopened the incision to get rid of the infection and closed the incision, to
clean it out and so on, and that didn’t work and they reopened it again and
they reopened it the third time and left it open and that’s why I was in the
hospital for so long, because I had an open incision. I’ve got a scar that is
unbelievable from that and little things happened that also caused an abscess
that manifested itself later after I was in combat and I’ll get to that later.
But at any rate I missed the maneuvers, I missed, I had applied for OCS and ASTP
and both of them came through while I was in the hospital but I couldn’t go so
I missed both of those opportunities.
Interviewer: ASTP is the Army Special Training program?
Grayson: That’s right. Yeah that was going back to college. And both of
them came through but I couldn’t take advantage of either of them ’cause I
was in the hospital. But I did get to miss maneuvers which I heard from the guys
was a real trial. At Christmas, just as I was healing very nicely, they gave me
a 30-day furlough to come back home around Christmas and I was to report to
rejoin the outfit that was now in Fort Jackson, South Carolina. But my incision
wasn’t completely healed, it was still partially open. They told me on my
30-day furlough to go to Fort Hayes and get the dressings changed and so on.
Crazy. But everything turned out fine and I rejoined my outfit after the 30-day
furlough and I went to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and I was there two days
and they, the guy who was the Staff Sergeant in charge of the detail section
which ran surveys and so on, went to OCS and they made me Chief of Detail two
days after I got out of the hospital. I didn’t know anything about what the
job was and the next day I was asked to run a survey to establish where the
target was so that we could direct artillery fire on that target and I had to
give the first orders directing the fire. Well I didn’t know from beans about
running the survey but this was the Army and the guy who knew got sent out.
Anyhow I was fortunate that I remembered my geometry from high school and in
trying to run a survey which I did not know how to do, I noticed that I was able
to see the target from two different points and there was a method called
“short-base triangulation” and I was able to pinpoint the target and
get the coordinates for it and so on. As a result, it was my high school
geometry, thank God.
Interviewer: How many guns were to fire on this? Was it . . . .
Grayson: one . . . .
Interviewer: One gun? One gun?
Grayson: This was a test. Yeah.
Grayson: And it wasn’t firing real shells. It was firing small shells just
for the exercise. ‘Cause they were conserving ammunition at that time. Anyhow,
I was scared to death ’cause the shell was going to go over my head and the
assembled people to the target.
Interviewer: Oh you were being observed?
Grayson: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I had to give the first order, the coordinates,
and so on and hopefully it would land somewhere near the target which it did,
thank God. And also Chief of Detail had to able to adjust artillery fire which I
had not been trained in at that point. I had been a gunner on the guns prior to
getting the hernia and going to the hospital, but I, when I came out, boom, I
was given this job and didn’t know, had no training whatsoever and I had to do
these things. Anyhow, I wasn’t able to adjust the artillery fire properly and
in the midst of the adjustment, the Colonel, the Battalion Commander, said,
“Captain Bodkin, take over so we don’t all get killed”. And he did
and everything turned out fine. Then I was given the Field Manuals and the books
and a little bit of instruction and shortly thereafter we went overseas and . .
Interviewer: And this was the 912th . . . .
Grayson: 912th Field Artillery.
Interviewer: You were in that when you entered the hospital and when you came
Grayson: Yeah, right, yeah. And we went overseas. I was seasick all the way
over and I found out who my real friends were because I laid in my hammock and
threw up in my helmet and my friends were the ones who would empty the helmet
Interviewer: Had you ever been on a ship before?
Grayson: Never had been on a ship before. Oh most of us were seasick . . . .
Interviewer: Was it bad weather?
Grayson: Yes it was pretty rolling and what really got me was we had
calisthenics up on the main deck every morning and we did what they called
“jumping jacks” and we’d jump up and the ship would go down and your
coming down would last a long time. And that unsettled . . . . everybody went to
the rail and there were several decks and the guys on top were throwing up on
the guys underneath.
Interviewer: What a sight.
Grayson: Oh that was a mess. But we got over there and everything was fine
and I remember we took a train, I don’t really remember where we landed in
England but we took a train, we got to Mackell’s Field, England, in the middle
of the night and because it was in the middle of the night they had us march at
attention to our billet so we’d be quiet. By the time we got to our billet,
two of the guys in the outfit had dates for the next day. (Laughs) We thought
that was pretty remarkable, marching at attention . . . .
Interviewer: Yeah you’re not supposed to speak.
Grayson: Anyhow we were in England and we trained there for a while and then
. . . .
Interviewer: Was there any of this buzz bomb activity . . . .
Grayson: Not then, no. Not where we were and I don’t think it had, well I
guess it had started. I don’t know, I really don’t recall but we were in no
danger where we were and . . . .
Interviewer: It was probably 1944 now, isn’t it?
Grayson: Yes, 1944. We didn’t see our first sight, we crossed the English
Channel in LSTs and . . . .
Interviewer: Which is a larger ship. You can have quite a few men on one.
Grayson: Oh yeah. There’s probably, I don’t know, a hundred of us. I
think our whole battery was on it. I don’t recall if, I don’t think our guns
were on it or our trucks but just men and we went up the Seine, when we crossed
the Channel we went up the Seine River and we were on these LSTs for four days.
We got, I got seasick crossing the English Channel also in the thing. That was
really rough and I don’t recall the name of the town where we got off the LST.
But at any rate we, our guns and our trucks were waiting for us there and we got
in them and we went to a bivouac area in France and it was a beautiful field and
we drove all our trucks and everything, guns on it, and it apparently had been
raining and they all sunk in to the hubcaps. We were two or three days digging
out of there and we were behind where we were supposed to be and the Battery
Commander caught a lot of hell from that. Our first action was I think at Metz,
I think that was in France, yeah. The, there was a pillbox on the Maginot Line
that the Germans had taken and we, our mission was we were shelling that
particular pillbox. We shelled that pillbox and had direct hit and direct hit
and direct hit for days and nothing happened and finally the infantry crawled up
under our artillery fire and threw grenades into the pillbox and that’s how it
Interviewer: The same pillbox?
Grayson: The same, of the Maginot Line.
Interviewer: Yeah. With 105mm . . . .
Grayson: Shells. They didn’t penetrate it, see.
Interviewer: No. You used special shells for that, didn’t you, I mean?
Grayson: I guess.
Interviewer: Get heavier, yeah.
Grayson: But it didn’t do it until the infantry crawled up under the
shellfire and threw grenades into the pillbox. That was our first action. From
there we just kind of didn’t do too much and I remember we were, I think while
we were in Metz, we were billeted in private homes and we, they had us take all
the doors off our trucks and so on so that we could get out in case of air raids
and so on and we took the doors off of the homes and made them back and put them
on our trucks so it wouldn’t be so cold and I think the American government
had to pay some reparations to the people whose homes we damaged but that was
just a little incident. From there we were sent down to I think the Saar Valley,
the southern part of . . . .
Interviewer: Yeah, the Saar River.
Grayson: And we were just supporting the infantry and moving behind them,
moving up every day as they would advance and we ran into some trouble. Oh I
should go back. I remember the first dead soldier that I saw. I was the Chief of
Detail Section and the Battalion Commander was showing the Battery Commander,
Captain Bodkin, the lay of the land and what our mission was going to be and so
on and we were walking through an area that we had already captured, that the
American troops had already captured, and we go around a hedge and there’s a
guy dead with a hole in his forehead as big as my fist and that was my first
introduction to real war. But we went on and learned what our mission was and so
on. I accompanied the Battery Commander on forward observation. First of all,
our forward observer was wounded right off the bat and the battery commander
then became the forward observer. That was Captain Bodkin.
Interviewer: What was your battery? Was it A, B?
Grayson: It was B Battery.
Interviewer: B Battery of the 912th?
Grayson: Yeah. Anyhow I accompanied them on one particular mission and there
were four of us, the Battery Commander, Johnson and Franklin, the jeep driver.
Johnson was a radio operator. And we were with the infantry as they moved up and
captain was directing artillery fire as we moved up. And we’d left our jeep
back somewhere in a field and when the day, when the dusk came and everything
quieted down, the captain said to Franklin, the jeep driver, “Go back and
get the jeep and bring it up to here so we’ll have it, we’ll know where it
is. We’ll be moving forward in the morning.” Franklin walked off in the
dusk and he was looking back at us and the captain says to me, he says,
“Greenberg, you better go with him. He doesn’t look too sure of
himself.” So Franklin and I went back and we found the jeep and we got in
the jeep and we start to bring up. By this time, it’s dark and were no lights
and we hear a tank. And we stopped the jeep and the tank stops. We don’t know
whether it’s ours or whether it’s theirs. We start up again and the tank
starts up again. And we stopped and it stops. And all of a sudden flares go up
and these two young guys scared to death and we decided we’re not going to
drive up tonight. We’re going to dig in and we’ll drive up in the morning,
which we did. We stayed there all night. We dug ourselves in and we tried to
sleep but we didn’t sleep and when morning came we were ready to go and we see
a mass of men coming toward us and we don’t know whether they’re ours or
theirs. We said to each other, “Do we fight or do we surrender?” and
we decided we’d fight. I had a carbine and a pistol, a 45 and I was real good
with hand grenades and he had an M1. And we kind of crouched behind our jeep and
fortunately, they were American soldiers and they were coming back off the line
and they were beat and they didn’t pay any attention to us whatsoever.
Grayson: So we got in the jeep and we went up to where we had left the
captain and we got there and the radio operator Johnson was dead, the captain
was lying there with both legs blown off. He had one leg at about the shin and
the other at the ankle and with shrapnel all through his upper legs.
Interviewer: What was his name again?
Interviewer: That was Bodkin?
Grayson: Yeah. And he, the medics had given him morphine and they put
tourniquets on him and they left a note on him so if anybody sees him, get him
to an aid station real quick. This I’ll never forget. We got to him and he’s
full of morphine but he’s able to talk and everything and he sits up and he
looks at his legs and he says, “You know Greenberg,” he says,
“that’s the surest cure I know for athlete’s foot”. He was quite a
Grayson: And so we got him into the jeep and we took him to an aid station.
Interviewer: You and your . . . .
Grayson: And Franklin, yeah. And Johnson was dead. What would have happened?
I would have been dead if Franklin hadn’t looked a little bit scared walking
off into the dusk all by himself at night to get the jeep.
Interviewer: Now is that because this was an artillery barrage or?
