Chapter 1 Harold Brown Memoir – Prologue

Originally posted on December 24, 2018

My Dad wrote his memoir during the last several years of his life.

The stories and characters and places with rare exception come from his childhood. Mostly characters from Hamburg, Arkansas. But it does explain a lot about why he became the man he was. Yin and yang. If you are interested in that, here’s a gift.

I have this to share because I made a copy of Dad’s iMac hard drive. He wrote it to be found and shared, I have no doubt. I found Dad’s working copy during a digital spring cleaning, easy enough. So here it is, with minor editorial. These are his words in his voice.

His name was Harold Allen Brown. Born in 1946 to Dallas Brown and Ozell Walker Brown. Enjoy his stories. Enjoy his story.

Owen W Brown

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This is my story. These are my memories. Memories. We all have them. The trick is to find the key that unlocks what we have stored in our memory bank. I am trying to remember, not to forget.

Harold A Brown

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“Would you do it again?” I asked Mother. “No.” was her solemn reply. “No.” I’d thought when I asked the question about her marriage she would affirm my importance. She did not. Her thoughts were on the hardships she’d endured over the many years following my father Dallas’ death. How could you blame her for such an honest answer. She did the best she could under the circumstances.

There was a time before I was born when Mother rocked my brother Garvis and sister Miriam to sleep hours before their bedtime because there wasn’t enough food in the house to feed them. How painful would it be to listen to your small children cry because you could not feed them?

Throughout my life with mother, I never remember her throwing out food. Now I understand why. Some answers can’t be reached until we understand the problem. I still practice her methods. I turn off lights, adjust the temperature in the house, save food for later consumption, and save money for a rainey day.

I have seen many with far more advantages do much less.

If Mother ever felt sorry for herself and the situation she was in, it was only shown to me through that one statement, “No”.

Her courage didn’t indicate that she had no fear. Her courage was shown through the action she took in the face of fear.

We can only hope that we have done the things that will bring honor to those that have sacrificed for our survival. I love you Mother and pray that I have not let you down.

This is my story. It may differ with the memories of others. That’s okay. This is still my story. My hope is it should cause others to return to their past.

How much you care is more important than how much you know.

Looking for the best in someone else often brings out the best in you.

Chapter 2 Harold Brown Memoir – 1946

I don’t know what days were like in Southern California after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Our family was there during that time and my big brother Garvis told me he talked with our father Dallas about the implications of what had happened.

My father was not called into military duty, because of his age as I understand things.

Garvis was intensely proud of his father and was sure that nothing could ever happen to him. Before our father died he and Garvis were sitting together and he showed Garvis a small stone that he was holding between his thumb and one finger. He told Garvis he could see the stone, but could not feel it. At that point he lost his invincabality and became just another mortal.

Japan surrendered in August of 1945, just about six months before my birth. I’m Harold. Six months after my birth our father Dallas died.

The family looked toward the future as our Mother, Ozell Walker Brown started the rebuilding process. Tomorrow would have to be the day our dreams started coming true.

Mother was a proud independent woman. It wouldn’t do for her brothers to come to California and help her transport my father’s body back home. She, as I have been told, took the train with her deceased husband and their three children back to southern Arkansas for his burial.

It was never been made clear to me what caused my father’s death. I think he had a brain tumor. Is time our friend or foe? I think that it is what we make it. My father, mother, and a second brother are all buried together.

The U.S. Navy was testing the atomic bomb in the South Pacific at Bikini. We burn the tree after we gather the fruit. Are we here to produce and die? Our fruit should offer new life for all those that are to come.

Tenderly was one of the songs that entertained us that year. I can’t remember when I first started humming that tune but it has always been a favorite of mine.

Harry S. Truman was President of the United States when I started having birthdays. He moved into his new office after Roosevelt died early in his fourth term. To celebrate my birth he signed a directive that was the birth of the Central Intelligence Group that would later be called the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency). The first electric clothes dryers were in use. How was I to know that we were ahead of our time when we used our solar dryer. A piece of long wire and clothes pins!

When I was very young, mother would drive me to the cemetery. It took a long time to understand what we were doing there. The building that served as the church burned years later, but the grounds have been maintained religiously.

My sister always looked out for me. What else is a sister suppose to do! She claims that while I was just a baby she changed my diapers. Does that sound like your sister? I don’t think we could afford diapers. Anyway, I don’t remember those kinds of things. My sister was training to succeed and practicing for that success.

On October 2, 1946 Leon and Sally Evans introduced their first born to the world. They named him Tommy. He would have many different titles over the years, son, brother, nephew, student, husband, provider, soldier, father, employee, employer,fisherman, hunter, carpenter, farmer, uncle, grandfather, caregiver, just to name a few. Happy birthday old friend.

Chapter 3 Harold Brown Memoir – 1947

My first remembered home was an old shot-gun house. The planks were rough sawed timber that shrunk as they cured. The shrinking boards left a gap that could be seen through when the newspaper that was used as wall paper began to tear away from the wall.

