Saturday, July 08, 2006
Sonny Matson and Ken Linville - REMEMBERING BILL BROWN
Sonny: I was very close to Billy from the 4th through the 8th grade. Then, he began turning away from the “good student”, acceptable behavior crowd. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but he had very strict parents who (as I remember) were very religious and had little tolerance for teenage high jinks. He was a really bright and handsome kid. We competed (in a friendly way) like crazy for grades and in sand lot softball and touch football. I really liked him, and I believe he considered me a good friend, also. I still have a big Billy club that his dad helped us make on a lathe in their basement. I etched the date in the handle – Oct., 1950.
Ken: Here was another example of a guy with brains to spare but who got caught up in circumstances that he chose not to take control of and, as a result, probably didn't achieve his full potential. He lived just down the street from Sonny on S. 224th St. Bill and I knew each other from the 4th grade on when he and Sonny both arrived that year in Miss Smith's class at Angle Lake Grade School on S. 192nd St. across from Angle Lake. Until that time, I had kind of become accustomed to being the best-in-class at the 3 R's but Brown and Matson put an end to that reign. These guys were really smart. They could read, cipher and print legibly. Before they got there, I was about the only boy in the class who was any good at that stuff. (Of course, lots of the girls could do it. They were smarter than boys.) Not only that, but now, Beverly Benson had some new romantic interests, besides myself and the Holmes twins. Hmm, I decided things were rapidly going to hell in a hand basket with this new competition I had to deal with. It was no cakewalk being in the 4th grade. Of course, as it happened, Sonny, Bill and I became good buddies and remained so for as long as we kept in contact.
Bill and I started playing baseball together when we were about 14. He was a catcher and I didn't even know he played ball until we got into a game down at the Des Moines field house one day. After that, we became pretty close as we started playing what later turned out to be Babe Ruth League. In those days it was called Little Bigger League and it was getting a lot of press. I pitched, Brown was backstop, Bahrenburg was on first, Owen Jackson and I switched between shortstop and the mound, and I think Keith Davison was on 3rd base. I'm not sure if Itchy Stanley or Skip De Phelps was on 2nd base. I think they alternated. We won a lot of ball games and a few of us were selected to be on an all-star team to play for regional championships to go back east to Trenton, New Jersey for the Little Bigger League world series. Bill Brown and Owen Jackson got to make the trip. I didn't get to go because I'd sprained my ankle quite badly on a half-assed slide into 3rd base at a game in Renton and my coach told me to go home and soak it in hot water. Yeah, good advice, coach.
If it wouldn't have been for the outstanding talent of Dick Binford, I think Bill would have been our varsity catcher although there was a lot of tough competition for that position as I remember with the likes of Jerry Colgan, Larry Lowe and a few others whose names escape me now.
I started taking Bill over to McMicken Hts. after ball games to Linda Clifford's place where we all hung out because her folks were never there. It was great, a house to hang in with no adult supervision. Bill and Linda got hooked on each other. I already had a pretty heavy crush on her but Bill was one cool S. O. B. I couldn't compete with him. I really think she broke his heart and he joined the Navy and became a Sea Bee.
Having contracted TB, he came back with only one lung, a mere shadow of his previous self, but I was sure glad to see him. It was around 1960 and I think I was still up at the U. I didn’t see him again until our 20th reunion. Marilyn and I didn't make the 10th reunion. I remember being in Saigon that night.
The 20th was a real blast. I had been talking with Bill Rich and Don Soroe, when a burly, rather chubby guy walked up to me with a full beard as black as coal. All I could see of his face was the twinkle in his eyes and that grin showing his perfect white teeth. Not recognizing him, my eyes naturally went straight to his name tag. "Glenn Brown"? "Who the hell is that?", I thought to myself as we were shaking hands. "You know me," he said in that slow, soft drawl he talked and then, as I began to recognize that voice, it hit me. "My God, Billy Brown! You had me fooled both ways from Tuesday!" We were so damn glad to see each other, we just hugged right there in front of everybody. About a dozen of us, including Billy, watched the sun rise over at Georgina and Bob Wicklund's place. They kicked us out of the place where the reunion was held and we weren't ready to quit yet. Being only 38, young, and bullet-proof, we didn't call it quits until after 10 in the morning.
Bill (Glenn) lived in East Sound on Orcas Island for many years and I had met his present wife, Mona, at one of the reunions. Bill had a lot of wives and dozens of kids so I guess he did all right. On one trip in the San Juans I pulled into East Sound to refuel and learned that Bill had cashed in his chips. I was heart broken.
I loved to go to his house and play imaginary games in the woods. He always had a great story line for the games. I also remember playing board games with him. He always won.
I do remember his father's wood working tools. I think that it was the first time that I had ever seen a lathe. It was fasinating to watch.
Thank you. I have often wondered about Billy Brown.