Grayson: No a mortar shell. The captain and Johnson had dug a hole and they
were in a foxhole and a mortar shell landed right in the hole that they were in.
Killed Johnson outright and fragments went right through his helmet and his head
and Bodkin got his legs blown off. We got him to an aid station. But I would
have been in that foxhole with Bodkin had Franklin not been a little bit timid.
Anyhow we got him to an aid station and at the aid station, there was one doctor
and one corpsman. The doctor was bleary-eyed. There were bodies laid out that
were dead, guys on stretchers waiting to be operated on by the doctor. The
doctor took one look at the captain and said, “Put him on the table. He’s
worse than anybody here,” and he tried to stop the bleeding, yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: Just . . . . provide some more details on that event of the loss
of Bodkin. This happened on the afternoon of December 15th which
would correspond to the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge was the next
morning, was December 16th.
Grayson: But this wasn’t at the Battle of the Bulge.
Interviewer: No even a day before, it probably was not a direct . . . .
Grayson: No this was still, I think we were still in the south when this
occurred and we were still pursuing the Germans into Germany. And we hadn’t
been transferred to the Battle of the Bulge yet or the boats.
Interviewer: Yeah. It was, there might have been a little softening up prior
to the Bulge ’cause the Bulge started the next day on the 16th. But
you weren’t in the . . . .
Grayson: No we weren’t in the Bulge at that . . . .
Interviewer: in the sector? Yeah.
Grayson: We were south. Anyhow we moved up, Franklin and I went back to the
battery and the battery moved up three days later to a position which Franklin
and I recognized. We said, “This is where we were when the captain and
Johnson were killed”.
Interviewer: You were back to the same position?
Grayson: Yeah the battery. We had been with the infantry up, you know, three
or four miles ahead of the gun positions.
Interviewer: When Bodkin was hit?
Grayson: When Bodkin was hit, yeah. And now the gun positions three days
later moved up to where that was, to where Bodkin was hit.
Interviewer: So was he a forward observer at the time?
Grayson: Yeah, yeah, he was a forward observer.
Interviewer: Oh boy.
Grayson: And we went up and said, “This is the hill we were at,”
and Johnson’s body was still there in a body bag, tagged, but hadn’t been
picked up yet. And we didn’t, Franklin and I saw it. We didn’t tell anybody
back in the battery. We told the officers but they said, “Okay,” they’ll
notify the Quartermaster Corps.
Interviewer: Had you known Johnson as . . . .
Grayson: Yeah. So, but that was a strange thing. Three days later he was
still on the field.
Interviewer: Yeah. Graves Registration should have . . . .
Grayson: Well he was bagged and he was tagged and everything but they hadn’t
picked him up.
Interviewer: Just to touch back on Bodkin, did he recover from his wounds?
Grayson: No he did not. He got, we were notified a few days later that he
died from his wounds, that they couldn’t, he just bled to death. They couldn’t
stop the bleeding. He had so many wounds in his legs that they couldn’t stop
the bleeding and he bled to death.
Interviewer: When you took him to the aid station?
Grayson: Yeah, yeah. Then we got orders to pull out and go to the Battle of
the Bulge and we were on the road I don’t know how many days and two or three
days driving up to Belgium. And we stopped at a little town, Louwar, France, on
the way and had Christmas dinner with five or six families that were left in
this little town. Everything was blown up in the town. The houses, there was
just nothing left and there were five families there and they shared what they
had. They had sugar beets. That’s all they had to eat. We fortunately had
turkey and everything. I mentioned earlier, let’s just talk about the food.
Our food was good. They got food to us all the time or we had K Rations or C
Rations and we always had plenty to eat. I never went hungry. And whenever they
could get a hot meal to us, they did and it was fine.
Interviewer: Now the family you were with with the sugar beets, did they get
some food or what?
Grayson: Well we shared our Christmas dinner with them.
Interviewer: Shared with them, huh?
Grayson: I’ll tell you a funny story. We got there and it was kind of dark.
They took us in and they couldn’t have been nicer and we slept in a room in
their house. There might have been 11 of us on the floor and their grandfather
was on a cot in the corner. Middle of the night I had diarrhea and I woke up the
grandfather and, “Where can I go?” . . . . didn’t know and I didn’t
know if they had indoor plumbing or not. And he tries to give me directions in
French and I don’t understand and I can’t hold it and I go to where I think
he tells me to go and where do I wind up? At their sugar beet storage area and I
let fly all over the sugar beets. And . . . . And I remembered seeing a pump out
front and I went out front and I pumped the water and it was cold as hell and I
cleaned myself up and I went back to bed. The next day we shared Christmas
dinner with them and all they’ve got is sugar beets and . . . . I didn’t say
a word to anybody and I don’t know which sugar beets they served us but that’s
one of the little funnier asides.
Interviewer: Oh my gosh, even in the midst of war.
Grayson: Yeah, that’s right.
Interviewer: Can’t help it. There’s a breaking point here anyway. This is
the end of the Side A of the tape and we’ll turn it over now. Now this is Side
B of Tape No. 1 of our interview with Ed Grayson. So we’ll continue then. We
have had Christmas dinner on your way to a new location.
Grayson: Right. And we left I guess the next day after Christmas. Oh and I’ll
never forget that day. If you recall the weather was bad and the Air Force
couldn’t work during the early days of the Battle of the Bulge and Christmas
day the weather broke and the Allies flew 3,000 sorties that day, Christmas day
I think it was and we were on the ground saying, “Go get ’em, go get ’em,”
watching those planes . . . .
Interviewer: You could see them?
Grayson: Yeah. It was just wave after wave after wave. It was just wonderful.
And we got in our trucks then and we went to Belgium and I remember we were in
Pironpre, Belgium, and by this time I was the forward observer ’cause we didn’t
have anybody left.
Interviewer: Pironpre, P-I-R-O-N-P-R-E, Belgium?
Grayson: Yep, right. We had . . . .
Interviewer: What was your rank at the time?
Grayson: Staff sergeant.
Interviewer: You were Staff Sergeant Greenberg?
Grayson: Right. And little incidents. It was cold, the weather was miserable
and we bivouacked near a little lake and there was a swan frozen in the middle
of the lake.
Interviewer: Still alive or . . . .
Grayson: I don’t know if he was alive or dead but he was there and his head
was up and everything. But there was ice and he was there. We hadn’t had baths
for some time. We were in woods near the lake and took our blankets and pinned
them together and put them all around a bunch of trees to make a shelter and
broke the ice, got water, built a fire, and heated the water and we all stripped
and gave each other baths. Speaking of baths, one other time, tell you what it
was like. I think when we were down south we hadn’t been able to bathe for some
time. They brought a Quartermaster truck with a shower. You know they had 10
shower heads and we went in, we were stripped, gave them your clothes. You’ve
got 10 seconds to get wet, 10 seconds to soap and 10 seconds to rinse off. That’s
all the water they had. And you went out and they gave you new clothes and it
was the greatest shower I ever had in my whole life.
Interviewer: Ah hah. But getting clean was a major accomplishment?
Interviewer: And satisfaction?
Grayson: Right. Well those are just two incidents on getting clean. Anyhow
then we got introduced to the Battle of the Bulge. And I was a forward observer
and . . . .
Interviewer: How did you get to be a forward observer?
Grayson: ‘Cause there was nobody else left. The officers were, officer
ranks of forward observers were depleted from wounds and death and so on and . .
Interviewer: Was it voluntary yet, still, I mean they didn’t . . . .
Interviewer: who wants to be . . . .
Grayson: No, no, you’re . . . .
Interviewer: Someone ordered you to be . . . .
Grayson: Yeah and well that was the logical progression. The chief of detail
worked with the forward observers and so . . . .
Interviewer: Oh I see. But your position led you to that then.
Grayson: Right. And they said I would get a battlefield commission as a
result but the first day I was the forward observer I got wounded.
Interviewer: Well I’m looking at the book here and you know your name is on
Interviewer: Got my attention.
Interviewer: On January 4 there was a counterattack . . . .
Interviewer: And it’s, “The command post was shelled. Later in the
evening the battalion received a report that Staff Sergeant Greenberg had been
wounded near Pironpre, Belgium, while serving as a forward observer.” What
do you recall about that? That’s 1700, that’s about five, well I don’t
know if that’s when you were hit. There was shelling. It would be darkening
then. What was . . . .
Grayson: What happened that day, our mission was we were going to lay down a
barrage for 15 minutes and then the infantry was going to, and we were going to
stop. This was a very precise operation. The infantry was going to, the minute
the artillery barrage stopped, the infantry was going to move out and go forward
and only go so far and we were then to call for fire right at the coordinates
where the infantry had stopped so that, to blast out anything that was in their
way and we were going to do this for five minutes and then the infantry was
going to jump again and it was a leapfrog operation. That’s the way it was
planned. Our barrage stopped and the infantry got up to go and they were met by
pointblank fire from 88s that were in the woods with just the nose of their guns
sticking out of the woods.
Interviewer: Could you see any of this firing activity?
Grayson: Well when, yes, I was there and I was there to observe the, our
shells dropping and when the infantry got stopped immediately, the minute they
got up to go I was right there with the infantry. They were stopped immediately
because we didn’t know this but there were I don’t know how many 88s were in
the woods that we were going to go through and just the nose of their barrels
were sticking out and all of a sudden, boom, and all hell broke loose.
Interviewer: Now these were artillery pieces, not tanks or . . . .
Grayson: No. These were tanks with 88s on, mounted on.
Interviewer: Now that has a special sound and trajectory . . . .
Grayson: That’s right.
Interviewer: that most soldiers learn very quickly and high velocity.
Grayson: And how.
Interviewer: So you knew that they were 88s?
Grayson: Yes. And so our mission changed immediately and I tried to bring
artillery fire onto the tanks but we got tree bursts. We could not get direct
hits on the tanks because they were in the woods and it would hit trees and it
would burst before. And then I tried to walk the artillery fire up from, I don’t
know what direction it was now, I don’t remember, to try and sneak it in
between our troops and the woods but couldn’t quite get it to do it.
Interviewer: And I take it there was no tank support for the infantry?
Grayson: We had no tank support at that time.
Interviewer: So you guys were, your artillery was the only hope they had?
