Retired broadcaster and real-estate man Gus Grebe, his obituary over the weekend states, died at home in Upland Nov. 10 at age 102. I met him when he was a young man of 99.
He came to my movie series at Ontario’s Ovitt Library in 2018 in which I presented four old Westerns. After the end of “Stagecoach,” the 1939 classic, Grebe came up to tell me he’d seen it upon release, which happened to be 79 years earlier, in his native Peoria, Illinois.
A then-unknown actor was the star. “None of us knew who John Wayne was,” Grebe said of his friends.
I saw Grebe (pronounced “Gree-bee”) not long afterward at Pomona’s Pilgrim Congregational Church for its own movie night, in which a silent film was shown with live organ accompaniment. It might have been “Wings,” or maybe it was “Nosferatu,” or “The General” — I saw them all there.
Anyway, Grebe and I had a nice chat during the social hour beforehand. Born in 1919, he told me he saw a few silent films as a boy — imagine being around when talkies were introduced — had worked in a theater as a teenager and was still a dedicated moviegoer.
An Uplander since 1979, and retired from a Century 21 office in Chino, the widower had enviably wavy hair, a modest demeanor and a Gary Cooper smile. I thought of inviting him out to the movies sometime, but never did. For one thing, I didn’t want to keep a 99-year-old out past his bedtime.
It turns out that Grebe had had a long career as a radio announcer in Orange County and Kern County, in Colorado and, especially, in Kansas, where he’d called Wichita State University football and basketball games from 1966-1973. In Kansas, his death is news, with multiple outlets running obituaries.
The Wichita Eagle says Grebe was nicknamed “Mr. Excitement” for his energy and color. KFH radio’s site posted charming audio from some 1973 games in which Grebe sometimes shouts himself hoarse: “The Shockers win! The Shockers win! Holy mackerel!”
“Grebe’s antics are still the stuff of legend,” the Eagle’s obituary relates. “He was so animated in calling WSU football games that he would sometimes hang from outside of the press box at the top of Cessna Stadium. He did that so much that WSU actually installed a net below in case he ever fell out. He never did.”
In an obituary on the university’s website, a radio colleague remembered Grebe leaning out of the press box at a football game to see the action and almost falling out, before “those around him caught him by his shirt tail.”
Like Chick Hearn with his catchphrase “the game’s in the refrigerator” about the Lakers when they were on the brink of victory, Grebe’s signature line was “put it in the ol’ deep freeze.” It’s still used today in Wichita State broadcasts in a segment sponsored by — who better? — a refrigerator retailer.
Grebe gave an interview at age 100 to the Eagle in which he said hearing that fans still asked about him decades later made him feel “exceptionally good.”
Services are at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 8, at Forest Lawn Chapel in Covina. Having scarcely met him, I don’t know him well enough to attend. But I’m pleased to help spread the news about the broadcaster.
And next time I go to the movies, which will be any day now, I’ll think of him.
One of the Wheat State obituaries gives Grebe’s city of residence not as Upland, but as Inland. Is Inland part of the Upland Empire?
Yet more pennies
I wrote a few lines here recently about Lynda Roybal of Menifee, who was told as a girl by her grandmother, who lay dying, that if she ever found a penny, it meant her dear old grandmother had tossed it down to her from heaven to remind her she was still thinking of her. And about how Roybal, now 80, has saved pennies ever since, collecting $438, give or take.
“Oh my goodness,” she wrote me the afternoon after publication, “this morning I was taking the paper over to my neighbor’s to show her what was put in the paper. Going back to my house, going across a small street, there was another penny there waiting for me,” Roybal says. She was sure it wasn’t there on her walk over.
“After this morning,” she says, “I think my grandma IS putting them there.”
Was there any doubt?
About a quarter-million Californians relocated to the Inland Empire in 2020, the Wall Street Journal reported late last month, writing that “the pandemic accelerated the flow of humanity into Riverside and San Bernardino counties.” Many newcomers are moving east for more space, like the Journal’s example of a family of five leaving Norwalk for Eastvale. The IE is said to have tied Phoenix for 2020’s biggest migration influx in the nation. But, sure, continue insisting that “everyone” is leaving California if it makes you feel better about hating the Golden State.
David Allen writes Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, more to hate. Email email@example.com, phone 909-483-9339, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and follow @davidallen909 on Twitter.