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Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015

Another ex-Vernon Countian heard from

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A slim volume, as the poets put it, recently turned up at this newspaper, not particularly pertinent to Vernon County's present, or even its past, but of interest nevertheless. The author spent some of his early years in Rich Hill and Metz, followed by a year in Nevada, where he was graduated with the NHS Class of 1938.

Floyd Grooms first wrote but sparingly of himself, mentioning only a brother, unnamed, who married "a Mary Alma Reeder." Floyd's small class photo appears in the 1938 Nevamo, the first NHS yearbook, by the way, to be so named. Before the Depression it was the Comet.

"I have always been fond of Nevada," he wrote, "and have many pleasant memories of Vernon County, having spent my earlier days in Rich Hill, Old Metz, and Metz before moving to Nevada." The Groomses didn't make it into the one Depression-era city directory, that for 1936. A little prompting inspired Floyd to elaborate:

"Joseph Whitman Greer and Clara Maude Greer, former residents of Nevada, were my grandparents, who raised me, as well as my brother, Gile Leo Grooms (graduated in the Metz class of 1939), who was a soda jerk in the drugstore located on the southeast corner of the square; I don't recall its name (Miller's). My half-sister Gwendolyn Streeter was a NHS graduate, about 1943, by which time I was serving in the Air Corps at Randolph Field, San Antonio, just about ready to go overseas. Prior to my military service I was employed by the Owl Cafe [north side, center] as a dishwasher, and was promoted to pastry cook and fry cook. Then I worked at Vanderford Creamery (East End) as a chicken cropper." We've been unable to identify any Class of '38 member, still living, who might have recalled Floyd. The almost painfully cleancut youth seen in the yearbook earned his classmates' affections, says the predictable accompanying blurb, in his brief Nevada tenure.

If any classmate or other acquaintance does survive, who eluded our hurried search, he or she is invited to come forward.

The slim volume unfortunately has nothing to do with our part of the world, being rather eyebrow-raisingly entitled "Buried Treasure of the Nazi Warlords." The link is that it deals with a search undertaken, seemingly freelance, in 1954, well after the end of World War II, by three U.S. occupation soldiers, one of whom was Special Agent Floyd Grooms, Office of Strategic Intelligence (OSI), District 2, Munich.

"My military service," Floyd writes, "was performed overseas on both sides, the last fifteen years as a Special Agent, Office of Special Investigations, Department of the Air Force. It was on a three-year assignment in Germany where I covered the Czechoslovak-German border when the search for Hermann Goering's treasure took place." In 1946 a cache of wartime loot had been found in underground tunnels between Berchtesgaden and Konigsee. It was officially removed, and then, it seems, the military bureaucracy lost interest, or perhaps just forgot. Still, rumors persisted that other, undiscovered tunnels and chambers there might still contain Nazi plunder, especially that of Hermann Goering.

Grooms and two friends, Capt. Mose Clements, 313th Military Intelligence, and Special Agent Bill Brown of OS!, went treasure-hunting. At the 1946 site they found tantalizing clues to undiscovered chambers, sturdily walled off with German thoroughness and roofed with thick reinforced concrete. With difficulty they broke into some, but sadly never struck the looked-for bonanza. They did pick up a few sure-enough valuables for souvenirs, such as puzzling pieces of semi-precious lapis lazuli and a gold-plated silver box (disappointingly empty) engraved with a woodland hunting scene incorporating a swastika.

That the seekers failed to become finders can't help winding the tale up on a note of letdown. Grooms does his best to take the sting out of the disappointment and add a note of drama by treating the tale as a work in progress, an ongoing adventure, with, who knows? the best perhaps yet to come. The site's still there waiting, he reminds future would-be treasure hunters armed with more robust resources, including the better technical equipment that wasn't available, or even dreamt of, back in 1954. Come on! He challenges his successor seekers.

After retiring from the service, Grooms became a real estate broker in Maryland, then a corporate real estate specialist first in Maryland and eventually in Phoenix. He now lives at 936 St. Andrews Blvd., Naples FL 34113, (239) 775-6096.

In its concise 51 pages of large type, softbound and with a colorful cover, the slim volume is short, easily romped through in an evening, and entertaining enough to beguile the casual leisured reader to whom "buried treasure" is an irresistible topic.

Issued only in March, "Buried Treasure of the Nazi Warlords" is available from its pubusher, Infinity Publishing Co., of West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, through their website, www.bbotw.com, for only $8.95. The review copy reposes in the Bushwhacker Museum.

Here, then, is one more modest addition to that vast roster of onetime Vernon Countians, in all their infinite variety, who've fared out into the wide world and made their mark, racked up their achievements, worthy however obscure, and above all had their adventures, likely all "under the radar," so to speak, of the friends of their youth back home.