Grayson: Right. And we also had to cross a stream to get to the woods and my
post where I was observing from was behind a circus wagon right next to the road
where there was a bridge where you could cross the stream. And I made a foolish
mistake. I got out from behind my circus wagon and crossed the bridge and stood
there with my glasses to see what was holding us up. And there was a machine gun
nest over on one side and I luckily got back in time but they spotted where the
artillery was being directed from and mortar shells started to come in. And
early in the day I got a little piece of shrapnel in the face here. Didn’t
know, I thought it was a bite of something. I don’t know, it didn’t feel
like much. And about 2:00 in the afternoon we were pinned down there by those
88s and the mortar shells were just coming in and coming in and we were pinned
down solid. And I guess I got wounded about 2:30 in the afternoon and I hadn’t
moved from that spot and there were four of us behind that circus wagon and
there was a steep hill behind us. And when the shells finally started coming in,
they would land on the hill behind us and the shrapnel would come at us. They
didn’t drop right in behind the wagon because of the hill. Anyhow all four of
us were hit and we were, none of us really seriously. Mine was in the leg. I
couldn’t figure out what had happened. I got knocked, I remember I got blown
off my feet when I got hit and I couldn’t understand. I had blood on my pants
but there was no hole here and I couldn’t figure out how that occurred. It had
gone in the back of my leg and come out through the front. But it was spent so
that it couldn’t penetrate the fabric. And I was, I had a little bit there and
the heel of my shoe was knocked off and so on. But . . . .
Interviewer: Was this from an 88 or the mortars?
Grayson: This was mortars. The 88s didn’t, they, I don’t know why they
didn’t shoot an 88 at the circus wagon but . . . .
Interviewer: They had a better angle on those mortars?
Interviewer: So they must have been fairly close to you?
Grayson: Oh yeah. They weren’t, we weren’t more than 200 yards away from
any of this.
Interviewer: You were close mixed up with those Germans?
Grayson: Yeah. So they kept dropping the mortars and one guy kept getting hit
and he finally said, and I don’t know, he was an infantry man. Ronnie Diver,
my radio operator and I were the only ones down there and the other two guys
were infantrymen. And . . . .
Interviewer: Were you dug in? Did you dig a foxhole?
Interviewer: So you were just taking cover around this wagon?
Grayson: We were behind the wagon, that’s all.
Interviewer: Wow, not much cover?
Grayson: No, no. ‘Cause we were going to have to be moving. And anyhow,
this one guy kept getting hit and he says, ” I got to get out of here or I’m
going to bleed to death.” And so he went up the hill. He crawled up this,
it was snowy, there was snow, I don’t know maybe two feet of snow there. And
he made it and so then we decided we’d go up one at a time and go up the hill.
And by this time my leg was pretty stiff and so I of course put sulfa on it and
bandaged it and all the things that we were supposed to do. And when I went up I
got shot. Very luckily I was pulling my leg, I was dragging my leg and I was
pulling myself up the hill and a bullet went between my body and my arm and
grazed my arm and burned the arm and I got a big swell all over. It didn’t
penetrate but it went between, it had to have gone between the body and the arm
to graze the arm.
Interviewer: You mean it didn’t penetrate your body?
Grayson: Didn’t penetrate my body, didn’t penetrate the arm. It went
between my body and my arm and grazed the arm. But it burned it.
Interviewer: Well it must have torn a hole in your jacket?
Grayson: Yes it did.
Interviewer: Your sleeve?
Grayson: Yes. And I got up to the top of the hill, fortunately without any
further incident and had jumped in a foxhole and who’s there but the
lieutenant, one of the lieutenants from the infantry company that we were
supporting, from the 347th Infantry I think.
Interviewer: 347th Regiment, huh? He should have been out ahead of
Grayson: Well you couldn’t have been any further out and lived. Anyhow I
jumped in the hole and the two of us in a very tight hole and he said,
“This isn’t done in the best of societies,” he says, “but I got
to take a leak,” and he says, “I ain’t getting out of this
hole,” and a little incident. And I said, “Go right ahead”.
Interviewer: In the midst of combat, huh?
Grayson: Yes. We had a radio and he said, “I’ll get some stretcher
bearers up here for you”. And four guys came with a stretcher and they
carried me back to an aid station and what a small world. I mentioned what
fraternity I was, ZBT. We were talking to the guys who were carrying me back and
one of them had pledged ZBT at Ohio State after I left. Small, small . . . .
Interviewer: Another Buckeye there?
Grayson: Another Buckeye. Small world.
Interviewer: On the battlefield with you?
Grayson: Small world. I gave one of the guys my pistol. Everybody wanted to
have a, my sidearm was a 45.
Grayson: And I had a carbine also but I didn’t have the carbine with me. I
just had my 45. And all four of the guys wanted my 45 so I gave it to the guy
who was the ZBT.
Interviewer: ZBT buddy?
Grayson: And I went, they carried me back to an aid station and they dressed
my wounds and I went to a field hospital and the field hospital was somewhere in
France. I don’t know where, or it might have even been in Belgium. But it was
a big, big building and I laid on a stretcher for three days there while they
took care of the guys who really needed to be taken care of.
Interviewer: Well yeah. There had been so much fighting during this Battle of
the Bulge. You were wounded on the fifth of January. There was heavy firing
throughout the first two weeks of January.
Grayson: Yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: Yeah. So you would have seen quite a few . . . .
Grayson: They were laying all over this big building and they had a few beds
and so on. But most of us were laying on stretchers. And they finally took me
into an operating room to take care of my leg and there were like I think four
or five tables with doctors and nurses around them, operating on people. And
while I was on the table, a general came in and he gave medals, I don’t know
what they were, to doctors and nurses who were operating there, who had
parachuted into Bastogne to help the guys in Bastogne. Can you imagine?
Interviewer: So you were near Bastogne?
Grayson: Well it wasn’t far.
Grayson: It, these doctors and nurses had gotten out of Bastogne and were now
operating in this field hospital.
Interviewer: Well in fact some came in by glider.
Interviewer: Might have been those.
Grayson: I don’t know if they came in by glider or parachute but I thought
at the time that they’d parachuted in.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Grayson: And they didn’t even stop their operation. The general just pinned
medals on them and that was, that was it.
Interviewer: While they were operating?
Grayson: While they were operating. And . . . .
Interviewer: I wonder what general that was?
Grayson: I don’t know.
Interviewer: Could it have been Patton?
Grayson: No ’cause I had seen Patton and it wasn’t Patton.
Interviewer: Oh when had you seen Patton?
Grayson: We were on the road going somewhere and he went by in his jeep and
he had his pearl-handled pistols and he had a major general manning the machine
gun on the back of his jeep.
Interviewer: Oh yeah? So this was up near combat, near the front?
Grayson: Oh yeah, but he was around.
Interviewer: Maybe that was during the Bulge or?
Grayson: I don’t, I don’t re—, no, this was I think while we were down
in southern Germany there. Or along the way, I don’t know.
Interviewer: Oh you mean in France?
Grayson: In southern, well we were in southern France and then went into
Interviewer: Uh huh. So you got to see Patton?
Grayson: I got to see Patton.
Interviewer: So you know it wasn’t Patton that came in? It was somebody
else . . . .
Grayson: And while I’m on the operating table and they’re working on my
leg, they just gave me a local ’cause it really wasn’t serious. All they had
to do was clean out the debris that was in there. And the nurse who was at my
head says, “What’s this?” And I said, “I don’t know, what are
you talking about?” She pulled a piece of shrapnel out of my face here that
I had been wounded in the morning and didn’t realize what it was.
Interviewer: Didn’t know it?
Grayson: Then I got on a hospital ship and went to England, to Birmingham,
England, to a general hospital there. And strange, I mentioned R.O.T.C. before.
One of the guys I was in R.O.T.C. with, Founds was his name, Lieutenant Founds,
he stayed and went through Advanced R.O.T.C. and got his commission. He wound up
in my division in, as an artillery officer. He was wounded on the same day that
I was in a battle similar and close by. We wound up in beds next to each other
on the hospital ship going back to England.
Interviewer: Is that right?
Grayson: Yes. So I had proof. He wasn’t in my outfit and I don’t recall
what outfit he was in . . . .
Interviewer: Some artillery . . . .
Grayson: but he was the 87th Division. He had been sent over as a
replacement after he got his commission two years later and we were wounded on
the same day and wound up on a hospital ship going to England.
Interviewer: So your wounds were severe enough that you couldn’t be sort of
patched up, put a bandage on and go back?
Grayson: No, no, no. I went, they sent me to a hospital in England, in
Birmingham, England, and they reoperated on it. They just did, in the station,
in the field hospital, they just did what’s called a debridement. They just
cleaned it out. When I got to the hospital in England, they closed it up. They
cleaned it out and closed it up and I was there for four months.
Interviewer: You were quite familiar with hospitals . . . .
Grayson: Yeah I spent ten months in army hospitals. Going back to Camp
McCain, we had more people killed and wounded in training than we did in combat
in my outfit. We had an accident, I don’t know, I don’t think it was in my
battery but it was in our battalion. There was a class on bazooka and the
lieutenant dropped a live round and it exploded and killed three people and
wounded 21 in the class.
Interviewer: Were you there when that happened?
Grayson: No I wasn’t part of it but while I was in the hospital with my
hernia operation in Camp McCain, they had a night problem in which a truck
turned over and the howitzer it was pulling jackknifed up onto the guys in the
back of the truck and killed one and others were wounded. And the one that was
killed was brought into my ward while I was in the hospital where I, for my
hernia. And I remember he laid in bed for three days before he died like this
saluting. And . . . . .
Interviewer: Did he have a head wound or something?
Grayson: Yeah, yes. He was out. He was never conscious while he was in our
ward and by that time I had been in the hospital maybe three months and I knew
all the doctors and nurses and was ambulatory and so on but they wouldn’t let
me out. I watched his autopsy. They let me watch the autopsy on him.
Interviewer: Why in the world would they let you watch that?
Grayson: He was from my outfit and I was curious and I asked and they let me.
With, I wouldn’t want to watch another one. But at any rate, getting back to
the other hospital, when I was, I saw some things in the hospital in Birmingham,
England, that were unbelievable. They brought in tankers who had been trapped in
their tank when the tank caught on fire and they were burned completely over
their entire body. These guys were brought in the hospital, they were wrapped
like mummies to hold the body fluid in and they were in such pain that they just
cried and screamed all the time and they were in the ward for a few days and I
don’t know whether they died or whether they were transferred out or what. But
that was the most horrible thing I saw. I saw another guy who, from the
concussion of the shell, had all the meat on his leg blown off. The bones were
still there. From the ankle down everything was normal. From here to here there
was no meat but the bones were . . . .
