Letters from Readie Mae Belcher Golden (1907-1993), my grandmother

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Updated 2016.06.26

Readie Mae Belcher Golden
Readie Mae Belcher Golden, circa 1927/28. Photo: Katherine Williams Trotter collection.

Readie Mae Belcher (1907-1993) is my paternal grandmother, daughter of John Allen Belcher (1875-1957) and Sultania Graham (1886-1923), and was married to Henry Roosevelt Golden (1904-1987), my paternal grandfather.

I did not grow up with my grandparents (Alabama) except for my first grade year of school when I lived with them on a dairy farm outside of Birmingham in the Warrior area.

From first grade onward however my grandmother, Readie Mae Belcher Golden, became my faithful long distance correspondent. It was rare that I got to see her. When I left the farm to rejoin my family in 1962 it would not be until 1972 that I would see her again. In the intervening years she would write letters directly to me. It was special as a child to get letters addressed to ‘Master Golden’, a very old school term. On birthdays I could usually expect $5 in the mail — this was a major gift from her as she had very little much of her life.

I still pull out her letters and reread them from time to time.

Grandma Readie Mae never got to meet my family, although we talked about it incessantly almost from the time that I married. During the late 1980s through mid-1990s I was stationed abroad in Japan, and at the distant end of Japan in the North near to Russia. Travel was difficult for us to get about even there. The chance to get back to Alabama to visit and to introduce Grandma Readie Mae to her new family members was something that would take time.

Many of my cousins I had never met either. Yet each letter was about her family, the bigger Golden family. She would often recount which Golden cousin got what award in school, who was getting married, what instrument or sport they played, and we would discuss the quality of some vegetable or just whatever. Okra was a popular topic.

Readie Mae Belcher Golden
Readie Mae Belcher Golden

She would also try to keep up with some of my Army buddies. During 1974-75 I was stationed at Fort Gordon, Georgia. It was just a short drive. Sometimes I would take Army buddies home to visit with me in Alabama. I had one buddy in particular from Syosset, Long Island, New York. Grandma Golden would often ask how ‘that Yankee boy’ is doing. Okra usually would come up in discussion at this point. During one Sunday meal she had prepared fried okra and ‘that Yankee boy’ took to it like he had been eating it all his life.

As she says in the snippet below, she was never sure really what to write. She did know of course. She wanted to write about family, to be family, to have family (which she had plenty of — she had 11 children that went forth and were fruitful and multiplied!) and if you were born into her family … and she knew where you were and how to contact you … then she wanted to know what your Golden family was doing.

Letter from Readie Mae Belcher Golden
Letter from Readie Mae Belcher Golden, March 14, 1992

This is one of Grandma Readie Mae Golden’s very last letters. In it she notes that her 83rd birthday is coming in October  (1992) but that her health was failing. She passed away in March 1993.

I never got the chance to proudly show her my family or to give her a hug — not that she was big on hugs … but she did love family. Dearly.

Readie Mae was the daughter of John Allen Belcher (1875-1957) and Sultania Graham (1886-1923).

She once told me how she met my grandfather, Henry Roosevelt Golden (1904-1987): He came looking for work one day at their farm and she fell for him.

You are welcome to add to or to correct this story by contacting: Bill Golden, Norfolk1956@gmail.com

BTW – I look forward to sharing your stories, photos and in-search-of quests. Contact me at the email address above.