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Growing Up In Louisa - Stanley Brown!

 Weekly feature . . . by Mike Coburn

Stanley Brown was one of boys that befriended me during my high school years. He was a couple of classes ahead. I’m not sure when I first got to know him. Maybe it happened when I joined the band and was assigned to play one of two school-owned baritone horns. My family couldn’t have afforded an instrument so I guess the band director, Mr. Dick Wilson, had to figure out a place to assign me since I had shown interest in music. As it happened, Stanley held the first chair for baritones and was the soloist when it was the baritone’s time to shine.

I was number two, once I got trained enough to make the high school band. Stanley immediately took me under his wing and worked with me on how to count and sight-read music. It helped me stay up with the band and taught me how to enter on time. To non-musicians this may seem a given, or something natural, but it is far from that. Counting and not messing up the whole thing was a challenge for me, especially in the beginning. I remember that Stanley had a world of patience and on occasion dragged me to his home for private lessons. I might well have been the weakest link in the band without Stanley’s help. When he graduated a couple of years ahead of me, I took first over his first chair position. I also inherited the newest baritone horn, a Conn Constellation with four valves. Stanley had loved that horn like a baby. I knew it would be a challenge to perform half as well as my mentor.

I met Stanley’s parents at some point and enjoyed knowing them. He had an older brother, George, who was not at home by the time I was over there visiting, but I have met him since. He also had a younger sister, Carol Lou, who was maybe three or four years younger than me, but I remember she was still very cute. Stanley’s father was well-known around our area as an outstanding baseball pitcher who had a nearly unhittable knuckle-ball. He told me once that even catchers had trouble handling the pitch. During the earliest years, I played ‘catch’ with him a few times, but I remember that as he grew older he suffered with illness.   

Stanley’s mom once commissioned me to do a painting for her after hearing I had interest in art. It was to be a copy of a print she had of a flower-garden. A favorite picture, it had grown faded and dull. I remember it as what is commonly called an ‘English Garden.’ The original had a lot of color and a number of brightly colored roses and hollyhocks. I worked hard on it, but I doubt I did the picture justice. Nonetheless, she was pleased and bragged on it. She paid me. I guess I became a professional painter right then and there! Well, maybe not. . .

Once when I was visiting Stanley at his home we walked into the kitchen. There sat his little sister and one of her friends. No matter what age, girls are fun to tease, so Stanley picked up a raw egg from an egg basket left on the kitchen counter. The eggs were apparently fresh from the farm, having only just been delivered. Making a big show to the two girls, he broke the egg and let it go into his mouth and slide down his throat. As might be expected, it had the desired effect. The girls squealed, shuttered and uttered out a loud “Ewe...” Stanley, meaning for me to repeat the action handed me an egg. Without making a face or letting anyone know this was new to me, I took the hint and followed suit. Once again, the girls expressed their displeasure as they screamed and shrank away in mock horror. I liked their response, so I took yet another egg, cracked it to let it into my mouth. There’s nothing like overdoing something, eh? You see this was before the days of using candles, or light to see if the egg was perhaps fertilized, or gone bad. As it turned out, the egg had a horrible taste and had some smallish developing feathers! Ugh! I ran for the sink, spit out the remnants and put my head under the faucet to wash out my mouth. When I looked up the girls had totally fled. Stanley was there holding his sides with uncontrolled laughter.

On some Sundays, Stanley would borrow his dad’s car and drive some of us boys out into the country. We would usually find some dirt roads that needed exploring, but in some cases, the roads were rudimentary, more like a cow path. Once we found a suitable location, Stanley had me take the wheel while the rest of the gang climbed on the hood and trunk. This is how I learned to drive. I had to keep the car out of the ruts and at the same time negotiate some very steep slopes. I remember I was nervous because I could see the tops of trees. This told me that there was a steep drop-off just feet away. I could not allow the car to get too close to the edge. Some of the riders could fall, or worse yet we might all tumble down the mountain. I knew the car could always slide. If so, we’d soon all be air-born and fall into a place where we’d never be found. Those steep hills were more than a little bit scary. On these trips we discovered all kinds of places where people lived far back in the woods. To make matters worse, we discovered that we weren’t always welcome. We saw more than one shot-gun pointing our way in those days. In a few cases, even turning around under the watchful eye of an armed man, was a challenge, too, as turnaround space was scarce on those mountains.

Stanley and I played on the same baseball team that was coached by Eddie Boggs, the father of my best friend, Johnny Bill Boggs. I remember that Jim Ray Rose pitched a lot of the time, but Billy Elkins would also take over as a southpaw. (Left-handed pitcher). Otherwise Billy played first base, which is traditional for lefties. Stanley was shorter than me, but was very fast and didn’t mind taking chances. He’d steal bases, and stretch singles into extra bases when he could.

I remember once when Stanley was competing for a certain girl’s attention, a pitcher from the Fallsburg team had eyes for the same damsel. That fellow didn’t like the idea of Stanley horning in. The two of them had words several times and there was absolutely no love lost between them. At a game between our team and the Fallsburg team, held up on bear creek, Stanley had to face his nemesis. I remember watching when Stanley stepped into the batter’s box. We all knew that the picture had it in for him. As was surmised, the first pitch was a fastball thrown right at him. With Stanley expecting it he was able to get out of the way. The ball missed, but it did cause Stanley to end up in the dirt. He got up, brushed himself off and glared at the pitcher. The next three throws were also right at him. With ball four he took first base, I guess having the last laugh. I was up next and frankly was worried because I wasn’t at all fast. I also knew the pitcher knew I was Stanley’s friend so I reasoned he’d likely throw at me, too. I froze at the first pitch, but it went right down the middle of the plate. I was surprised and relieved. I told the catcher to have him do that again. He did and I hit that one deep into right field. Stanley scored from first. I was standing on third and might have made it home, but Coach Eddie held me up. Regardless, I had a good day at bat, but I think Stanley had to dodge inside pitches all day.

Stanley had Bascomb Boyd for math and was good in his studies, just as he was in anything he tried. He went off to college, but it was years later that I found out that he had become an aeronautical engineer. He spent his working life designing fighter planes for a large aircraft manufacturer that supplied the Air Force. As an Air Force veteran, I was familiar with the planes he had helped design. I’m sure that it was his attention to detail and his intelligence that supported his long career and his high level of success. He was always ready to take chances and try new things, and was analytical enough to know when he’d succeed. That attitude, often missing with engineers, undoubtedly served him well. I had lost touch soon after I graduated, but I’ve seen him at every reunion I’ve attended since and I hope to see him at many more in the future.   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

Comments  

-5 #1 Bernard 2017-11-26 15:42
Ha. Ha. Good article Mike. I remember Stan and the Brown family. His older brother George & I went to school together and remain friends..We referred to him as "Bones". Their dad Pat was a C&O detective and as you said a good baseball player. I have a ton of memories coming to surface with this one. As always, "thanks for the memories" dear friend.
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