Interviewer: On either side of his leg?
Grayson: On either side of his leg.
Interviewer: Surrounding it?
Grayson: Yeah there was no meat, just bones. Unbelievable.
Interviewer: You’d think they would amputate?
Grayson: Well I’m sure they must have but when I saw him, that’s what I
saw. Anyhow I recovered and I was ready to go back to duty and they gave me a
physical before I was ready to go back and, remember I told you I had an abscess
back here? They found the abscess and it was infected and this was from, way
back from my hernia operation. And they put me back in the hospital and operated
again and it came out I was in the hospital two more months. So I was in the
hospital four months altogether there but I would have been back to duty before
the war ended.
Interviewer: So you had been in combat with a medical condition . . . .
Grayson: Apparently, yeah.
Interviewer: that you didn’t know about?
Grayson: Right. And we, when I went back, I got a seven-day furlough and I
was ready to go back. I spent it in Birmingham and London and had a great time
in London and Hyde Park. It was terrific. While I was in Birmingham I saw
Winston Churchill. He was in a carriage as he went by so I saw Patton and
Churchill . . . . .
Interviewer: Wow. How about, let’s touch on something that we passed by
during here, some of the High Holydays. Did you have any chance during the . . .
Grayson: Yeah, yeah, when I was in Fort Jackson.
Interviewer: Oh not, no . . . .
Grayson: In Fort Jackson again, Captain Bodkin was there and he made sure
that whenever there was a holiday . . . .
Interviewer: In Fort Jackson. But once overseas you didn’t have . . . .
Grayson: Overseas, nothing.
Interviewer: Why do you suppose Bodkin had that orientation? Did he . . . .
Grayson: He was just a great guy. I don’t know. He was just a super guy.
And my name was Greenberg and the guy who was next alphabetically was a guy by
the name of Green. A real nice guy. And he wanted to learn about Judaism and he
came with Zevatowsky and I . . . .
Interviewer: Oh really?
Grayson: whenever he could when we went to services and so on. He was a great
guy. He was Catholic and he wanted to know, and terrific. We had the first
sergeant and the gunnery sergeant were two old Army men and in the States, every
night after dinner they would go across the street to the P.X. They’d each buy
a case of beer and they drank a case of beer apiece, I’m not exaggerating it,
and the next morning they were fine. It just didn’t bother them at all. But
one of them, Sergeant Seltz, he was the gunnery sergeant, we had a full field
inspection at Camp McCain. I’ll never forget, where you lay out all your
equipment and everything and it has to be just so and clean and folded right and
in the right position and so on. And he kept a complete set of everything for
full field inspections so that everything was perfect. He didn’t use, we used
our regular clothes and stuff for it . . . .
Interviewer: Oh, kind of cheating then wasn’t he?
Grayson: he, and his looked absolutely beautiful. And so beautiful that the
general who was doing the full field inspection said, “Look at this,”
and he picked up a shirt or something and a pint fell out of it and he got
busted right then and there.
But three weeks later he was a staff sergeant again because he was the guy
who was going to teach us how to handle the guns.
Interviewer: Did you see that happen?
Grayson: Yes I saw that one happen.
Interviewer: Oh brother.
Grayson: Sergeant Seltz. And he was something else.
Grayson: But these two guys were regular army and they were our cadre and
they were the ones who were teaching us. Okay now back to after my furlough . .
Interviewer: Four months again in the hospital?
Grayson: Yeah. I spent . . . .
Interviewer: Another operation?
Interviewer: Just goes on and on?
Grayson: Then I was to rejoin my outfit and I started through the replacement
training centers and got back on an LST, to cross the Channel again, and got
seasick again. I didn’t get seasick in the hospital ship because the beds in
the hospital ship were fixed so that you didn’t feel the motion. But on the
LST, I got seasick again going over . . . .
Interviewer: This is your third LST seasickness?
Grayson: Third seasickness, yeah.
Interviewer: Now this is May isn’t it? We’re approaching April . . . .
Grayson: This is May now. This is the end, this is, right, this is. It took
me six weeks. This was April.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Grayson: The war ended May 8th and I was in a forty and eight
boxcar when it ended. We were, I went from replacement training center to
replacement training center and they did it by truck or by boxcar most of the
time on the trains. And it took six weeks for me to get back . . . .
Interviewer: Of travel?
Grayson: Of travel.
Interviewer: From when you left the hospital?
Grayson: When I left the hospital and I was on one of the trains on May 8th
when the war was over and we got the word and boy we were just ecstatic. But I
was on my way back to my outfit. And a few days later I got back to my outfit
and was there for several days and they lifted censorship. Prior to that time,
any letters you wrote had to be, you know, read by an officer and censored so
you didn’t give away any information. And I got a letter from my brother
telling me where he was and we were 75 miles apart. So I went to my battery
commander who was now Captain Schleck and asked him for a three-day pass and a
jeep and he gave it to me. And I drove to where my brother was and I get there
and he was a captain and he was with the anti-aircraft outfit. But by this time
he was now a recreation officer ’cause the war was over and so on. And he was
playing baseball when I drove up. He was playing shortstop. And I drove up and
he waved me off the field. “Get off.” When the inning was over, he
came over and we shook hands. But I spent a day or two with him and it was
Interviewer: Yeah. But he was five years older than you?
Grayson: He was five years older.
Interviewer: He was serving in an anti-aircraft . . . .
Interviewer: You recall the number of that unit or?
Interviewer: Now is he still living or?
Grayson: Yeah he’s still living.
Interviewer: Does he live in Columbus or?
Grayson: No he lives in Boston. We both have condos in Florida and belong to
the same club in Florida so we . . . .
Interviewer: Whereabouts in Florida?
Grayson: Delray Beach.
Interviewer: Oh I see.
Grayson: So . . . .
Interviewer: So you do have contact with him?
Grayson: Oh yeah.
Interviewer: Did he ever come back to Columbus in his career?
Grayson: No, well yeah, after he got out of, when he went into service he
still considered Columbus his home.
Grayson: In fact he had been transferred back to Columbus from Cleveland by
the company, by the shoe company. But he left the Shoe Corp also and I didn’t
know that he had become so friendly with his wife-to-be who was my wife’s
sister . . . .
Interviewer: Oh yeah, that’s right.
Grayson: And I got back to the States. We were on our way, we came back real
quick ’cause we were supposed to go to Japanese Theater. And we were supposed
to, we got a 30-day furlough and we were supposed to reassemble someplace out on
the west coast. And I got a letter from him and he said, “Take out
Ann”. That’s his wife-to-be. “I’ll be home soon and we’re
engaged.” And I didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t even know he
had been going with her. But, so I did and . . . .
Interviewer: And their family name was?
Grayson: Gumble, G-U-M-B-L-E.
Interviewer: Was that here in Columbus?
Grayson: Yeah. They were a Columbus family.
Interviewer: Ann and . . . .
Grayson: Pat. And at their wedding, I actually had a girlfriend whom I was
pinned to in New York. But, and I invited her to my brother and sister-in-law’s
wedding. But at the wedding, because I was the best man and Pat was Maid of
Honor, we were thrown together a lot and we became very friendly and I realized
that I wasn’t in love with the gal I was pinned to after the war.
Interviewer: Did that girl come out from New York?
Grayson: Yeah she came first. But . . . .
Interviewer: Did she write to you while you were in the service?
Grayson: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I met her before we went overseas. We were at
Fort Dix Staging Area for . . . .
Interviewer: In New Jersey?
Grayson: for a week or two and she was a hostess at one of the clubs that we
danced at and, lovely girl. Her family made these things.
Grayson: Yeah. Swingline.
Interviewer: The brand name, huh?
Grayson: And I danced with her every night we were there and we corresponded
and . . . . and when the war was over in Japan, they, I didn’t have enough
points to get out. I was already back in the States and they told us to
reassemble somewhere, I think Fort Benning. And we did and they said,
“Where do you want to go ’til you can get out?” So I said,
“Fort Dix,” again. That was near New York where she lived. And they
sent me there and we reestablished contact. But they only left me there three
days and they sent me to Pine Camp, New York, as an M.P. At Pine Camp which was
a base big enough to hold three divisions, there were two battalions, an M.P.
battalion and an engineer battalion. The engineer battalion was building a
stockade to house a railroad battalion that had been using their ability to
transfer goods for black market purposes. They were selling half the stuff they
were transporting and everybody in that battalion from the colonel on down was
court-martialed and they were going to be put in the stockade at Pine Camp, New
Interviewer: Is that right?
Grayson: Yeah and I was an M.P. at that point. But the stockade wasn’t
built and they didn’t get there. But that’s where I was until I got
Interviewer: That’s an interesting story because the Army had its own
railroads and . . . engineers and conductors and all that and of course they
would have access . . . . to goods and, court-martialing a whole . . . .
Grayson: The whole battalion was involved in this black market.
Interviewer: Did you ever see those guys when they arrived?
Grayson: I never saw them. I got out before they arrived. I don’t know if I
ought to mention crazy things that happened. While we were in training in the
States, we were sent to Fort McClelland to fire over the infantry on their
infantry’s last day of training. They had to run under live artillery fire.
And we spent a month at Fort McClelland. Our guns were dug in and we didn’t
move them and every day a new class would graduate and we’d fire the same
problem every day in the same places and they would have to advance under live
artillery fire so they would be used to it in combat. Well I was like a forward
observer there and one of the shells that burst, a little fragment hit me right
here just, it was spent by the time it hit me, but it was this close to where I
got wounded later on in the war. That was, I’d felt something and I looked
down and there was a shell fragment. I picked it up and it was burning hot and I
burned my fingers and, just a little incident of the coincidences that happened.
You know I didn’t think anything about it at the time but later when I got
wounded, it was real close to where the wound was. I didn’t know if it was
prophetic or what but that’s what happened.
Interviewer: You had been hit before?
Grayson: Yeah. So that pretty much does it, I got discharged from Pine Camp,
New York. I had a 10% disability.
Interviewer: Now does that continue yet today?
Grayson: That continues today.
Interviewer: Ten percent of what though? What is that? Of some base pay that
they . . . .
Grayson: I guess. I get a check, $38 a month . . . .
Interviewer: Oh is that right?
Grayson: But they take out, I kept my insur— my . . . . G. I. Insurance, so
they take the premium out for that.
Interviewer: That must be one large policy now for that?
