Reflecting on past years of Newton

Staff Writer

Evelyn Edison Brady has seen a lot in her 96 years.

Born in Iredell County, her family relocated to Catawba County when she was just a young child.

“Health and economics forced my parents to move to Catawba, but it wasn’t adequate,” she remembered.

So at nine years old, she found herself moving again-- this time to Newton to live with her sister, Genell Mitchell.

“We lived in the corner house besides the State Cinema,” Evelyn said.

Evelyn described her childhood as one with many friends. She especially enjoyed playing with Stanley Corne, Harper Cilley, and Hoke Jones.

“We didn’t play games, but we enjoyed playing on the cannon in the yard of Court Square,” Evelyn said. “That was our play yard.”

She also enjoyed tap dancing and watching Fred Kirby, the singing cowboy.

Her best friend was Virginia Dees, daughter of the owner of women’s clothing store, “Lucy Lou’s.”

The pair were inseparable.

Later in life, Dees would be there when Evelyn got married.

“She let me borrow her Juliet cap when I got married,” Evelyn shared. “It was my something borrowed.”

In between playing with her friends, she formed a close relationship with Genell’s new husband, Gus.

He was an entrepreneur with big dreams for Newton.

Uncle Gus’ first dream was made a reality when he opened the Imperial Theatre on College Avenue.

“It was the only theatre in downtown Newton at the time,” she said. “I got to help. I took up tickets for 10 years.”

The job gave her a sense of responsibility and purpose.

Evelyn chuckled as she recalled the time she caught a young man sneaking into the movie theatre.

“The box office was closed when I saw him slip in,” she said. “ I threw him out and later I married him.”

It would be six years later when she finally saw her future husband, Leslie Brady, again.

Brady, from Conover, held no grudges about being thrown out.

“He said he was just happy he got to talk to me,” she laughed.

In 1937, Uncle Gus ventured into building a new theatre-- what would become the State Cinema.

“I worked there for six years as an usher,” she shared. “We wore cute, military-style uniforms that were light and dark blue.”

Evelyn recalled working late shifts and being served free breakfast in the morning from Fred Welborn, who worked at the cafe next door to the theatre.

“He’d make me heart-shaped pancakes,” she said smiling.

Those heart-shaped pancakes would eventually stop when Evelyn married Leslie after he returned from the Navy at the end of World War II.

Even after getting married at Saint John’s Lutheran, on June 15, 1940, the two enjoyed dates at on Saturdays at H & W Drug Company.

The pair loved the chicken salad sandwiches with pickles and chocolate milkshakes.

“Leslie liked lots of pickles-- they never put enough on his sandwich, so he put his name on it, set it on their shelf, and every time we came in they would hand him his jar with his sandwich,” Evelyn laughed.

She laughed remembering living on First Street and picking up the newspaper trash from the Observer News Enterprise as it blew into her yard.

“I went up there a few times and gave them a piece of my mind,” she laughed.

In between picking up the papers, she raised two sons, Ray and Gary.

Her son Gary later delivered the Observer News to the community. Both he and his brother were smart, with one becoming a college professor and the other a rocket scientist.

Evelyn became a prominent part of the downtown Newton community, participating in the Eastern Stars, working at the Merchant’s Association, and singing in First United Methodist’s choir for 66 years.

Looking back at life in downtown Newton, Evelyn says it was a good one.

“Everybody was out and about, we rode bikes or walked everywhere,” she recalled. “Everybody knew everybody.”

Today, Evelyn spends her days with others at Trinity Village in Hickory, going out to lunch, and visiting her son, Gary, and her cat, Freckles, at Abernethy Laurels. .

She also looks forward to visits from Debby Reynolds, daughter of her mother’s best friend Betty Medlin.

Reynolds treasures spending time with Evelyn, having formed a close-knit relationship with her over the years.

“I was about five years old when we started running around,” she laughed. “I haven’t stopped yet.”

Now, the pair enjoy going to lunch at Callahan’s Cafe, Outback Steakhouse, and sitting at the bar of O’ Charley’s.

Even though Evelyn gets sad at times thinking about the past, she doesn’t let it stop her future.

“People have came and gone, but I’m lucky to be alive,” Evelyn said.