Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tribute to Alberta Brannon - one of my HEROES

Local tea room owner, Alberta Brannon died last Tuesday. She was 87 years old. Alberta owned and operated Alberta's Tea Room for 30 years until closing it in 1998. Her son Larry Brannon said, "She never met a stranger. She didn't say no very much. People would come to the back door of the restaurant and she would give them a plate of food. I think that was why the business was successful, because of her charitable acts."

The former tea room was located in French Market Mall at NW 63rd St. and N. May Ave. which she began in 1969 with a partnership between Alberta and Lamoyne Kerr, ex-wife of Robert S. Kerr Jr. Before the tea room, Alberta Brannon already was an established cateress, having gotten into the business in the 1950s. She was was born August 2, 1920 in Clinton. She married James Brannon and the two opened a bakery in the late 1940s in Oklahoma City.

She worked with Lura McMurray, a prominent caterer in town and when Lura wanted to retire, Alberta went on with the catering. She had quite a reputation in Oklahoma City as a cateress, before she got into the tea room proper.

Yes, quite a reputation - on a weekend in the early 1960s when President John F. Kennedy visited the country estate of former U.S. Sen. Robert S. Kerr, D-Okla. in Poteau, Alberta and her son, Roy, were selected to cater the whole thing.

If "tea room" brings to mind a small cafe, well, "this ain't no sippin' tea room" to paraphrase a familiar advertisement. The restaurant occupied 9,000 square feet, and was popular with civic and social clubs and other groups. Its main dining room seated 120 people. There also was a formal dining room which could accommodate 150 people and was used for such events as club meetings and rehearsal dinners. A third dining room west of the main tea room provided a more private, intimate setting and could hold about 100 people.

In addition to the group luncheons, Alberta's was open to the public Monday through Saturday 11am to 4pm. It was open on two Sundays a year - Mother's Day and Easter.

The tearoom had its share of male patrons, but ladies were particularly fond of it. Diners might remember Alberta Brannon's homemade rolls, but also her chicken tetrazzini or hot apple pie with rum sauce.

Alberta was there almost every day her son said. "This was her life...she's was a very devout Christian woman who believed in just doing the right thing and loving people."

Her son and chef, Brannon knew where his bread was buttered and made no bones about it, "I don't care how talented you are...if the people don't support you , you're not going anywhere," he said.

I can think of no better tribute than 30 years as a successful tearoom owner, to raise 7 children and have your son say those kind words about you. When you look back on your life it won't be the big splashy events but the small behind the scenes things...the gestures of kindness that no one knew about that will matter the most.

Alberta Brannon is one of my heroes. I still remember going to the tearoom with my mom, the white starched tablecloths and the smell of her homemade rolls. I hope one day people will say the same about our vanilla muffins and maybe my three boys will want to work in the business alongside Eric and myself just like at Alberta's Tea Room. One son, Larry, oversaw the catering and planning of the parties. One son did most of the cooking and the food ordering. Another son, Roy, managed the dining room.

Alberta Brannon is survived by her sons James Brannon Jr., Roy Brannon, Marvin Brannon, Harold Brannon and Larry Brannon; daughters Darlene Reed and Shirley Reed.
1 Thessalonians 5:24 "Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass."

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