Grayson: It’s only $10,000. But it doesn’t . . . . No it doesn’t grow
but I get a dividend each year from the policy of about $280. So I get $38 a
month. It pays for my insurance policy and I get a dividend of about 280 bucks a
Interviewer: Fifty-five years later . . . .
Grayson: Yeah, still . . . .
Interviewer: Financial ties.
Grayson: Yeah, yeah to . . . .
Interviewer: Disability pension there. I’ll have to point out that because
I have my copy of the history book for your unit, it does mention you again
here, your name again where it says: “Bronze Star was issued to Staff
Sergeant Greenberg and Lieu- tenant Harris for heroic achievement were
received”. Now that’s interesting. Do you recall that? Was there a
ceremony . . . .
Interviewer: when they give that to you or how did that . . . .
Grayson: In fact I never received the medal. I got the Purple Heart. I have
that medal. But I never, I received the citation for the Bronze Star but I never
received the actual medal . . . .
Interviewer: YOU NEVER RECEIVED THE MEDAL?
Grayson: No. I didn’t receive . . . .
Interviewer: You had any, you had a copy of the citation? It’s usually a
printed thing that your . . . .
Grayson: I have it somewhere.
Interviewer: Oh okay. You do have it?
Grayson: I do have a copy of the citation.
Interviewer: Well while we’re at it, do you have any copies of yourself in
uniform during the war? That’s always an interesting . . .
Grayson: I don’t.
Interviewer: You’re probably in this, well I have to ask you, the unit got
together for photographs. Were you still with them when the photographs were
Grayson: Well I was with them, yeah, when the original photograph was taken.
Interviewer: Yeah. So we might look in there in a minute to see . . . .
Interviewer: You were B Battery?
Interviewer: Okay. Did you know a Lieutenant Robert Booth from B Battery, by
the way? It’s a name I’m familiar with. I’m just asking you if you know
that s—, just incidentally.
Grayson: Booth? In B Battery of the 912th?
Interviewer: Yeah. A name I had here. If you know that . . . .
Grayson: No I don’t . . . .
Interviewer: Just a, an issue that we might, okay. Well you didn’t get your
medal. You did get the, did they mail the, how did you get the Purple Heart? Did
anyone ever sort of have a little ceremony . . .
Grayson: No, no.
Interviewer: The event, they take the time to mention, . . . .
Interviewer: you know, that you were recognized for heroism? Was there any .
. . .
Grayson: No, no.
Interviewer: You know, I guess I touch on that . . . .
Grayson: Well they, you know, they didn’t see me. You, I got wounded and I,
they didn’t see me back at the battery ’til after the war was over.
Interviewer: . . . . You did rejoin the battery?
Grayson: Yeah I did rejoin the battery.
Grayson: And, oh I got to tell you another interesting thing. Captain Schleck
became the Battery Commander and years later my wife and I go to a movie here in
Columbus. He was a C.P.A. And we go to a movie and we’re sitting in the movie.
Who sits down right next to me in the movie but Captain Schleck. He was here to
do an audit for some company and . . . .
Interviewer: Is that right? He’s a traveling auditor?
Grayson: Yeah and he was through with his work for the day and he was in a
strange city and he sits down in the movie and right next to me. It’s amazing.
And there was another. The S3 of the battalion had been an instructor in
R.O.T.C. here and he became the S3 in our battalion and I have seen him several
Interviewer: With these contacts and coincidences, have you ever gone back
over to Europe to see any of your old battlefields or . . . .
Grayson: I haven’t gone to any of the battlefields when I’ve been to
Europe but I think before I die I want to go to Pironpre. I want to go.
Interviewer: Do you think that you could find that location?
Grayson: Oh I could, if it’s, if it hasn’t changed, I can visualize that
bridge and the road. Another thing that happened on that road, our troops that
day did capture some German troops and they marched them down this road that was
right next to my wagon and the Germans shelled those troops as we marched them,
as our guys marched them back, ’cause they didn’t want them to give any
information. That’s what we anticipated . . . .
Interviewer: They were hitting their own men?
Grayson: Well they dispersed them. They were certainly aiming at their own
Interviewer: Is that right?
Grayson: And that was something. And other things. We had a guy, Clarence
Relic. You’ll find his name; he’s dead. He and I played basketball together
and he was a terrific guy. He was the telephone lineman who strung wire between
the battery and the forward observer. And his job was to walk the line and make
sure that the line wasn’t cut and he repaired them. This, we found him, I didn’t,
they found him dead with a luger in his throat. They had come upon him when he
was walking the line and put a gun down his throat and pulled the trigger and
left him there.
Interviewer: With the gun there?
Grayson: With the gun. Right, they found him with the gun in his mouth.
Interviewer: That’s . . . .
Grayson: And another kid . . . .
Interviewer: quite an atrocity.
Grayson: Yeah. Another kid, Ish Kaminen was his name. He was Armenian. He was
about this high and they took him and put him into the Quartermaster Corps to do
nothing but pick up bodies. They took a couple guys out of each unit and put
them with the Quartermaster to do that. His whole war he picked up bodies and
the war was over and he came back to the outfit. He told stories that were
unbelievable how they’d pull up, throw a guy on a truck and then go to pull
him off by the arm and the arm would come off and things like that.
Interviewer: It was part of the, I guess, Graves Registration. Do battlefield
recovery. I know they used black troops for that quite often. They drove trucks
and they assigned them to those units and, you know, very unsavory work. You
mentioned you saw one dead German. Did you ever get any close to any live ones
or . . . .
Interviewer: that you might have seen firing at you? That is machine guns
firing at you?
Grayson: Well I saw the machine guns . . . . I saw the tanks but I didn’t
see any individual riflemen or anything like that. Did see one live German, a
pilot, when we first got overseas. One of our bivouac areas, it was in a field
and there were haystacks. And there was a dog sniffing around a haystack. And
couldn’t figure it out. And he just wouldn’t leave that haystack. And some
of the guys started poking around and there was a German pilot who had
parachuted out and he was hiding in the haystack.
Interviewer: You saw him?
Grayson: And he came out, you know, with his hands up. We called this S3
officer, no, the S2 I guess, we called. It wasn’t, but Pfeiffer came. He was
the one who came to get him.
Interviewer: Now in instances like that there’d be a mad scramble to get
Interviewer: You know, whatever that man had.
Grayson: No, no.
Interviewer: ‘Course your being wounded, you probably didn’t have a
chance to collect anything either.
Grayson: No, I didn’t want any.
Interviewer: They strip you and . . . . Well we’re coming to the end of
Side B. I’m going to put another tape in just to make sure we have sufficient
tape for the wrap-up. Okay. This is Side A of Tape 2. Just starting another tape
to make sure we have enough tape so that we have a few comments to wrap up our
Grayson: This guy in our outfit is Walter Zevatowsky.
Interviewer: Yeah, okay.
Grayson: Walter and I were good friends. We’d go out together when we could
when we were in the service in the States and double date and so on. I told you
about the girlfriend in New York. Walter took over after we broke up. He and she
got together. I don’t think they got married. I kept up with Walter for
several years but kind of lost track of him. He went to work for the Postal
Service after the war and he and my ex-girlfriend got close. I don’t think
they got . . . . I don’t know . . . .
Interviewer: How that turned out, for sure. Talking about old buddies from
the war, have you ever gone to any of the reunions of the Division?
Interviewer: Now you do have the history book?
Interviewer: How did you get that? Was that given to you or what? How did you
Grayson: Somewhere I got a letter that said if you would like to have a book,
send so much money and I did and . . . .
Interviewer: And buy your history book? Oh and you have the small paperback.
This is interesting. Yeah these are also quite collectible today, particularly
the small ones. I think these were maybe read and thrown away and the sense,
“Stalwart and Strong, the History of the 87th Infantry
Division” . . . . Sometimes they mention people by name in these. It’s
always interesting to see if, you know, maybe it carried through, you know, for
Grayson: I have read it. I don’t recall seeing my name in it.
Interviewer: Well yeah, usually if something, maybe if you were doing
something like Audie Murphy or something, but that, that’s interesting that
you got all those. Yeah I’d like to take a look at that when we get done with
our taping here. Okay. Touched on the Army veterans. Then exactly when did you
get married? Was it immediately after, well you met your wife, how long did . .
Grayson: When I first came to Columbus. She was the best friend of a cousin
of mine when I just came to Columbus in my senior year in high school. So I knew
her but, you know, dated her occasionally but we didn’t get close until my
brother and her sister got married. And that was, they got married in 19–,
February of 1946 and Pat and I got married in June of 1947.
Interviewer: Just incidentally, curious, your brother, when did he leave
Columbus and did he have a career here with the company?
Grayson: Well he had a career here, yes, but they transferred him to Boston
and the company had a manufacturing division and a retail division. He got
transferred into manufacturing. And the shoe manufacturing was headquartered in
Interviewer: I see, okay.
Grayson: He, he was transferred to Boston.
Interviewer: Well let’s touch on, I’m sorry, go ahead. He was transferred
to Boston. That’s how he got to Boston. Makes me think of your career with the
company. What level did you, or are you presently associated with . . . .
Grayson: No I, in high school I worked in the warehouse and unloaded box cars
and so on for the company and sold shoes on Saturdays for them in their stores
while I was in college. And went to . . . . after college and started as a
salesman and . . . .
Interviewer: After the war?
Grayson: After the war in Dayton. Went to work as a salesman in the store in
Dayton and became the store manager and eventually district manager and
eventually a supervisor . . . .
Interviewer: Now . . . . were these stores called Schiff Shoe Store?
Grayson: They were called Schiff Shoes, yeah, although they had many other
names. Over time they acquired different chains and they kept bringing them into
the chain changing their names to Schiff Shoe Stores and eventually after 17
years, I was in charge of 450 shoe stores.
Interviewer: A sizable portion of the company I would . . . .
Grayson: Well there were three retail divisions. They had leased departments
in conven-tional department stores. They had leased departments in discount
stores and regular shoe stores. So, the kind you see in a mall or downtown
Interviewer: I don’t want to belabor this sort of part of the history but
have you ever been interviewed about your role with the company before?
Interviewer: Okay, well that’s good. Because I think you know it’s a well
known company, particularly to those of us who’ve lived in Columbus most of
our lives. We all have bought Schiff Shoes. Yeah, it was a great product. So you
had that portion of the business, four hundred and some stores?
Interviewer: Still based in Columbus?
