I wrote an article about Stanley a few years back, but I think it may be worth rereading and sharing with you again. When I was growing up I tended to run with several town boys, including Billy Elkins, Johnny Bill Boggs, Johnny Justice, Harry Richard Cyrus, Teenie VanHoose, Creep Chandler, and others. This week I happened to exchange some email messages with Stanley so of course he is on my mind. He was three classes ahead of me, but we were thrown together often and he became a close friend.
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 put me since I had shown interest in music. As it happened, Stanley held the first chair for baritones and was the soloist when it became the baritone’s time to shine. He was handed responsibility for bringing me along, although he never said it was an assignment. He might well had taken the job on his own.
Once I got trained enough to make the high school band, Stanley immediately took me under his wing. He 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 Euphonium 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 years younger than me, but I remember that she was very cute. Stanley’s father, Pat, 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. I liked him a lot and it hurt me to see him suffer.
Stanley’s mom once commissioned me to do an oil 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 as it hung in her home. I remember the picture looked like 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 by screaming and shrinking away in mock terror. I liked their response, so I took yet another egg, cracked it, and let it drop into my mouth. There’s nothing like overdoing something, eh? You see this was before the days of farmers using candles, or light to see if the egg had been 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 standing there holding his sides with uncontrolled laughter. He thought it was funny that I got what I deserved.
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 a few feet away. I couldn’t allow the car to get too close to the edge or I might kill us all. Some of the riders could fall, or worse yet we might all tumble down the mountain. I knew that a car could slide. If it did, 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 places where people lived really far back in the woods. To make matters worse, we learned 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. Turnaround space was scarce on the top of 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 whenever 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 on what he considered his territory. The two of them had words several times. There was absolutely no love lost between them. At a game between our team and the Fallsburg team that was 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 pitcher had it in for him. As surmised, the first pitch was a fastball thrown right at him. With Stanley expecting it he was able to hit the dust and get out of the way. That 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 called by the umpire Stanley took first base. As far as the team was concerned he had the last laugh. I was up next and frankly was worried because I wasn’t fast enough to get out of the way of an inside pitch. 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. That was the prettiest pitch I had ever seen. I was surprised and relieved. I told the catcher to have him throw another one of those. He did and I hit that one deep over the right fielders head. Stanley scored from first. I was standing on third and might have made it home, but Coach Eddie Boggs had held me up. Regardless, I had a good day at bat, but I think Stanley had to dodge inside pitches all day.
Stanley had Bascom Boyd for math and was good in his studies, just as he was good 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 some of 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. With recent messages he mentioned he had triplets. I have some twin grandsons, but Stanley wins again! firstname.lastname@example.org