Will the real Fred Brannen please step up?
Over the Palm Sunday week-end, while we were celebrating Mom's 87th birthday we stayed at Fred Brannen's home. You see, Fred Hance Brannen, Junior is my first cousin, the son of my father’s brother, the original Fred Brannen (deceased) and ... Fred Hance Brannen, II (the one we’ve always called Fred Junior) lives in Inverness, Florida where he works for the Brannen Banks of Florida. Confused yet? Well there is more. Let me see if I can clarify this.
As my father (Louis Alton Brannen) explained to me, he felt extremely close to his brother, Fred Brannen and would do most anything possible to make him know that. When his brother (Fred Brannen) knew that Dad was expecting his wife to give birth to me, he asked Daddy to name me Fred. Daddy said that he (Dad) protested this request because he figured that when my Uncle Fred had his own son he would name him Fred and there would be confusion. Uncle Fred vowed emphatically that he would NEVER name a son of his, Fred. Never-the-less, because of the very special relationship they had and in honor of his brother Dad and Mom named me Fred Brannen but with Alton, my Dad's middle name, as my middle name. Always, from the beginning, I was called Alton. So when Uncle Fred’s firstborn came along he was true to his word and named his son – guess what? No. Not Fred. William. So, see? No confusion exists yet.
However – by the time Uncle Fred’s second son was born my Uncle’s spirit had mellowed a bit and he named his second son – Yes, Fred. Still no confusion in the family because whenever we got together, which was twice a year (at Christmas and the week school was out in the spring) we called Uncle Fred’s son Fred Junior and I was always known as Alton. So how did I become Fred Brannen? It occurred in 1953 when we moved from the little 5-roomed school house in Campaign, Tennessee to New Orleans, Louisiana (via a three-week tour of Daddy serving as Pastor of the Tullahoma, Tennessee Church of God). At the Campaign school while I was in the 7th and 8th grades the same teacher taught both grades simultaneously. The town of Campaign had about 300 population. Our school teacher not only taught 7th and 8th grades but also served as principal of the school. In addition he was the Sunday School Superintendent and choir leader at the church Dad pastored. Did this give me special status?
If I had any special status or recognition in Campaign it was totally un-recognized when we reached the new church in New Orleans. This town had about 500,000 population (1/2 a million people) at that time. The Francis T. Nichols school which I attended was only one of hundreds of schools in that city. There were as many students in my school as the whole population of Campaign. On registration day I was half scared to death as I sat listening to strangers and trying to fill out my registration cards for each of my 5 (or was it 6?) classes. A strange male teacher took a yardstick in his hand and slammed it down on the desk (flat side down) so that it sounded like a gun-shot. Then he began to give instructions about how to fill out registration cards. “Now! Print!” he barked. “Last name! First Name! Middle initial!” So I printed with trembling hand and ashened face, "Brannen – Fred – A."
So – what’s the big deal? Nothing. Nothing at all. That is until the day I got sick at school and went to the office to ask permission to go home. The secretary asked me for my home phone number. I dutifully gave it to her. She then dialed and said, “Hello, your son Fred is sick and has asked to come home from school. We always check to make sure someone is at home before allowing them to leave school.” I could not hear the other side of the conversation but the secretary soon hung up. Turning to me she said, “Hmmm. Wrong number. Now what did you say your phone number is?” I repeated the number and the secretary dialed and went through the spiel again. This time, Mom repeated what she had said the first time. “I’m sorry, we don’t have a son named Fred – Oh WAIT! I’m sorry. Yes, we do have a son named Fred. He is Fred Alton and you can send him home!”
So still no troubles with Fred Junior here. It was only much later – when one of his daughters and one of my daughters were attending Lee College. We received a letter in the mail from Fred Junior with his personal note inside saying he was happy to receive any mail for our daughter Tabitha – except when they sent him her school bill!
O.K. Now – at the current time there are four living men with the name “Fred” Brannen, and all in our family. There is me, Fred Alton. There is Fred Junior, or Fred Hance Brannen, II. Then there is Fred Junior’s son, Fred Hance Brannen, III, otherwise known as “Son Fred” and there is “Son Fred’s” son, Fred Hance Brannen, IV, who is called “Little Fred”. I’m honored to be just one of those who carry the name of Fred in honor of Fred Hance Brannen the First. Thank’s Uncle Fred!