Grayson: Yeah I was based in Columbus.
Interviewer: Or Dayton?
Grayson: In Columbus, got married and I had that position, I was in Columbus.
Earlier when I was manager and district manager and so on, we bought and sold
seven houses in ten years, moving around . . . .
Interviewer: In Ohio or . . . .
Grayson: In Ohio and West Virginia.
Interviewer: I see.
Grayson: And, but eventually got back to Columbus.
Interviewer: You started to raise a family there then . . . .
Grayson: Yeah. Three children and ten grandchildren and . . . .
Interviewer: What are your children’s names?
Grayson: Mike is the oldest, Cathy is the next and Julie is the baby.
Grayson: The baby is now 46 or 7, I don’t know.
Interviewer: Have they stayed in the Ohio area?
Grayson: Yeah. Julie lives, Julie was on the phone once today. She lives
three minutes from here. Cathy lives 10 minutes from here and Mike lives 20
minutes from here. They’re all still here.
Interviewer: Okay. Now was that your highest level was, going to keep up with
the business . . . .
Grayson: Yeah. I left them. I left Shoe Corp. I won’t get into this too
deeply. There was a change of philosophy in the company. . . . . and it was
Roberto and I know when I got back and he was telling me the stories about
crossed this river and that river and he was directing artillery fire and so on.
Interviewer: Still a lot of action. Well that may be the story. I had met a
Robert Booth at a reunion. I’m just putting this on the tape for perspective
here. He was in B Battery. That was your battery.
Interviewer: He may have replaced you. He may have been moved in. You don’t
know him. He wound up being captured. So the story is that perhaps if you hadn’t
been wounded, you might have been in this situation . . . .
Grayson: Could have been.
Interviewer: where you would have been wounded. Well this is mentioned again
up here earlier. It says, “Lieutenant Booth the forward observer and Staff
Sergeant Sezlack stayed in the tent.” So he was forward observer for B
Battery. So he was, I would say, he was your replacement. He wound up being
captured so your wounding may have been of some advantage to you there.
Grayson: Well I had a lot of good breaks, I’ll tell you.
Interviewer: Wow. What did you do after you left Shoe Corp?
Grayson: I left Shoe Corp and I went into the restaurant business. I bought
two 15 cent hamburger franchises called Burger Chef. The franchisee, the
franchisor was out of Indianapolis and . . . .
Interviewer: Were the two franchises here in Columbus?
Grayson: They were both in Columbus, yeah. My wife, after moving around,
said, “We’re going to stay in Columbus”.
Interviewer: So this was an early recognition of the fast food business then.
Grayson: Well this was . . . .
Interviewer: McDonald’s probably wasn’t big at that time?
Grayson: Yeah they were big.
Interviewer: They were?
Grayson: They were big but they weren’t as big as they are now.
Grayson: Locally there was another outfit called BBF. It was . . . .
Interviewer: Burger Boy Foodorama.
Grayson: Yeah. It was bigger than McDonald’s in Columbus.
Interviewer: Where was Burger Chef headquartered?
Grayson: Indianapolis. And I didn’t know anything about the food business
and I found that out pretty quick and I got very, very lucky. And the guy who
was the manager of the Winding Hollow Country Club, which I belonged to, his
name was Bernie Gross, was offered a job at Shoe Corp because most of the execu-
tives at Shoe Corp were members of Winding Hollow and they recognized this guy’s
ability. And well he was a master chef and he was the manager at Winding Hollow
Country Club. But he was a good manager so they, Herbert Schiff offered him a
job at Shoe Corp. I had recently left Shoe Corp. And so Bernie came to me and
said, “You’ve left and they want to hire me. Tell me the story.” So
we consulted for about two or three months and he decided not to go with Shoe
Corp and during that time I got to know him pretty well. Before I just, you
know, would say hello to him here and there. And I realized he was what I needed
in the food business. So I offered him a job with me and he came with me. Made
him a partner and we wound up opening a total of eight Burger Chefs and on the
way to a franchise meeting in Indianapolis one day, he and I were driving and we
heard about this great restaurant in Springfield, Ohio, called Ponderosa that
was doing a lot more business than we were. We were averaging about $2500 a week
in our restaurants in those days. And . . . .
Interviewer: One restaurant would do 25?
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Grayson: A week.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Grayson: And we heard Ponderosa, this great restaurant in Springfield was
doing $7000 a week. So we . . . .
Interviewer: At one restaurant?
Grayson: At one restaurant. So we wanted to see them. And we stopped for
dinner on the way to Indianapolis there and we spent two hours there. And we sat
near the cash register. We clocked their average ticket. We counted how many
people went through the line. We figured what their volume was. Barry knew the
cost of all the foods so we figured the food cost. They had kids, high school
kids, working like we had as the laborers so we knew what they were paying and
we figured their labor costs. We made their profit and loss statement right then
and there and we . . . .a hell of a lot better than ours. So we said, “We
could do this”. So we decided to go into the steak business instead of the
hamburger business. And we came back to Columbus after the . . . . . and we
worked on that. And we worked with the Wasserstrom Company and drew up plans for
the equipment and worked with an architect named Dick Eischel and got the
building designed. We had everything ready go to in about nine or ten months but
we didn’t have any money to open a restaurant. It took about 250 to 300,000
bucks. In those days we just didn’t have it. And there was another Burger Chef
franchisee here in Columbus. Name was Pat Ross, a very, very nice guy and Pat
and I decided that we were not competitors, you know, we advertised together and
we just had businesses in different parts of the city. And we decided to share
office space, which we did and his desk was right next to my desk. And he
eventually became a Ponderosa franchisee and was doing very well. And one day a
guy by the name of Mike Dellendorf, who was with the Ohio Company, Ohio Equity,
came in to see Pat Ross to get him to put a Ponderosa in a development they were
going to do at the corner of Karl and Morse Road called The Patio. It was going
to be 10 food operations, free standing buildings around an open court with
common seating for the Summertime, out in the open court. And he wanted Pat to
put a Ponderosa in it. Well Pat eventually declined to do that and I made a
mental note when the guy was talking to Pat because our York Steakhouse dream
was very, was patterned after Ponderosa.
Interviewer: So we come to the name finally.
Interviewer: York it is.
Interviewer: Where did you get that name?
Grayson: Well that was interesting. We wanted a, we didn’t want to have, at
the time there was Bonanza and Ponderosa and Old Corral. Everything was a
western motif. We didn’t want another western motif restaurant. What was beef,
Old English, beefeaters, ales and ribs and . . . .
Interviewer: Uh huh, steak and ale.
Grayson: . . . . So we decided we would go with an Old English theme. And
that’s what the architect did and so on. So we looked then for a name. And we
came to the conclusion that it had to have a hard sound to make it memorable,
had to have a short name so that the signs wouldn’t cost you so much . . . .
Interviewer: (Laughs) Yeah.
Grayson: and so we looked in the dictionaries and English literature and
everything and we came up with the name York. We started out not being so smart.
We wanted to call it “King Arthur”. We thought it was memorable that
people would know.
And there was a King Arthur Steak House out on Route 33. When we tried to get
the name copyrighted, we find out that in our backyard there was an operation. I
went out to see the guy to see if I could use the name. He said,
“Certainly,” he said, “you can use it,” he says. “You
just pay me so much now and give me a royalty on everything you do.” Well
we weren’t going to do that. Then we decided on “King Richard the
Lionheart” and that was too long. . . . then we got smart. And then we
decided the sign was going to cost less, York was going to be easier to remember
and so on and so that’s how the name came about.
Interviewer: Oh boy.
Grayson: And at any rate so I called this guy Mike Dellendorf and said,
“I’ve got an operation like you want”. And he said, “Where can
I see it?” And I said, “Only on paper”. He talked to me and he
built the first York Steak House for us in The Patio. And it was successful,
thank God. And . . . .
Interviewer: This would be in the what, 60s?
Grayson: No it was in 1970.
Interviewer: Is that right?
Grayson: Burger Chefs, we opened the first one in 1965.
Interviewer: A Burger Chef?
Grayson: Burger Chef yeah.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Grayson: So it took us, we were in the Burger Chefs two years and then we got
the idea for York but it took us three years before we got that first building
up and operating.
Interviewer: Just a side point, Burger Chef. Whatever became of them
Grayson: They were purchased by General Foods and General Foods killed them
within two years.
Interviewer: Okay. I thought they died out quickly.
Grayson: Oh they sure did.
Interviewer: Were you still holding when they did that?
Grayson: Yeah. We’d made so many mistakes. Unbelievable.
Interviewer: Did they keep the name Burger Chef when they . . . .
Grayson: Yeah they kept the name Burger Chef. But they, Burger Chef had one
little teeny office in Indianapolis and General Foods bought them. They bought
four huge buildings, filled them with people at the headquarters. They must have
created an overhead that had to be 20 times what the Burger Chef had.
Interviewer: Huh. So you were transitioning at that time into York.
Grayson: Yeah. Yes. And . . . . General Foods. It didn’t take them long to
kill it. A couple of years was all. And I remember the guy who is now head of
BBF, Jim, oh what’s his name . . . .
Interviewer: Was that owned by Borden’s or some, yeah, okay.
Grayson: Bordens’ bought BBF.
Interviewer: Oh Bordens’ bought it?
Grayson: Jim, I can’t remember his name. He had or he was going up the
ladder in BBF when I was starting in Burger Chef and we bumped heads
competition-wise in going for locations and, Jim Near. We became good friends.
We were competitors but we became good friends. And he eventually became, when
Borden’s bought BBF, he became president of the division for Borden’s.
Interviewer: Oh, wow.
Grayson: And when General Foods created the collapse of Burger Chef. He was,
he called me up and he said, “What happened?” And I told him and he
said, “Is that going to happen to me?” I said, “Very
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Grayson: And it did.
Interviewer: It did, didn’t it?
Grayson: It did.
Interviewer: It’s amazing how a large company can destroy a successful
Grayson: They did it so quickly, it’s unbelievable. And anyhow, we wanted
to expand York because we were making more money in one York than we’d made in
eight Burger Chefs.
Interviewer: Is that right?
Grayson: And . . . .
Interviewer: Quickly profitable though?
Grayson: We were profitable from day one. And I told you we made their P and
L. It came within one percentage point when we opened. Out first P and L was
within one percentage point of what we computed . . . .
Interviewer: What you had computed in two hours at the Springfield Ponderosa?