The floor wasn’t much better. In fact I’m sure it must have been worse. My sister tells of seeing a chicken come in and roost under the house in the late afternoon. She was inside the house looking down through the floor! Hey, in the words of some commercial I remember seeing on television,“It doesn’t get any better than this”. I think it does!

After one overnight trip we came home to find those same birds roosting inside the house. I don’t know who left the door open and I can’t tell you who cleaned up, but I can tell you that my sister and brother never forgot how dirty it was.

Jackie Robinson was the first negro baseball player to play in the major leagues. Was his housing as bad as ours? The real challenge comes from within for all of us. Some paths are just more difficult than others. Heads or tails, it’s still the same coin.

My brother was always giving me helpful instructions. One frosty morning on his way to catch the school bus he gave me some valuable advice. I know he had to get up early and split fire wood for the pot belly stove that we had in the tiny living room. Maybe that was part of his reason for being so helpful that morning. He was probably tired before he ever got to school.

For some reason that escapes me, I wanted to catch a bird. The first flying saucer sighting was documented this year. Do you think there is any connection? Every child thinks they need a pet. Something to love and be loved in return. Sounds like the words to a song doesn’t it. Big brother says to me, “what ya doing” and I informed him that I wanted to catch a bird, but they would not stay still long enough for me to grab one. He says, “pour salt on its tail”. How stupid of me. Everyone in the world probably knew how to catch a bird but me. Why hadn’t I asked my brother before. He knew every- thing.

Mother was more than happy to share her salt with me. She never asked what I wanted with it and I didn’t tell her until I came in hours later. Mother could tell that her baby boy was very unhappy about the days events. “What’s the matter Little Harold Boy?” she asked. That’s when I learned that it wasn’t a physical problem but a mental one. It was a lesson well learned and I was well on my way to an education worth bragging about.

Earl Tupper probably had the same problem when he tried to catch birds. That is most likely why he invented Tupperware and started having Tupperware party’s. He took his life in his own hands and made our lives better with his special touch. The drive-in theater was becoming the business of choice. What a year! Our lives will be measured by how we treated those that could do us absolutely no good.

Henry Ford died and didn’t leave us one cent of his six hundred million dollar fortune.

Chapter 4 Harold Brown Memoir – 1948

Babe Ruth died and I didn’t even know who he was, but I knew that my brother Garvis was the man of the house. Never confuse what you think with fact! I don’t know when we got electricity, I just remember the electric wire that hung down from the ceiling. It had a string that when pulled would make the glass ball glow taking away the dark. That light was never left on during the day and certainly turned off when the last person departed the room.

Garvis dug the two foot deep quarter mile long ditch that brought running water to our back porch. We had water to drink and bath all under one tap. When the pan was full or the water was dirty you simply threw it in the back yard and started over again. The dipper was there for family and guests to use, just drink and replace. Could anyone ask for more than running water and electricity! As we raised our expectations our achievements became greater.

The garden in the back yard wasn’t for looks. It was a matter of survival. We had squash two times a day when squash was in season. I loved it, hated it, then loved it again years later. Same with turnip greens. I never remember seeing watermelons in mother’s garden. Nature Boy was a popular song that year. Could they have been talking about me? How far apart can our lives be from our dreams?

Chapter 5 Harold Brown Memoir – 1949

Money was hard to come by, so mother had to take an occasional job. I followed her to the cotton field early one summer morning. I got dressed in the car that came by to pick her up.

There were other boys there my age. That is when I first met Hubert Maxwell. He was a year older and much wiser. We played in the cotton wagons, dug in the cotton rows, and as can sometimes happen we found a pot of gold in the form of a large ripe watermelon. We were not prepared for our great discovery, in that we didn’t have a knife or forks for the feast that we wanted to have. Not wanting to share our bounty with the older workers, we used the best tool we could find. It is amazing what you can do with a pointed stick. Cave men had nothing on us.

Mother never gave me permission to tell anyone about her cotton pick’n days. I guess it could have spoiled our rich and famous status if anyone had ever found out.

Americans were buying television sets at a rate of 100,000 a week and it would be many more years before I saw my first set.

Grandpa and Grandma Walker lived across the road. I found out years later that I also had a Grandpa and Grandma Brown but they died before I was born. My grand parents lived with one of their sons, Ernest, and his family.

My main source of entertainment was my Aunt and Uncle’s oldest son Harry. We spent many days exploring all that existed within two hundred yards of either house.

We sat on the old wooden gate that separated the animals from the main house and waited as the fifth of six daughters were born into the family. We sat on that same gate as the women got together to wash cloths in the big black kettle. Logs would be set on fire to boil the water. A long stick was used to stir the cloths as they soaked in the hot water.

Of course lye soap was the order of the day. The grocery truck that came by at regular intervals must have charged too much for luxuries like soap. Maybe it just wasn’t strong enough to clean those clothes the way they needed to be cleaned. The boys were never asked to help. Smart women! Lucky boys.

