A conversation with Campobello’s Oren Brady

Published 10:00 pm Monday, February 23, 2015

COLUMNLandrumWanderings Oren Web


By Linda List

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Does the name Oren Brady ring a bell?

Oren was treasurer of Spartanburg County for 20 years, followed by his son, Oren Brady III.  As he told me during my recent interview, the people of Spartanburg County have been “sending their tax money to Oren Brady” for 50 years. Oren will be 95 in March and he has an interesting story to tell.

His life began in 1920, born in a farmhouse on the edge of Campobello. The family farmed cotton and corn.  Oren’s life took many twists and turns. He graduated from Wofford, was appointed to SLED by Strom Thurmond, and served in the Air Force. He was both chief of police in Campobello and eventually mayor.

His grandfather had a farm that started with a log cabin and then more rooms were added including a parlor for special occasions.

Of his grandfather’s homeplace Oren recalls a blacksmith shop, a smokehouse for ham and a barn for the cattle.  They processed sugar cane and made molasses.

He reminisces, “My grandfather wanted to see a boat before he died. So, he hired a young man to drive him in a touring car all the way to Charleston and there he saw a boat. He lived to be 92.”

As a young man, Oren was working in an auto supply store when he decided to go to Florida and look for work.  He thumbed his way down to Georgia and then thumbed again to Panama City and found work in the shipyards.  WWII started and he joined the Air Force, serving in Guam for three and a half years.

After the war, Oren worked for GE in Schenectady, N.Y.

“This is where I met my wife, Evelyn. We went to Montreal for our honeymoon. How much do you think we paid for the hotel?” he asks me.

“Only $8 and it was the biggest hotel in Montreal,” he chuckles.

I asked Oren about some of his memories of Campobello during the years he was growing up.  He recalls the old hotel built by Rev. I.O. Wingo.

“It’s burned down now, but in it’s day people would come from Charleston on the train to stay there and visit the sulphur spring. There was a boardwalk from the depot to the hotel, and then another boardwalk down to the spring. The top of the hotel featured a ballroom and the hotel had a bowling green.”

I asked if he ever went to the hotel.

“No, but several years after it was gone, I set out with a friend to find the spring. We found it but I never went back,” he tells me.

Oren describes a nearby pasture. “Back in the ‘20s Lindbergh used the pasture to land his plane.  He would give people rides.  When I heard about this, I wanted to be the first one to get a ride.”

We discuss the red brick buildings that line the street in Campobello.

“They’re two separate buildings. One was a mercantile store.  It even had an elevator. They sold everything, even caskets on the second floor.  Eventually it became a place where they sold textiles. The other building was the Campobello People’s Bank.”

I’m curious about moonshine days.

“Oh, I remember a man who had been arrested by federal agents,” Oren began. “He dressed in his best suit to meet his lawyers in Greenville and walk to court. He was grinning as they walked and the lawyers warned him that this was serious business. The moonshiner told them it would be okay because ‘the judge is one of my customers,’” Oren laughs. “The railroad ran up to Saluda.  The moonshiners would take the tires off the cars and ride the rails on the rims.”

Oren and Evelyn have been buying and selling antiques for many years. They live in a bungalow that was moved there from another location.

It’s a small house and Oren tells me that the original owners raised eight children in this house.

“They all grew up and went to college,” he smiles “and we’ll soon be moving to Spartanburg to a retirement community.”

They were in the midst of sorting things out and packing during my visit. Oren is a special man with many fond memories and I’ve enjoyed our conversation. I appreciate his time and his willingness to share his life’s adventures with me.