Grayson: Yeah. But we knew the business and I’d been working with P and Ls
for many years and had majored in Accounting in college and so on.
Interviewer: That’s really what it takes then. You had a pro forma
P and L . . . .
Grayson: Yeah . . . .
Interviewer: which was part of your business plan . . . .
Grayson: That’s why we decided to do . . . . because it looked better than
what we were doing. So then my brother worked for Shoe Corp too and for the same
reasons that I left, which I won’t get into, he had left and he had gone to
work for General Shoe. And they closed some factories and he was downsized. This
was the first downsizing that I ever heard of.
Interviewer: Oh yeah.
Grayson: And so he was not working and I said, “Come on and join
Interviewer: He was in Boston though.
Grayson: He was in Boston. And I said, “Come on, join us in Burger
Chef,” and he wouldn’t do it. And when we opened the first York, and I
got to tell you, my brother, every time I opened a Burger Chef he helped me
financially, he invested.
Interviwer: Oh yeah?
Grayson: And so he was a stockholder in our corporation and when I opened
York, he invested and, but he didn’t come to the opening and he didn’t want
to get in the food business. Finally, on business, he was in Columbus for some
reason or other and he saw York and he said, “Now you got something,”
and he said, “Now I’ll join you”. So he came to work for us and we
decided that he would develop New England where he lived. He didn’t want to
move back to Colum- bus so he’d been there for 20 years, 25 years, I don’t
know. And so he’s looking for financing to open a York Steak House somewhere
in New England. We had a cousin who worked for a bank and so he went to the bank
for financing and they wouldn’t give him financing. He said, “But I know
a guy who you might talk to,” and his name was Woody Kaplan. And he was, he
did leasing for major, he was a leasing agent for retailers and he brought them
into the regional malls which were just beginning to burgeon at that time.
Interviewer: Oh yeah.
Grayson: And so he had a mall that was going up in Portland, Maine, and he
had got the mall developer to say, “Okay, if you like them, I’ll take
them”. So Woody came to Columbus to see our operation. And we sat him down
at a table and we brought him, he said, he said, “I don’t want to go
through the line”. He said, “I want one of everything” to taste
the food and he said, “But I want it right off the line. I don’t want to
have, you know, give me a choice piece of beef when you’re serving tenderized
beef. Give me all of it as it was but” . . . . In fact at the table, we
brought him one of everything. He liked it and we consulted for a whole day and
went over all the financials and everything. At the end of the day, he pulled
out of his briefcase a lease and he said, “Here is a lease,” he said.
“You go over it and let me know what you think and so on.” And we
said, “Sit down. You ain’t leaving ’til we read this lease.”
Interviewer: Oh, uh huh.
Grayson: My brother and I, we kept him here overnight and we read the lease
and we made four minor changes. We were so anxious for the second unit and this
was going to be in Portland, Maine when our headquarters were here in Columbus.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Grayson: He called his attorney who was the attorney for the mall, and told
him of the four changes that we wanted to make. They were miniscule. His
attorney said, “Don’t take these guys. They’re not sophisticated. If
that’s all the changes they want in this lease, they’re not sophisticated
enough in business.” But it turned out to be a great unit. We made $3- to
$400,000 a year net profit in that unit.
Interviewer: My gosh. That strikes me astronomical.
Grayson: And that was . . . .
Interviewer: From one restaurant?
Interviewer: Net profit?
Grayson: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: Well you’re in the right business.
Grayson: Well at that time malls did not have food in them. This mall
developer was one of the first to recognize that to keep the shoppers during
lunch time and dinner time in the mall, you had to have food to keep them there
so they would continue to shop.
Interviewer: Perfect deal.
Grayson: He was the first to recognize it and his name was Julie Cohen and
strangely enough, my wife’s roommate in college was his wife.
Interviewer: Well that didn’t hurt.
Grayson: No, we didn’t know until we got into business.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Oh, later on?
Grayson: Yeah. Crazy world. I’ve had so many things like that happen.
Anyhow so that gave us the clout with Woody who knew all the mall developers.
Woody went to all the mall developers such as De Bartalo and Caffro and Sconey
and Jacobs and Sears Roebuck and everybody. He got us into malls just like that
and . . . .
Grayson: And they’d give us $200,000 to build a restaurant and so on. And
that would increase the rent . . . . But that’s how we got our financing and
so on. So we got up to about, oh 18 or 20 restaurants and were doing very well
but everything was financed and our debt-to-equity ratio was four to one. That’s
not good. You should have, the Fortune 500 companies want it to be 1/3 to one,
not four to one.
Interviewer: Oh yeah?
Grayson: So we were extended. If business turned bad, if there was a
recession, even as profitable as we were, we would not have been, ’cause all
the money went to pay the debt. All the profits went to pay the debt. We would
not have been able to survive so we decided to go public and raise some money
from the public.
Interviewer: I didn’t know you went public.
Grayson: And, well we didn’t.
Grayson: We were ready to go. We had an underwriter and everything was fine
and then in 1974, I don’t know if you remember, but the market took a crash.
Interviewer: There were oil problems and crisis, yeah.
Grayson: And the underwriter wouldn’t take us out. So we said, “Okay,
nothing we can do”. And a year later we decided we’ll sell out. We can’t
go public. So went back to the underwriter which was the McDonald in Cleveland
and they agreed to take us on as a client to find a buyer for us, which they
did. They found General Mills.
Interviewer: General Mills?
Grayson: Yeah. General Mills bought us. We had an offer from Pillsbury but we
didn’t take it. We didn’t think it was enough. And we got to General Mills
and we had a long, hard negotiation with them. Then in 1976, September of ’76,
we signed the deal. And it was contingent on the IRS agreeing that it was a
stock-for-stock transaction and not a taxable transaction.
Grayson: And we didn’t get that ruling until April of ’77. And that’s
when they came in and gave us the money and took over management. And we had
five-year management contracts, my brother, Bernie and I and we continued to
manage it for that period of time. We had an earn-out. If we hit certain profit
goals we got more money. And that lasted four years and during that four years,
General Mills couldn’t have been better. They’d come in, look at our
figures, and never say a word, never do anything. Just were perfect, just like a
Grayson: When the earn-out was over, they took over. They didn’t want to be
accused of doing anything to interfere with our getting more money for the
company. But the minute that the earn-out was over they came in pretty hard and
fast and did some things that were totally stupid but didn’t kill it. We had
learned that in malls we didn’t have to spend a lot of money advertising. We
were, we, by this time we had 33 units by the time when General Mills bought it.
Interviewer: Thirty-three restaurants?
Interviewer: Whereabout? In New England mostly, in Ohio?
Grayson: Yeah we were in New England and in Ohio. But we wound up with about
165 of them in 30 states from the Mississippi River east.
Interviewer: So General Mills poured money in to open more stores?
Grayson: That was the first thing they did was . . . .
Interviewer: Oh I see.
Grayson: say, “How many can you open a year”. And we said,
“Fifteen”. And then after four weeks, their management said, “You
can open 25”. So we struggled for, to do it, but we did.
Interviewer: I’m saying they expanded you five full?
Grayson: And we weren’t adverse to that because it meant we’d make more
money and get, and make our earn-out and so on. So we weren’t adverse to it
but, I’ll tell you, we worked our tails off to do that. But they were terrific
but we learned that we, being in malls, you had built-in traffic. You didn’t
have to spend a lot of money on advertising. But they were big marketers and
they decided that, and we no longer had the earn-out, that they were really
going to boost the business and put a tremendous advertising campaign out. They
had a $4,000,000 campaign on that didn’t create them one dollar’s worth of
Interviewer: Is that right?
Grayson: And we told them, you know, but they were marketers and that’s
what they wanted to do and they did it. And by that time, the business was
becoming, we had almost a monopoly of food malls and then food courts started to
come into malls.
Interviewer: Hum um.
Grayson: And my last act was to say, “Let’s go into food courts. We
can do this in a food court as well as somewhere else in the mall.” But,
and we opened two of them and they were successful but they never pursued it.
And at the end of my five years, I left and my brother left. Bernie stayed on
and for a while, but Bernie’s a lot younger. Bernie’s 15 years younger than
I am. He stayed on as president of the company but they started to do things
that just weren’t, he thought good business . . . . They put deli sandwiches
into a steak house. And he was a master chef and he had developed the menu
boards and everything to begin with.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Grayson: and when they did deli sandwiches, then he left. And then . . . .
Grayson: and opened up his own restaurant. Not a steak restaurant. B. G.
Salvage, I don’t know if . . . .
Interviewer: Huh, so that’s a colleague of yours?
Interviewer: It’s his creation, huh?
Grayson: It’s his creation, yeah. And the only reason he did it, he had a
friend whose name was Salvage. He was a chef and he was out of a job and he
needed something to do so Bernie opened three restaurants for him and they
eventually sold them. Somebody changed the name, I don’t know, and they were
out of business. And . . . . was okay but he wanted to still work so he opened
another one. They got one somewhere on the west side now . . . .
Interviewer: Bernie, I recognize the name.
Grayson: Yeah, anyhow so in 1990, General Mills closed all of the York Steak
Interviewer: Is that right?
Grayson: There’s one still operating on the west side but the guy who was
the manager on West Broad Street bought the name from General Mills and they let
him use the name.
Interviewer: That’s across from Great Western?
Interviewer: That’s the one we would go to if we lived on the west side.
And that’s still operating?
Grayson: Yeah. At least it was. I haven’t been in there for two years but I
went in there a couple of years ago to see the guy and . . . .
Interviewer: Is that right?
Grayson: But . . . .
Interviewer: Well what did you do after you left?
