January 8, 2014

Vada Atlas ALLEN, 1905 - 1964

Atlas Allen and best friend, circa 1925
My maternal grandfather, Vada Atlas ALLEN, was a gentle giant. He died in 1964 when I was just 6 years old, but I remember him clearly. A tall lanky man, he carried me on his shoulders, perched me on his lap, and perhaps best of all...took me to Mrs. Carter's candy store in the Caraleigh neighborhood of Raleigh, NC every chance he got. 

He was well loved by his family. A devoted family man, I've been told a number of stories about his rather colorful past and how he worked to provide for his family. 

Clearly, he loved pets. He is pictured here with man's best friend, probably a hunting dog. He also had the sweetest little chihuahua named "Tiny". He loved Tiny and took her everywhere! When I was born, my parents and I were gifted with Tiny's puppy, "Peanuts". Peanuts passed away when I was in high school, but there could not have been a better cared for pooch.

Grandpa Allen had seen the harder side of life. Born to a poor tenant farmer, I imagine he hunted to provide for the family, but he also shared in the family business - moonshining. On the wrong side of the law, he spent some time at Caledonia Farms, a prison farm in north eastern North Carolina. There, he learned the more legal trade of repairing diesel engines.

At least in this case, I think we can say the State of North Carolina did the right thing and rehabilitated a man to provide him with the highly marketable skill of diesel mechanic.  This put Grandpa in high demand during World War II when the government would request his assistance in maintaining helicopter engines at Ft. Bragg, NC.

There is also a family story that Grandpa spent some time working in the coal mines in Grundy, Virginia where he was seriously injured in a mine explosion. He remained hospitalized in the Grundy area for nearly a year before returning to NC. Naturally, the great aunt who told me that story now doesn't recall that Grandpa ever worked in the coal mines. Such is the nature of genealogy.

Grandpa and Grandma (Ethel DAVIS) Allen was one of the first in either family to own their home when they bought a small house in Caraleigh, a working class neighborhood of Raleigh, NC. There was a large snowball bush on the side of the house where us kids would play hide and seek. My mother had a cutting of that bush in the yard where I grew up, and I had a cutting in my yard for 22 years until I bought into the "townhome lifestyle" where such things are considered crass. 

Atlas Allen funeral
Good Hope Baptist Church
October 1964
In the odd southern tradition of taking pictures at funerals (and particularly odd is the practice of photographing the body), you can see his family to the left, (left to right) middle daughter Grace Elizabeth (Lib) ALLEN LEE,  Grandma ALLEN, youngest daughter Mary Joyce ALLEN LUCAS and his oldest daughter, my mother Ann Gladys ALLEN STANCIL. 

Atlas and Ethel were married 38 years. They died 8 months apart when Ethel died in June 1965. I've discovered it is common for couples who have been together a long time to die close together. My parents died just 10 weeks apart and were married 45 years.

Vada Atlas ALLEN Funeral Card

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