While Offshore Oil Services, Inc. didn't emerge until 1968, it's impossible to tell of its evolution without looking back in time to the Great Depression and even beyond, to the massive immigration of Eastern Europeans to America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The first plank in the company's foundation was laid in 1907 when nineteen-year-old Karol Muchowicz stepped off a steamship from Germany onto American soil at Galveston, Texas. A stranger in an unfamiliar place, Karol knew no one, spoke no English and carried only $12 in his pocket.
The first plank in the company's foundation was laid in 1907 when nineteen-year-old Karol Muchowicz stepped off a steamship from Germany onto American soil at Galveston, Texas.
His escape from Warsaw had been swift and certain once the young revolutionary returned to his family's home bleeding at the neck from a wound inflicted by the Russian police. Betrayed by an informant for his participation in anti-Russian activities, the police were determined to make an example of Karol and other courageous Poles who dreamed of overthrowing the Czar and ending Russia's 100 year occupation of their homeland. As the family's protector since their father's death two years before, Karol's older brother, Romauld, jumped into action to outsmart the Russians and save the life of his brother. Romauld disguised Karol in women's clothing and the two raced through the streets of Warsaw to the train station just ahead of the police. It was there the brothers said goodbye for the last time as young Karol boarded a train for Bremen, Germany.
When he disembarked the steamship at the port of Galveston, Karol found a city still reeling from the 1900 hurricane which killed 6000 of its inhabitants and devastated its infrastructure. Karol turned eastward to Port Arthur where he found work as a pipe fitter at the Texas Company refinery. Two years later, he met Anna Petrow, a young Polish woman, herself an immigrant, who had gained employment as a governess for a Beaumont lumberman's family. After only three visits to court Miss Anna, the two were married at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Port Arthur.
Over the next twenty years, Carl and Anna established themselves in the Port Arthur area where their work ethic and entrepreneurial spirits began to flourish. With the purchase of a dairy farm near Port Neches, the first family business began. Carl continued his work at the Texas Company refinery while Anna minded the dairy and their two young sons, Raymond and Joe. In 1924, Carl and Anna bought a half city block in a run down area of Port Arthur and moved their family into town. At 9th Street and Dallas Avenue, Carl opened the Ideal Filling Station, a Gulf outlet, while Anna tended a produce market in the same building where the family lived.
Soon, the buying and selling of produce expanded to include cordwood, iron, brass, copper, batteries and tires. By 1929, their salvage business was thriving and required a fleet of nine trucks. But, when the stock market took its plunge so did the demand for the salvage business' commodities leaving the Muchowich family in financial crisis as they faced the 1930's. Undaunted, Carl drove to Palacios, Texas with his truck driver whose brother was buying and selling shrimp there. With $500 that Anna had saved for an emergency, Carl set off on the 200 mile journey from Port Arthur in a 1926 Ford stake body truck. In Palacios, he invested the family's remaining funds in 2500 pounds of fresh shrimp which he iced and covered with a tarpaulin for the long trip back. But, restauranteurs and grocers leery of Carl's undocumented crustaceans, refused him repeatedly.
With his ice quickly melting, Carl pulled his truck to the side of the road and sold the entire load of shrimp to passersby for a nickel a pound.
Encouraged by his initial investment in the seafood business, Carl and Anna, and their now teenaged sons, moved from Port Arthur to Palacios to start over. But, after hearing about the prolific amounts of shrimp within three miles off the Freeport jetties, their final move came in 1932 when they settled in Freeport, founded Capt. Carl Muchowich and Sons, and began to build a fleet of shrimp boats.
Over the next decade and a half the seafood business prospered. When the demand for shrimp exceeded what the small Muchowich fleet was capable of hauling in, Capt. Carl began buying and processing shrimp from other boats. On one day in 1935, eleven boats in the Muchowich fleet hauled a record catch of 60,000 pounds. The same year, Carl signed a contract to supply the Japanese with 1000 tons of shrimp. After a 2500 pound catch of red snapper, the shrimp boats were soon multitasking as commercial and sport fishing vessels. In 1937, Capt. Carl set off on a 6,000 mile road trip across Texas and Oklahoma to promote his boats and deep sea fishing off the Freeport, Texas coast. It would become an annual outing that would bring in sport fishermen from the region and beyond.
With seafood available in what seemed an endless supply, Captain Carl Muchowich and Sons continued to thrive. In 1943, 42,000 pounds of shrimp were caught in one month by just four boats bringing the company's total haul for the year to 400,000 pounds. Two years later, Carl invested $150,000 in a new quick freeze plant. By 1954 the plant was proving inadequate so he built a mammoth seafood processing facility capable of freezing 30,000 pounds in 12 hours and holding up to 100,000 pounds in storage.
The Muchowich family's entrance into the oil business came in the late 1940's when exploration off Freeport began. A Muchowich shrimp boat was retrofitted to carry and feed passengers offshore. A 1948 invoice to The Humble Company (today Exxon Mobil) listed charges for bunks and meals. Another opportunity for Capt. Carl's boats had emerged. During the 1950's, the price of shrimp began to fall. Competition had moved into the Freeport area bringing shrimpers and other processing houses. Captain Carl and his sons, began to shift their emphasis to sport fishing and larger boats to navigate the 50 mile trip to the snapper and kingfish banks. A new Muchowich company, Party Boats, Inc., was formed in 1953.
In 1955, at the age of 66, Capt. Carl Muchowich passed away. He was called one of the most colorful and successful figures along the Freeport waterfront under Freeport's Facts Daily-Review banner headline, "Death Strikes Famous Fleet Owner". An era in the family businesses had ended. Anna, who was at her husband's side from the beginning, along with Joe and Raymond, now in their 40's, moved forward on the path set out for them by their legendary husband and father.
The best characteristics of Captain Carl had been inherited by his sons. Joe, who worked with his father since childhood, became the operations manager of the family's two companies. Raymond, who followed an illustrious football career and served in the military during WWII, returned to Freeport in 1946. His friendly, outgoing nature made him a natural to assume his father's role in public relations. Anna remained a key decision maker until her death in 1972.
In 1968, Raymond and Joe founded Offshore Oil Services, Inc., to meet the growing demand for marine terminal services in the Freeport area.
Five hundred feet of waterfront along the New Brazos River Diversion Channel was leased from the city and docks built for the delivery of drilling fluids and diesel fuel to oil companies exploring offshore.
Over the next few years, the brothers began to focus on the growing offshore services industry and eventually withdrew from the shrimp and sport fishing business entirely. With the purchase of the M/V Joe-Ray in 1973, they began to build a fleet of crewboats. In 2004, the company exited the marine terminal business in favor of developing and expanding the crewboat business.
In 1977, Raymond's daughter, Marilyn Muchowich Stanley joined the company. As the third generation active in the Muchowich family businesses, Marilyn trained alongside her father until his death in 2000 and today continues in an advisory position as Chairman of the Board. In 1998, Marilyn's daughter, Stacy Jo Stanley, began preparing for her role today as CEO of Offshore Oil Services, Inc. making her the fourth generation of Muchowich's to lead the family business.
While each generation of the family has contributed to the success and growth of it's businesses, it can never be forgotten that Polish immigrants, Carl and Anna Muchowich overcame all odds under the most difficult of circumstances to lay a solid foundation for Offshore Oil Services, Inc. Their courage, tenacity, and diligent work ethic will always be honored by those that follow in their footsteps.