Blackberry picking time was another social, or should I say necessary, time for the women to get together. They always started early so they could beat the heat. So many clothes were worn that it was a matter of survival that they get home before the sun got to high. Long sleeve thick shirts. Long pants and boots. A rag tied over the hair. Coal oil soaked cloth strips were tied around the ankles and wrists to prevent the pesky tic from attacking the family providers. The boots were, as I was told, for the feared snakes that lived in southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana.

Hog marking was a man’s chore. Uncle Ernest had hogs that lived deep in the swamps. They would grow fat on the acorns and other vegetation that thrived in that part of the country.

I never got to take part in that adventure but he did promise me I could go if I got up early and was ready when he started out one morning. I was ready, but for whatever reason he didn’t stop for me.

I ran out the door calling for him, but he wouldn’t stop. Mother saw how disappointed I was and said, “Just follow the logging road and you will eventually find where they parked the jeep”. I must have been all of three and a half years old. Mother said that I didn’t remember it but I did.

As I ran down the road I suddenly saw the horses and mules the loggers used to haul out logs. These animals had broken out of the makeshift corral the loggers had built to hold them until they returned at the first of the week. Can you imagine the fear that ran through my heart on hearing and seeing those extra large animals running down the middle of that logging road!

I turned and started running back to my mother. I ran on the road. I ran around the tree. I ran wherever I thought I could get rid of those killer monsters. I screamed for my mother and she didn’t let me down. I have extra large lungs because of this adventure. I remember looking up and seeing her running toward me as those animals chased behind me. Her house coat was flapping this way and that. To this day I don’t know why those horses and mules were afraid of that little woman, but they turned and ran back to the hell they came from. Praise Jesus. Is experience our friend or foe?

So many adventures for a youngster, that’s what being a kid is all about. George Orwell’s new book, 1984, didn’t have much in common with us. Big brother wasn’t watching the poor folks in rural southern Arkansas. Our adventures were with things like the old sow that didn’t appreciate my intrusion on her babies’ feeding time.

My cousins said there was no way an intelligent person would go into the pen and pick up one of her little piglets. They were right, I wasn’t intelligent so guess where I went. That sow came after this little red headed boy like I was fresh slop! That’s what I would have been if I hadn’t thrown that squealing baby back in her direction as I scrambled for the top of that five foot wooden fence. Everyone had a big hoot and I learned another valuable lesson about a mother’s love for her children. Love is a welcome warmth, hate is a cold hearth.

Great Uncle Ira was in the timber business. That meant he cut and hauled trees. Uncle Ira often finished the day by visiting his sister, my Grandma Walker. He had two big logging horses that pulled his wagon. The wagon was very large with rubber truck tires. When he stopped in the evening the guide lines were left on the wagon seat. Those horses had done all they wanted to for the day, so running away was the last thing on their minds.

Well, it wasn’t the last thing on my mind. Having a need to impress all those around me was a problem that followed me for years. We climbed on that wagon and I said “getty up” to those four footed giants as I popped their butts with the loose lines. As tired as they were the two of them started moving away from the house. There wasn’t anything to do but scream bloody murder. Uncle Ira wasn’t very happy, but I was sure glad to see him.

My short trip was nothing like the just completed first non-stop flight around the world by U.S. Air Force’s Lucky Lady.

Evening was welcomed by the return of the cows that ranged during the day. The stomp, a small hill near the house, was the gathering place for all of Uncle Ernest’s livestock. Ever day about dusk those cows came home without fail.

Since I was not successful with my horse and wagon exploits why not try something else with four long legs. Like chickens come home to roost, those cows would drink their fill of water and find a place to bed down for the night. When one of those cows got down on all fours we were about the same height. They seemed so docile.

I didn’t ride that cow for very long. At that point, even thought I didn’t know what a rodeo was, I decided that riding wild cows was not what I wanted to do as an occupation. I was good at catching horse flies and tying a string around their necks. The longer the string the better the entertainment. Confidence in yourself is the key to success.

Mother had three sisters and four brothers that visited us regularly. We seemed to always have company of some sort or another. In the end it is about relationships.

The South Africa government had officially adopted the policy of apartheid. I could have been born a black South African. When we feel the wet tears of another, we begin to understand their reason.

Mother wanted to be self sufficient. Money was hard to come by and she needed more to take care of herself and her children. When World War II ended, people were ready to spend their savings. The demand for goods in 1947 was high but the supply was low. Without war time price control, the cost of living rose fifty percent. Life becomes fair when its unfairness is understood.

As 1949 drew to a close mother wanted to change our circumstances. She packed up our bags and off we went. Garvis had just finished his last year of high school so he stayed put. Mother asked him to remain with Miriam and me while she went to Pine Bluff to look for a place for us to live. He agreed to stay and when Mother returned he left with Uncle Ruby and his family for California. He stayed there until he thought it was time to return home before the draft.

Garvis joined the Air Force and although he produced a score on his test that qualified him of O.C.S., he decided to stay in the regular forces because of the high death rate of the officers in the war. The rest of us moved to Pine Bluff so that mother could go to beauty school. They called it cosmetology but I didn’t know that then. It was hard times for us but again I was too young to know.