Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Grandma Vada

My grandmother on my mother's side was named Vada Meade. She had a twin sister at Ada who died at birth. And I don't remember much about her family, but I’m pretty sure that her father was Sylvester Mead. I think her mother's name was Evelyn Brewer. Vada married a fellow by the name of Robert Lee Browning, I guess he was named after Gen. Robert E. Lee, so that would assume some kind of confection to the Confederacy. They had five children, Robert Lee Junior died as a baby and then the other children were Alvie, Riley, Beulah, and Louise my mother, your grandmother. Her real name is Eva Louise but she always went by Louise. She was born the same day as Sam, just a whole lot earlier. My mom was born January 3, 1925. She died when she was 63 the same as my father.

I don't know a lot about their marriage but my grandmother had a dream that Robert Lee went to the company store. He was a miner and bought some red shoes. Well, he never brought her the red shoes. So she went to the company store and found out that he had bought some red shoes. The company store was owned by the mine. They paid with company script and so the minors bought everything at the company store. The company store was really the only place would take the script. So the mines had this lock on their employees. Not such a great deal for the minors.

So anyway he had bought a pair of red shoes and had given them to some other woman. Evidently he was having an affair and that's how my grandmother found out about it and she divorced him. My mother was two years old then. So that left Vada with four kids to raise alone through the depression era. She took in washing and that kind of thing to support the family. At one point they moved to New York state for a while. I don't know exactly where, uncle Alvie, the oldest living son did make a lot of friends there, late in his life he be returned to the visit New York. At some point Vada moved to Huntington and I guess Mom moved with her. As a side note Mom and Beulah Eustis sanging on the radio. I guess that was kind of a common thing back then when they didn't have many records and stuff. This was in the 30’s and 40’s, so local talent came to the radio station and provide some entertainment.

Grandma did all kinds of things in her life to her supporter herself and the children. When I was a kid the first job that I know about her having, she was the head of house-keeping at the Frederick hotel. My mom was working there as a maid when she met my dad who was working as a janitor. They started dating and fell in love. And they got married in Catlettsburg, KY.The grandma data worked at the Frederick for a long time and I remember when I was a kid going down in spending the night with her, a time or two in the apartment she had on the top floor of the hotel. Then later made a after she left the Frederick, she rented a floor of rooms in a place called the Jones Hotel. These were on the second floor, on fourth Avenue between, I think, eighth and ninth streets. She rented all the rooms on the floor monthly and he re-rented them weekly. She was able to make money enough, I guess to provide her a place to live that way. The next venture she entered into was a restaurant over on Fifth Avenue between eighth and ninth streets. It was always fun to go and visit, because she had a pinball machine and always gave me a bunch of Nichols to play pinball machine all I wanted. And when we were down there sometimes she would give me some money and I would go around the corner to a place called White Castle Cafe, not related to the White Castle chain. I would order a hamburger and they had really good hamburgers. I would just get mayonnaise on. So she ran this restaurant for five or six years I guess and then she got out of the restaurant business for a little while. The next thing I remember her doing was renting a big house over on sixth Avenue about 11th St. She rented rooms out in the house. During this time she had a boyfriend who worked for the railroad and he would come and go. From time to time I'd run into him while we were there visiting, but I don't know what his name was.

Her next ventures were down 14th St. West. She did a couple of different things down there. The biggest activity seemed to be running secondhand stores. So she had a couple of different secondhand stores over this time. I remember going to her apartment and she would have bedrooms just piled to the ceiling full of old clothes and stuff that she would buy yard sales or where ever and then reselling them in her secondhand shop. She had used furniture and knickknacks, all kinds of stuff, it was always interesting to see what she had to sell. I got a little secretarial desk that had a fold down in front. I used it in my bedroom for homework in high school and into college, before my mission, from her. And I also got this really cool old suit this was in the 70s when wide lapels were in. This was a great gray pinstripe, really nice suit, very expensive whenever it was a purchased. It had really wide lapels and my mom took wide legs of the pants and made big bell bottom. My mom also took the pleats out and modernized it. For career for years it was my favorite suit. My favorite tie was one that had stars and stripes on it was like an American flag, and it was really wide, like 6 inches wide.

Grandma also opened a restaurant down 14th St. She ran it for five years or so as well. There is still a restaurant in the location, the14th St. café or something.

Back in the middle of this, I'm not sure when, I guess 1965 since, my mom was 40 years old grandma remarried Robert Lee Browning. He had brain cancer and died a year later, but they didn't did not know that he was ill when they got married. Grandma finally retired and moved to an apartment above a barbershop on eighth street above a barbershop between fifth and sixth avenues. It was on the alley on the sixth avenue side. It was a nice apartment when visitors several times there, but then she started getting a little dementia. She started getting headaches and she believed there were somebody up on the roof shooting beams into her head and that was causing her headaches. Also she had a quart jar of mustard in a refrigerator and if you left mustard set the water separates and floats to the top. So she was convinced that her next-door neighbors were sneaking in and stealing her mustard and then pouring water back in the jar so that she would know that the that they had taken any. My mom tried to convince her that no one would steal 2 ounces of mustard, but grandma was convinced and would not be persuaded otherwise.

Shortly after this and Beulah came down with Alzheimer's and her husband uncle Bob dumped her. They had been married for 30 years or something. So when Beulah move back in with grandma and they moved to a house on the corner of seventh Avenue and about sixth street. They became quite the pair. Aunt Beulah was very pleasant but was completely mentally gone. The lights are on but nobody was home. She could walk out on the front porch and closed the door and not have any idea where she lived her or where she was. She woke up to an exciting new day, every day. Eventually things got so bad that they had to put grandma and aunt Beulah in a nursing home. Shortly after that and Beulah died.


  1. Thanks for sharing the family history! I didn't know any of that - very interesting stories. I love the mustard story, even though it's kind of sad. Love you!

  2. She was my Grandma too!!! I am the late Alva Lee Browning's Granddaughter..My maiden Name was Laura Lee Browning..My Dad is your first cousin Larry Lee Browning..we live in Washington State...When I was a little girl at Christmas Great Grandma Vada would send us a huge box of stuff from her store..She would make us pillow cases...We have one of her quilts she made...She came a visited us once..when I was a girl...Beulah also came once before she had Alzheimers with Bob and then after...I was a little girl..Riley came once too...I think your mom was the only one I didn't meet...As a child I remember seeing pictures of your family...I know you have a sister named Beverly...I am forwarding your blog onto my dad and brother....Thanks for the wonderful story...I learned alot tonight about my Grandma Vadie....