Breland: Big white house adventures come on back

Published 11:28 am Friday, January 21, 2022

Sometimes almost forgotten memories crop up just in time for an interesting story, as topics for weekly columns are scarce sometimes.

When the children were small, we lived next door to an elderly couple, Wilbur and Ouida Branch. Having no children or grandchildren of their own, they welcomed our three girls, who would often run back and forth between our house down the hill up to their big white house. They were our only close neighbor.

The girls particularly remember Mrs. Ouida making tea cakes and having other refreshments for them. They often trotted along beside Mr. Wilbur as he went about doing his chores. One remembers a chicken chasing her while outside and another recalls the only outhouse they ever used.

The Branches had a 1937/38 Chevrolet they kept in great shape in the outside garage and used it usually to go the store or to church. Most of the time they were home and they told us how much they enjoyed the company of the children.

The girls had a lot of lively conversations with the couple during their visits. Some of it could have gone on into other neighborly conversations, because they noticed Mrs. Ouida asked a lot of questions.

They asked me what to do about the questions and I told them as long as they didn’t mind answering, it was OK, as we didn’t have anything to be ashamed of or anything to gossip about. However, if they didn’t want to answer just to pretend they didn’t remember.

All seemed well until one day Mrs. Ouida met their grandmother in town and she said she was really worried about the girls, particularly the oldest one. “She can’t remember anything,” she said.

“In the past, I could ask her questions and she would tell me everything, but all of a sudden she tells me she doesn’t know or doesn’t remember,” she said. She was obviously alarmed, which made Mrs. Breland hide her almost smile. She knew I had discussed this with the girls.

We were good neighbors with the Branches a long time. The girls loved going there to visit. Then there was the sad morning when Mr. Wilbur passed away unexpectedly at home, the same morning another neighbor on the opposite side of us, Howard Wilks, also died. It was such a very sad day for all of our neighbors.

Mrs. Ouida was left living alone in the big white house. She was a very neat person and believed in keeping her house very clean. I tried to visit some to make sure she was okay.

One afternoon, we were all outside in the yard. The girls had been to school all day. We kept hearing a strange noise. Trying to figure it out, we stayed still, listening carefully, when Rob started running toward the Branch house. We followed in the car and we found Mrs. Ouida on the floor in the kitchen where she had fallen.

She said, “I have called and called, and nobody heard me.” So sad. She had been lying there all day with a broken leg or hip. She had climbed up on the kitchen counter to clean the window over the sink and fell.

I think about her words a lot as I get older and wear my little black safety button around my neck in case of an accident.

She was taken to the hospital, but didn’t last long. The big white house where my children had visited so often was empty. Since the Branches had no children, the house went on to relatives and burned later on.

We eventually moved away from there and the girls grew up, but the memories of the Branches, who served as extra grandparents for my children, still live vividly with them today.

Retired as Associate News Editor, Bob Ann Breland writes a weekly column for The Daily News. You can email her at bobann70@att.net.