Grayson: Well when I left, I now had a little bit of money and I had a son
who needed a job. I had a cousin who needed a job and I had a son-in-law who
needed a job and I had been involved in the shoe business as a tenant of malls
and landlords all over the country and in the restaurant business I had been a
tenant of malls and I figured they were all doing pretty well off of our rents
so I said, “Let’s get together and let’s build us some little strip
Grayson: So we did. And . . . . my cousin had been in the home building
business in Philadelphia. He was the partner of a guy in home building, a guy by
the name of Jerry Wolman, Jerry Wolman, and they made good money and my cousin
was in good shape. Probably had a couple million bucks. He’s built, Jerry
Wolman built, separate from their apartment building, he built a skyscraper in
Chicago, a 60- or 70-story building. They got up 20 stories and they found out
that the foundation wasn’t strong enough and he lost a bundle of money. And my
cousin, who was Jerry Schiff by the way, he was one of the Schiffs, pledged all
of his assets to help Jerry Wolman. And he lost it all and all of a sudden didn’t
have a business and didn’t have a dime. And he came back to Columbus and he
was going to go into the shoe business. He was going to try and make it in a
shoe store. And I traveled with him to Florida and to Pennsylvania where he had
some operations that he saw and he wanted to copy and so on. And he had been in
the shoe business with me and he left for the same reasons that I left. Anyhow
then he got into this home building thing with Jerry Wolman. Anyhow so I said,
“I’m going to go into real estate here ’cause Mike needs a job and Bob
needs a job. Why don’t you join us? At least you’ve got some
experience.” So he did. So we started up with a company and called it Kroy,
York spelled backwards. Kroy Developers . . . . We bought, I bought, none of
them had any money and I was paying at least $25,000 a year and I was taking
nothing. And I bought the defunct Texaco Gas Station on the corner of Hamilton
and Refugee Road, across from Eastland and going to develop it into something. I
didn’t know what. And so I sent them all out to find a tenant and one of them,
I don’t remember who, came back with the men’s clothing store that we put on
there. And we sold them the location. We didn’t have to build for them which
was good and we made about $100,000 on the deal and then we thought that was
pretty good so we took an option on five acres on Refugee Road, just adjacent to
that. It was vacant land. And we didn’t know what we were going to do with it
and we thought we’d build a little strip center because there was a K-Mart
across the street. But in the meantime we ran across a restaurant. I’m trying
to think of the name of it that wanted the whole thing, wanted the whole five
acres and we flipped the option. We didn’t, we just put down the option money
and we sold them the option on the land for $600,000. So we made $600,000 . . .
Interviewer: That’s profit isn’t it?
Grayson: That’s profit, in about three months.
Interviewer: An option is nothing but a piece of paper? And so in about seven
or eight months we’d made $700,000. We said, “This is a pretty good
business”. So we went around the corner and I don’t know if you remember,
there was four office buildings that Seyman Stern had built years ago. He had
gotten rid of . . . . and somebody had them and they were vacant. And we had
made $700,000 and they wanted $700,000 for these four office buildings across
from Eastland. We figured we could do something with them. We’d been lucky so
far. So we bought them. We didn’t know what we were going to do with them and
my son said. “They’re across the street from Eastland. We were going to
build a strip, you know, on Refugee Road. This is a much better location. Why
don’t we tear down the buildings and build a strip center here?” So we
did. We got 72,000 feet and we built it for a total of three million, six. Two
years later we sold it for six million, eight. And now in three years we had
made three and a half million dollars.
Interviewer: Is there a name to that strip? I’m trying to picture it. There
was, Sears is at the south end . . . .
Grayson: Crossroads, Crossroads.
Interviewer: Crossroads, okay.
Grayson: Anyway at the same time we had another little one going up, 12,000
square footer, up on Bethel Road. And we built that . . . .
Interviewer: Oh, Bethel Road.
Interviewer: You’d think that . . . .
Grayson: Yeah, then we saw what was coming up there.
Interviewer: Oh boy . . . .
Grayson: And we . . . .
Interviewer: . . . . a choice.
Grayson: got 12,000 square feet. We built for $600,000. Sold it for a
million, two three months later.
Interviewer: Three months later?
Grayson: By that time we had enough money and I said, “Okay,” I
said, “I’m retired”. Let’s divvy this up and you’re on your own
now. So we all, they left with about five hundred thousand bucks apiece after
taxes and I did too. And my son now has Sir Speedy Print Shop and my cousin
Jerry had a divorce in the meantime and got remarried and went to Chicago with
his wife and continued in real estate. He’s now retired and he just bought a
condo in Florida six buildings away from where my condo is. And my son-in-law
and my daughter got divorced but he stayed in real estate and he’s owned some
property and he manages them and he’s doing fine, so.
Interviewer: That’s fine.
Grayson: It all turned out well.
Interviewer: Now your status personally now is you’re not building anything
or . . . .
Interviewer: What is it. What do . . . .
Grayson: Well I’m completely retired.
Interviewer: You’re in your mid-70s, are you?
Grayson: I’m 76. Completely retired and have been since Kroy disbanded.
Interviewer: Since Kroy, yeah I see.
Grayson: But I have a lot of friends here who want, who have big homes, who
want to get rid of them. They want a condo like they have in Florida, here. And
there’s nothing like that here. So I put out some feelers and I said I’d
like to build some of those and sell them and the minute I mentioned it I got a
list of 18 people who wanted them.
Grayson: And who did I go back to but Mike Dellendorf, the guy who built my
first steak house. He has since left the Ohio Companies, the Ohio Equities, and
went into business for himself developing land for single-family residents. And
he’ll buy a piece of farmland and then he’d put in new improvements and he’d
sell lots and in two years he’d be through with them and start another one and
he’s done very, very well. Well I had this idea and I talked it over with my
other son-in-law who since, he worked for me in York and was very good. When I
got out he got out. And he bought his uncle’s office supply business and built
it up and sold it and he’s now retired and he’s not 50 yet. I wish he’d go
back to work. He’s still too young. But my daughter and my son-in-law bought a
condo right across the street from us in Florida and so I get to see them all
Interviewer: How much time do you spend in Florida?
Grayson: I spend almost eight months.
Interviewer: So you’re about to head down there now, hey?
Grayson: I’ve been down there twice already this year.
Interviewer: Now I have to ask now, those of us who watch these big
acquisitions take place, and they happen all the time . . . .
Interviewer: nowadays, you know. A big company buying a chain of restaurants
as you had. We have this image that there’s such a huge amount of money that’s
given to that, the one who originated, and then they go off to Fiji somewhere,
that billions of dollars change hands like the acquisition of York would sound
like one of those great mergers, you know . . . .
Grayson: I’ll tell you the figures. We sold it to them for $17,000,000 and
the earn-out, we could earn another eight if we hit our goals. And we got to
Interviewer: So that was what you got for . . . .
Grayson: Building the company.
Interviewer: taking all that initiative and having a . . . .
Interviewer: an outfit was pretty sizeable, 133 I would think?
Grayson: Yeah, 33.
Interviewer: You had 33 stores. Yeah but you helped them get on their way.
Grayson: It also acquired almost $5,000,000 of debt that we had so it was
worth another $5,000,000. And that $5,000,000 was eating up all the profits that
we were making and . . . .
Interviewer: See I guess those of us who are not in this role of
entrepreneur, you think well I got $25,000,000, I’m finished. And no, you
continue. You look at the next, have you ever, did you go to Ohio State and
teach . . . .
Interviewer: business or anything. It strikes me as a, you know, they would
be tapping into you . . . .
Grayson: I’ve thought about doing something like that. I thought about
going to SCORE. You know what SCORE is?
Interviewer: Yeah, Service Corps of Retired Executives, but you have the
ingredients to teach at a higher level of marketing at Ohio State or, you know,
in the business colleges that you’ve dealt with those, I mean . . . .
Grayson: One thing I want tell you, when I was at Shoe Corp, one of the
things that was great about Shoe Corp was that they shared 20% of their profits
Interviewer: Oh yeah?
Grayson: And a store manager got 10% of his store’s profit. The district
manager got 5% of each of his stores’ profit and the supervisor got 5% of each
of the stores that he had.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Grayson: So we, I, I put that into York and we went into . . . .
Interviewer: Oh yeah?
Grayson: And we made good money in those restaurants. If a restaurant didn’t
make $100,000, it wasn’t a good restaurant. And so the manager, on top of his
salary, at the end of the year would get a bonus of $10–, or in the case of
this one in Portland, Maine, $30,000 and in those days that was a lot of money.
Interviewer: Yeah, the salary.
Grayson: Yeah we had, at the time we sold it, we had 40 guys who were very
instrumental in our growth ’cause you don’t do it without people and in
fact, I should tell you, when I left Shoe Corp, I had a list of 15 names of
people I wanted with me.
Interviewer: Is that right?
Grayson: And as I needed them I called. And I got eight of them just like
that. One of then, I got to tell you this story. He was still with Shoe Corp. He
was a district manager in New York. He was married and had three children and he
was a very good district manager for Shoe Corp and I called him up and I said,
“Jerry, we’re going in the restaurant business, as you know, York Steak
House. We’re going to open Cleveland and if you’ll come to Cleveland, you’ll
be in charge of Cleve- land. I don’t know how many restaurants we can have
there but it’s a big city and we can probably have 8-10 restaurants. You could
do very well, better than you’re doing there. It will be a lot of hard work.
And he said, “Let me think about it”. I said, “Okay”. He
called me up three days later. He said, “I’m in Cleveland,” he said,
“I’ve bought a house,” he said. “I’ve got two locations that
I want you to look at. Would you come up?”
Interviewer: Wow! He didn’t mess around.
Grayson: No, no. Those were the kind . . . .
Interviewer: Those were the kind of people it took. Yeah, you’ve got such a
breadth of experience, golly. To share that.
Grayson: They all, they all came and it was, it was beautiful. And it was my
brother and Bernie and then these guys.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Grayson: At any rate we had 40 guys when we sold to General Mills and one of
the reasons that it took so long to get an IRS ruling from September to April,
September ’76 to April of ’77, was because we wanted to carry through that
20%. And with these 40 guys, we said to General Mills, “We will not do the
deal unless they can,” they were not stockholders in our corporation . . .
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Grayson: “unless they can get tax free like we’re going to get free,
20% of what we’re getting”.
Interviewer: Wow, of the sale, huh?
Grayson: At the time was $17,000,000. And so we, their lawyers and our
lawyers put their heads together and came up with a way to do it that was
satisfactory to the IRS and so we split three million four among those 40 guys,
41 guys actually.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Grayson: And that’s how you build loyalty.
Interviewer: Wow . . . .
Grayson: So, but it worked out. So my brother and Bernie and I split the
balance and fortunately came out all right.
Interviewer: What a great .. . .
Grayson: And these guys also shared in the earn-out as well.
Interviewer: In the earn-out?
Grayson: . . . .
Interviewer: In that portion too? Well I think we’ve come to a good point
to conclude here. We’ve had a tremendous discussion of the business career
that you’ve had. I think that’s of great interest to those who study
business and we’ll shut the tape down here.
# # #
Transcribed by Honey Abramson
Proofread by Marvin Bonowitz
Edited by Peggy Kaplan