May 2005

When Grebe was about 10 years old his father died. His mother then allowed him to attend public schools. Here and in the neighborhood the kids congregated at a little shack behind the house to hear and see the wireless sets Grebe was making. None of the mothers were worried as they knew their kids were at the Grebe’s. A cartoon published in 1940 (shown in previous article) exemplified what went on around his house.

Cartoon from The New York Sun, Jan. 31, 1931

“I don’t know what spurred the appearance of this cartoon. The GREBE RADIO company was already suffering badly in the Great Depression.

I do know my father liked to read The New York Sun. Many times I would go to a local “cigar store” and get it for him in the afternoon.” – A. H. Grebe, Jr.

Detail from cartoon from The New York Sun, Jan. 31, 1931

A. H. Grebe's First Radio Workshop

PHOTO of Alfred Henry Grebe’s first hobby-workshop. This “shack” was originally his father’s place for storing greenhouse tools. It was here that he could dedicate his time, without distractions, to his study and practice of “wireless.”

Alfred was the older son of Henry and Annie M. Krick GREBE. He was born in Richmond Hill, Queens County, Long Island, New York on April 4, 1895. Henry Grebe was a horticulturist…having several greenhouses on his property at 10 Van Wyck Avenue, Richmond Hill. The fact of having a large plot of land helps to explain how Alfred, while still a very young man, could expand his radio manufacturing business by first building a two-story wooden factory and shortly thereafter a modern, three-story, poured concrete factory. The Jamaica Hospital was located on a side street opposite the GREBE property. Alfred Jr was born at the Jamaica Hospital.

Alfred had a younger brother, Rudolph Louis Grebe. Rudolf was ten years younger than Alfred. They were both very bright. Rudolph graduated from the PRATT INSTITUTE in Brooklyn with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Rudolph apparently did not share Alfred’s interest in radio. Maybe they didn’t like each other! Rudolph was a “difficult” personality. He died at the age of twenty-three years. My mother stated Rudolph died of pneumonia; but it is possible he died of tuberculosis.

I don’t remember Rudolph at all. The elder GREBE, Henry, died in 1905. In this case my mother stated Henry died of an accidental gun shot wound (cleaning his gun). Newspaper accounts listed his death as suicide while in a state of mental depression.

I remember my grandmother. She married Edwin Grenarius Dorf sometime after the death of Henry. Grandma Dorf was called Aunt Annie by all her family members. As a young woman she was beautiful. I remember her as a relatively old woman, for those days. At age seventy-two, when she died, she was frail and appeared many years older than her true age. She was reported to have died of a heart attack or stroke while visiting a friend, Hilda Weiss. It is very likely her death was brought on partially by her grief of having lost a husband and her only two sons. There were no other children.

I spent golden hours almost every day at my grandmother’s house…which was only three blocks from my grade school. There was a small, enclosed sun porch at the rear part of the house. It had windows on two exterior walls and a large blackboard on a third wall. I spent many hours making clay models (mostly boats) and drawing pictures on the blackboard. There were many opportunities to mix and bake cookies under Grandma’s loving supervision. Grandma also paid me a small sum to stoke the coal-burning furnace and carry out the ashes. The house was still standing at 88-34 189th Street, Hollis, Long Island, NY and was in wonderfully good condition when I visited in 1988.

– by A. H. Grebe, Jr.