Sharing Memories

Norman and Arlene Grede share a laugh while remembering their time together.

Just a few years before relocating to Scottsboro, Arlene Grede was given a top secret assignment.

She laughed at her boss at Bendix Radio when he asked her for help. She though his request was a bit foolish and impossible, even a joke.

Grede was told that America had plans to send someone to the moon.

"This guy was serious and didn't move when I laughed," said Grede. "I quickly hung up my smile and set my eyes on Washington, D.C."

Word was that Bendix Radio of Baltimore, Md., was going to oversee the communications between the moon and NASA during this possible mission.

"Back then there was no fax and no email to transport documents. You had to carry that information from city to city," she said.

For many months Grede traveled back and forth by train from Washington D.C. to Baltimore, each trip carrying top secret classified documents. She was given a secret service clearance by the government and sworn not to look at or discuss the contents of her assignment. She simply was to serve as the messenger.

A few years later, after moving to Scottsboro, Grede and her husband, along with close friends from Baltimore were gathered in the living room.

It was July 21, 1969.

Grede and the company around her watched as a young Neil Armstrong made history, landing Apollo 11 on the surface of the moon.

"I remember watching that and saying to everyone, 'Well, they really did do it, didn't they,'" she said.

 

Life

Everyday is a busy day for Grede. She has to make herself rest and lately to say no to requests.

After all, it seems she is involved in everything Scottsboro and Jackson County has to offer.

The organizations she's been a part of or is currently helping out with are too many to count. At times she forgets what she has been involved in.

The list is detailed as she is or has been a member of the Master Gardeners of Jackson County, Chairman of the Scottsboro Tree Commission with Tree City U.S.A., the Northeast Alabama Community College Foundation, Scottsboro Music Study Club Coordinator, Friends of the Scottsboro Public Library, past president of The United Methodist Church Women, the United Methodist Church Council, Friends of the Family board member, past chairman of the Scottsboro Beautification Council, President of the Caldwell Dawson Living Center Board and past president of the Scottsboro Women's League, where she currently participates as a sustainer.

Sitting down for a simple interview requires a balance of her time as the phone rings on and off. It may be calls from friends asking about an upcoming dinner, or a call from the Scottsboro Mayor's office, double checking the time of a proclamation signing.

Grede admits it's hard for her turn down helping out an organization, but when she does,  the choice brings her a little bit of relief.

Still, at 83 years-old, Grede keeps going.

"I'm involved in way too many things but I enjoy all of it," she said. "I can't sit still."

Grede may not have grown up in Scottsboro, but the city has become her home over the past 45 years. It's a place she loves and gives her heart to, regardless of the call.

Grede was born in 1928 in Belle Vernon, Pa, an area south of Pittsburg and grew up during the Great Depression. She can't recall a time during her childhood of being deprived of food or anything else. Her father always had a job working  with insurance companies and her mother taught school.

Grede's also very educated. She received her bachelor's degree in economics from  Wilson College for Women in Chambersburg, Pa. She earned her Master's Degree in library sciences from Drexel University in Philadelphia.

"It was hard for me to pin a definite subject on what I really wanted to study because I was interested in all things," said Grede. “I worked in the Wilson College Library during my time there and became fascinated with librarian work."

The move to Scottsboro came in the fall of 1967, when her husband Norman's job as an industrial engineer was moved to Scottsboro with Revere Copper and Brass.

Scottsboro

For Grede,  shock was moving to the South at the age of 38. She admits she didn't want to move to Scottsboro, a move alone that took her from the majority of her immediate family and her friends.

"I went from a city to a small town," she said, recalling Scottsboro's population at around 9,500 residents at that time. "At first, I didn't know what to do."

Grede began working in the library at the Northeast Alabama Community College after moving to Scottsboro. It was her first venture into a new, settled life among new friends. At first she was just filling in, but the school's library was moving toward accreditation and Grede's Master's Degree helped to qualify the library.

"I loved helping people find what they were looking for," she said, of her job as librarian for 33 years.

She misses the students most.

"People still think I'm the librarian at the college. And even though I tell them I'm not, they insist I help them with something," she said.

Which she gladly does.

Grede has never regretted her move to Scottsboro. It's one of the prettiest places with the most friendliest people, she says. It's also home.

"This part of the state is just a wonderful place and location for everything you could want," said Grede.

She's grown accustomed to sweet tea and black eyed peas. The cuisine of the South, including everything from grits to pinto beans to okra, have become small portions of her life she looks forward to.

What she's never gotten over are the many different types of beans and peas the South offers. Where she grew up there was one bean and one pea to purchase at the local supermarket. A favorite story of hers is the hunt around Scottsboro she made for English Peas.

She was asked to make a simple English Pea Casserole and could not find the particular type of pea she needed for the dish.

"I looked everywhere and found numerous types of peas and beans but nothing that said English peas," she said. "Come to find out they were labeled as green peas, which I'd eaten plenty of times in Baltimore. I still get kidded about that today."

Love

Grede met her husband over a game of ping pong at the United Methodist Church she attended in Baltimore. They were both 14 years-old and became fast friends, though dating for this couple didn't officially begin until after college.

"Kids today date, but in my day we went on group dates and courted someone," said Grede.

Norman is her other half, finishing sentences when needed and keeping her on track for her many appointments.

Norman, who is two months older than Grede, completed his service in the Marine Corps, enlisting for two years right after WWII. They married when he returned from service. Norman took the old fashioned route to ask for his bride's hand, making sure it was OK with her father first.

"I can't remember when he asked me, but I think I said yes," laughs Grede.

The Gredes have no children, but have acquired the titles of Aunt Arlene and Uncle Norman from many friends and other family members over the years.

They are still active in the First United Methodist Church of Scottsboro. Norman owned H&R Block for 12 years before selling the business. He still helps out during tax season.

During the small bit of time they have not working, the Gredes enjoy evenings attending performances by the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra and Huntsville Broadway Theatre League.

They will celebrate 60 years of marriage in December.

"Above all we've been committed to each other all this time," said Grede. "We listen to each other and really are each other's best friend."

Adds Norman, "Marrying Arlene was the best thing I ever did."

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