Occasionally brothers form a bond that’s unusually strong. My maternal grandfather, Arthur Clarence Bryant, formed such a bond with Mathias Marmaduke Bryant who was seven years his senior. My paternal grandfather, Henry C. Fischer, had such a bond with his brother Julius. Julius was six years older than Henry, who was born in 1892. Henry and Julius wrote letters regularly to each other, and even when they lived almost 400 miles distant, saw each other three or four times a year. There were two reasons for that.
The most important reason was their love for one another. The other is that they both worked for railroads. In those day’s railway workers received free fare as part of their benefit package. I don’t know if it’s still in effect, but a few years ago airline workers could fly free as well. Henry and sometimes my grandmother Etta Mae would travel to Decatur on the L&N, and then transfer to the Southern Railroad and travel east to Tuscumbia where my Uncle Julius and Aunt Saleda lived. About as often, Julius would come to Louisville. The best times were had after each of them retired.
All of the Fischer’s had a keen sense of humor and loved to laugh, not only at each other, but also themselves. When Julius came to Louisville, sometimes with Saleda and sometimes by himself, we all knew what to expect, non-stop laughter. This laughter was not due to spirits in a bottle, or coarse jokes, but rather stories they told that always had a funny ending and a moral or warning to those that listened and laughed. When Julius and Henry were together, there was no end to the fun. The whole family would gather several times over each of their trips because the fun was better than George Burns, Jack Benny, or Amos and Andy all rolled into one. And, when Aunt Saleda came along with Julius, the fun was even better when she lit into him for something he said or did she didn’t think proper. Like one time when they all came over to our house in Louisville.
Mom always tried to fix a dinner that were the Fischer favorites. The Fischer’s being from the deep south, liked grits, sausage and hoecakes for breakfast, collard greens as a side dish at supper, country-ham sweet potatoes, Brunswick stew, and homemade ice cream and/or pecan pie for dessert. There were other dishes like fried catfish, hushpuppies and vinegar coleslaw, a side dish or salad that all southerners knew had to be served with fried fish. The sweet coleslaw found at fish houses does not aid digestion, but the vinegar in the slaw cuts the grease oil or fat in which the fish is fried. I guess that’s Yankees for you! Mom fixed a big family dinner full of all Henry, Julius, Saleda and Etta Mae’s favorites. I don’t remember exactly which dishes she made, but the dessert was southern pecan pie, made with Etta’s recipe, and vanilla ice cream.
Uncle Fred, my dad’s brother and his wife aunt Peg were invited and their children Janis and Greg. Greg was an infant. There were 12 of us in all, counting me and my brother Steve. I was about 13, and Steve and Janis were 7 or 8. I knew this party was going to rock when I saw Mom had made two big pecan pies and bought a gallon of vanilla ice cream.
Everyone ate their fill, and Julius whose favorite dessert was pecan pie had two big slices. The adults were all setting around the dinner table and us kids at the children’s table. There was one slice of pie left. Manners were more important back then, and it was considered bad manners to take the last piece of anything. Mom asked if there was anything anyone wanted, and Julius said, “Ginnie, I’ll have that last piece of pie, and mom put it on his saucer, and then Aunt Saleda went off on him. Julius, she chided, “Henry might have wanted that piece of pie and you embarrassed me by asking for it. Where are your manners?” Uncle Julius answered, “Saleda, Henry can get Ginnie to bake him a pie every day, but I can’t get one but twice a year.” and as Julius ate his pie, everyone smiled but Aunt Saleda. Of course, Mom’s smile was the most satisfactory.