By Carol Mowdy Bond
Ken “Mac” McAlister, who owns Conrad Marr Drug, 948 S. Yukon Parkway, and his wife, Irene, live on the farm where Irene was born.
There are hidden gemstones throughout Yukon, and Irene McAlister’s family story is priceless.
When asked about their family heritage, Mac says his mom’s family members came out of Tennessee, and were farmers, doctors, and bankers. Then he defers anymore questions to Irene. And that’s where this story really takes off.
Irene’s family tree winds back to Europe. Her grandparents, Anna and Maxwell Tischer, owned a bakery in the small town of Bornitz-Saxony, Germany. Their business was going so well that “they needed to be careful how they spent their money, because their customers would not trade with them any longer if they dressed too well,” says Irene.
But Maxwell was troubled. Germany’s volatile, political climate was unsettling. So, he sent money to American friends to purchase a farm for him.
Maxwell and Anna sold their bakery, packed everything including a large featherbed, and boarded a ship for the U.S.
With eight children in tow, choppy ocean waters made the Tischer family’s passage challenging. Meal time plates slid off the table. And 7-year-old Martha Louise perched herself on an upper deck, peering down at the churning sea. She lost her footing and was going over the edge when her sister, Lena, grabbed her arm, and Martha Louise grabbed the guard rail, making it back onto the deck.
Arriving in the U.S., the Tischers were stunned to realize they owned non-arable, rocky land. So, Maxwell purchased a second farm where he and his family set up housekeeping, and merged into Maud’s German community.
Anna and Maxwell’s children had European names. And Irene thinks her dad’s European name may have been Karel. But in the U.S., he was always known as Roy.
The Tischer children left behind a privileged life in Germany. But in their new schools, they encountered rough and humiliating situations. They had no knowledge of English. And their German attire, which included high button shoes, made them laughing stocks among American children.
Irene’s mom never liked her first name, which was Martha. So she went by her middle name, which was Louise.
Louise grew up and launched out on her own, becoming a domestic worker for families of great means. She worked primarily as a nanny, and sometimes as a cook. She was the nanny for Mr. and Mrs. Tom Braniff when he started Braniff Airlines.
Louise’s friends were also domestic workers, and two of them invited her to Yukon, to meet their family. That’s when Louise met Roy Mach.
Roy’s dad was Charles Mach (1858-1937). A miller from Yernee, Czechoslovakia, Charles arrived in the U.S. in about 1885, settling in Nebraska. He sent for his bride-to-be, Katherine Havlova (1869-1925) of Tucopy, Czechoslovakia, who arrived in about 1886.
Times were tough. So, in the 1890s, Charles and Katherine, plus their first two children Emma and Roy, hopped a train to El Reno, and then bought a Yukon farm. The Mach family grew in size, and included Roy’s brother Bill.
Emma and her husband Frank Bronec left Yukon, moving to Montana. Roy went with them, and homesteaded. But he was only there a few years when he received a letter. He had been drafted to serve in World War I.
Because of the draft letter, Roy had to register. There were no roads in the area where they lived. And Roy walked two miles in the snow to register.
Roy was stationed in the Forest of Argonne in France. The Battle of Argonne Forest was part of the last battle of the war. Lasting from Sept. 26, 1918, until Nov. 11, 1918, there were 192,000 U.S. casualties, including 26,277 who died.
Returning home with a serious case of shell shock, Roy just couldn’t handle his Montana homestead. Because he had family in Oklahoma, he gravitated back to them.
A fiddler who played the accordion, Roy married Louise Tischer. And he purchased a 160-acre homestead from Elijah Vian. As the first owner of the land, Vian initially acquired the parcel when it was part of Indian Territory. Roy became the second owner, and he farmed, raised cattle, and grew wheat.
The children of Louise and Roy Mach include Ernest, Irene, and Kenneth.
Irene fondly recalls a pear tree near the house where she grew up. As a girl, she wanted to become a teacher, and she created her pretend school room under that pear tree. Her brother Kenneth loved to play truck. So, they continually made a deal. He would be Irene’s pupil while she was the teacher. Then they would play truck. But Irene hated to play truck, and Kenneth hated to play school.
Irene always made sure the pretend school time lasted much longer than the truck time. She says, “I would be teaching, and big tears would roll down Kenneth’s cheeks because he hated school time so much.”
After attending Yukon schools, Irene then attended 6th through 8th grades at Saint John Nepomuk Catholic School, then back into Yukon schools, and graduated. She moved on to Central State University, now the University of Central Oklahoma. And, she went to work at the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, then Pan American Petroleum. Tragically, her marriage to Gene Vian ended when he died at age 33. A widow of two young children, Keith and Mindi, Irene then faced a difficult life.
Through the decades, the Mach family grew exponentially in size, and today their descendants own farms stretching across much of Yukon’s west side. Roy Mach’s brother, Bill, owned the world-famous Grady the Cow. Bill’s grandson, Matt Mach, owns a business and lives on family land on Yukon’s west side.
Today Irene is married to Ken McAlister, and they live on her dad’s 160-acre Yukon farm, just 1 1/2 miles west of town. As well, Irene’s brother Ken and his wife Sherry live on the farm. And Irene’s son Keith and his wife Angie also live there. Ken still runs cattle on the flat, prairie land.
Roy and Louise’s house, where Irene, Ken, and Ernie grew up, sits empty on the farm. Irene was born in the house.
Irene loves to sew, garden, and cook. All sum total, she and Ken have 6 children, 10 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
And those are true gems in their lives.