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June Brown

07 Sep 2004 Comments: 0 Views: 
Posted by srEDITOR
Image of old Chevrolet car dealership

June Brown

By Dale T. Stucky

June Brown, born September 10, 1930, thinks of her life as demarcated into a BC period and an AD period. This seems fitting since she's a strong Christian. BC is "Before Clemmy" whereas AD represents "After Daytona Beach."

She was deposited into the world in Miami, Florida, and spent her earliest childhood in Key West before moving to Daytona Beach at the age of three. These exotic locations suggest a storied upbringing, replete with adventures involving the Everglades, hurricanes, alligators, treasure islands, and the like. But the natural beauty of the settings did nothing to alter a rather grim beginning.
She does not remember a time when her birth mother was not ill. Photos of Sunday outings to the local park during this time depicted a subdued threesome: June Campbell, her brother John (two years her junior), and her father Alex looking worn and distant. Her mom was always conspicuously absent.

Occasionally June caught wind of a mysterious abbreviation during conversations about her missing maternal influence—TB.

At age four, June was informed her mother had been sent away to a tuberculosis sanatorium in Asheville, North Carolina. Some hope had been engendered by this—that she was in a special place designed to facilitate recovery from her hacking affliction. But she dropped to 68 pounds while at the center and died shortly after. She was only 20.

At the funeral June remembers being patted on the head as family acquaintances passed by. Poor motherless kids, she could tell they were thinking. In her five-year-old (mature beyond its years) mind, she was thankful her mother was no longer suffering. The show of pity from others cultivated an attitude of aggressive resolve within. She was fiercely determined to carry on.

Her father remarried within a year, after increasing his odds by asserting to female prospects that he was born in 1902 rather than 1900. June was impressed with the beauty of Betty, her new mother, and bragged about her to whoever would listen. But this turn of events did not make her young life any easier.

For whatever reason her father was harsh and beat her regularly. She remembers blood running down her back, blood running down her legs. Her punishments were higher-ranking than corporal—Captain-level perhaps. Her step mother seemed unwilling or unable to interfere.

Now in retrospect June wonders what caused these outbursts of anger. She has never been able to reconcile the fact that her father was personable with outsiders, a consummate salesman, but hard on his own family members.

Pearl Harbor hit the news. Life began to accelerate. When June was twelve the war was making an impact even in the vacation paradise of Florida's most famous beaches. Her father worked at a Chevy dealership, painting and striping the newest model cars. One of his duties in those years was masking off headlights so that only a thin strip of light would beam through. He also volunteered as an air raid warden.

The local population was determined not to become easy targets for the Germans. Along with controlling the amount of light emitted by their car headlights, they took care to close their window blinds at night.

Gas was being rationed. Churchgoers who couldn't afford the fuel to attend regular church held meetings in their homes. The community chipped in where it could toward the war effort. June remembers selling rubber for a penny a pound. This led to the catastrophe of her brother selling off her favorite rubber doll. When she found out she reamed him thoroughly. Since has never let her 5' 0" frame keep her from voicing her opinion in no uncertain terms.

It was funny. Pre-war, many Americans dreamed about moving to Florida to get away from it all; but during the war, many Floridians, including June's parents, looked to the central states for escape.

They figured that in the landlocked states they wouldn't have to deal with rumors of U-boats patrolling the waters at night and worry about their robotic crew members goose-stepping along the beaches and who might at any time detour to the local bakery.

Unwilling to let fear be the fascist dictator of their own lives, Alex and Betty consulted spiritually. Muslims had their Mecca; Jews their Jerusalem; Mormons their Salt Lake City; Hindus their Ganges; and the Assembly of God faithful had their world headquarters and spiritual homeland in Springfield, Missouri. It was a no-brainer.

The family climbed in their 1935 model Chevy and headed home to a place they'd never been before, leaving behind sand and surf and a nerve-wracking proximity to Europe. By this time the family had expanded to seven with her new mother having three children in three years. Care of these little ones fell mostly on June's shoulders and made for a trying trip.

Once in Springfield, the heavens didn't immediately open a bounty. But God seems to give special grace to innocents. Though they had to spend two or three nights in the car, their naïve optimism opened many conversations with the locals, one of whom was the janitor of the Southside Assembly of God. He got them hooked up with a regular church home as well as a reasonably priced 3-room apartment for $30 per month. Father Alex immediately got a job at a Chevrolet dealership and things were looking up.

In Springfield, June began to ease into her AD phase and a welcome second chapter to her life. Through the next five years, the Campbells became heavily involved with Southside church and June flourished. She loved going to church. Her original conversion experience was at age eleven when a near catastrophic auto accident and a series of fire and brimstone sermons propelled her to the front during altar call. Not much happened after that—she was only eleven after all. But during her years at Springfield Southside Assembly of God her spiritual sense deepened and scripture memorization became a habit.

At age seventeen June began to notice boys. It wasn't long before she also noticed there was an acute shortage of suitable ones at the church. Luckily, about this time, August 1937, a dashing young man strolled into Bible study one Wednesday night with an adoring cutie hanging onto his arm. This was her first sight of Clemmy (C.W.) and she was determined it wouldn't be her last.

At her birthday party that September, she received a birthday card from C.W. It was signed "To my sweetheart. Love, Clemmy." She was so proud of the card she showed it to a cadre of her girlfriends. A short while later, she pulled the card out from a dresser drawer and showed it C.W., confessing how much she treasured this card from him.

In embarrassed surprise he denied sending the card. It turned out that a jealous young lady in the church named Virginia had forged the card to play a trick on June. She had designs on Clemmy herself and figured the card would upset June with its audacity. The effort backfired. June and C.W. grew ever closer. At a reunion some forty years later, Virginia whispered in C.W.'s ear, "You were supposed to marry me."

However, June and C.W. didn't follow that particular script. The combination of their intense love and June's equally intense desire to leave home, was a prescription for a short engagement (six weeks).

They have now been at the marriage gig for 55 years and remain devoted to one another.

"He's the best thing that ever happened to me," she coos.

He smiles, "How much better can you be than perfect?"

The rest of those at the dinner table would turn red if it were not that such saccharin vows are old-hat around the Brown place. Old-hat but newly minted, day after golden day.

© Dale T. Stucky
Dale T. Stucky is a freelance writer from Wichita Kansas.

Published by U.S. Legacies: September 2004

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