Former owner recalls days gone by in Brady

Like many retired persons, he lives in his own home with his wife and goes about the daily tasks associated with caring for a home. Doesn’t sound too out of the ordinary, unless you are 92 years old. Charles Matthews and his wife, Juanita, currently live in San Angelo where they have lived since 1975. Many long-time Bradyites might remember Charles from the 25 or so years he lived and worked in Brady at the old peanut mill. He first moved to Brady in 1934 looking for work. He found it at the old cotton oil mill. With the aftereffects of the Great Depression still affecting the area, he was happy to find what work was offered to him. What was promised only as a temporary job expected to last about three months spanned into a 10-year stint where he marketed, sold, diversified and grew the business located on the Old Mason Road. His starting wage’$15 per week. “That was a pretty good job back then,” recalls Matthews. “We were still feeling the effects of the depression and work was hard to come by. Most of the workers in the mill were working for less than that.” After working at the mill owned by the Consumers Cotton Oil Co. for 10 years, he transferred to New Mexico where he ran a mill and continued producing cotton seed oil and shelling peanuts. In 1946, he and a partner returned to Brady and purchased the mill and eventually named it Brady Mills, Inc. The plant was used for several years to handle grain production and peanut milling in addition to cotton seed milling. The market for peanuts at the time was variable, but eventually became the most profitable. During its heyday, the Brady mill was buying and selling as many peanuts as they could. “I remember one year when my plant manager said that he could sell all of the peanuts I could buy. So we bought a bunch of peanuts. We had so many peanuts, everywhere you looked, they were stacked high,” said Matthews. The boon to the peanut crop was followed by the drouth of the 1950s which nearly closed the mill. “We kept on running the mill and upgrading the presses even though we were losing money,” said Matthews. “Eventually, I got into a situation with my creditors where they said that they had had enough. The drouth had just cost us too much money. The funny thing was, that year we ended up having a bumper crop.” Matthews left the mill in a mutual agreement with the company in 1959. Still keeping his house in the Heart of Texas, he went to Tulia where he ran a cotton gin and grain elevator for the next year. The market soured and competition was tough and he again began looking for work. One day while traveling from his house in Brady, he had an unfortunate encounter with a train in Santa Anna. “That train hit my car and sent me spinning down the track where I finally ended up pinned in between a couple of trains,” recalled Matthews. “That happened on Jan. 25, 1960. I can remember it like it was yesterday. I spent 21 days in the hospital after that.” He eventually recovered and ended up moving to Dallas where he bought a peanut brokerage firm. Charles matthews and Co. Inc. sold peanuts to candy manufacturers across the nation. He ran the company from 1960 until 1974 when he retired. He and his first wife Doris Broyles moved back to Brady in May of ’75. They then moved to San Angelo where she died shortly thereafter. In 1976, he began ranching on a family ranch located south of Christoval. The daily grind of being a cowboy was just what he was looking for. “I rode a horse every day up until 1990,” said Matthews. “At that point, the members of the family were beginning to have different opinions about how to run the ranch so we got together and solved the problem.” Matthews remarried in 1978 to Juanita and the two remain a happy couple. He was a past member of the Brady City Council, past president of the Chamber of Commerce and was very much involved in the business and daily functions of the city of Brady. His name appears numerous times in old issues of The Brady Standard, The Brady Herald and the The Heart O’ Texas News. It appears almost as many times in the many clippings of 41 Years Ago that adorn Matthews’ scrapbook. The days of Brady Mills and the smell of peanuts cooking are long since faded from the town of Brady. The building is being torn down and the lot is being cleared. The memories and history surrounding it, however, are alive and well within the scrapbooks and memories of at least one vibrant and enjoyable man.

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