Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Browns


Garbo Speaks!

A letter to my grandmother from
her best childhood friend, Betty Cole, who grew up
with her on Scott Avenue in Knoxville, TN.  Betty and
my grandmother got into some trouble
playing with matches as children.


 My grandmother had married and
had several children by the time she received this letter ... one
being my mother!  There is nothing of great interest in this letter
except for the expression "take my pen in hand".
I like that old expression.

This letter came from my grandmother's house, I had kept it as a clue to what her street address might have been when she and her father lived on Scott Avenue in Knoxville, TN, in the early 1900s.  My grandmother's mother died when my grandmother was very small.  My grandfather had moved from Alabama to Knoxville to work at a knitting mill, the Brookside Mill, which was considered at the time "the South's most progressive mill".

Often I heard tales of the knitting mill and the Brown family. Larson Brown worked at the Brookside Mill.  The Brown family lived very close to my grandmother and her father, maybe even next door.  I can't find out the exact address of my grandmother's house on Scott Avenue.  I can probably find it at the Knox County Courthouse, I am not sure if I can do this online.  I do know the exact address of the Brown family, their address was 121 E. Scott Avenue.

My grandmother would tell how the Brown family would visit and always laughed about an answer my grandmother gave in class when she was quite young.    She was asked by her teacher, "Why did they build the Panama Canal?"  My grandmother had no clue and replied, "Just to be a diggin'." 

On another occasion, my grandmother and her friend, Betty, (the letter writer above)  put crumpled up newspapers in the fireplace and lit them.  In other words, they were playing with matches!  It was summer time and the Browns saw smoke coming out of my grandmother's chimney.  They investigated and the paper burning ended.

My grandmother would refer to the movie theatre as "the picture show".  When we were young, my brother, sister and I would laugh when we would hear that odd expression.  She would also talk about the Brown's son, Clarence, who was in the "picture show" business.  At the time I didn't pay that much attention to the stories about Clarence but later learned this Clarence Brown was the great movie director!

He went on to direct seven of Greta Garbo's films and was referred to as her "favorite director".  His career would span 40 years and included 50 films. Some of the more notable films include National Velvet, The Yearling, Anna Karenina and Intruder in the Dust.

I learned the Historic Old North Knoxville Home Association
sell Christmas ornaments as a fund raiser during their
annual Holiday Tour.  This one depicts the Clarence
Brown Home.  Several years ago my mom and I went on this tour,
a favorite thing I love to do!

Clarence Brown

National Velvet, directed by Clarence Brown
starring Mickey Rooney and Elizabeth Taylor, 1944

The Clarence Brown Home was condemned in 1994.  It has now been restored by Dave and Lynn Palmer.  A happy ending for this beautiful old home.


Clint said...

Excellent post on some wonderful old memories and factual information on Clarence Brown.

It is not well known, but Clarence Brown was the great grandfather of Bad Bad Leroy Brown of Chicago fame. Badder than old king Kong and maner than a junkyard dog. ♥

Cindy Ellison said...

Just kiddin' folks, Clint is up to his old antics!

Shady Del Knight said...

Good one, Clint! Clint, you must be the luckiest man on earth. Cindy is an extremely impressive woman in more ways than one. Posts like this one explain why Cindy deserves the Blog With Substance Award! Cindy, when you mentioned the archaic words "picture show" it brought back memories of lyrics contained in Bobbie Gentry's hit song "Ode to Billie Joe." It also reminded me of one of my favorite movies The Last Picture Show (1971) starring Jeff (True Grit) Bridges. My mother was one of four daughters who came of age during the Depression years. She wrote an unpublished book that describes her life in the 1930s and 40s, the dating and mating habits of the era, and how families always reached out to neighbors in need. Everybody sacrificed. Everybody pulled together. She even told stories about "bums" who regularly knocked on the back door begging for food. Although my mom's family was poor they always fed those hungry men. My grandfather, who later owned a men's wear store in York, made sure that the transients left with fresh, clean clothing on their backs. Cindy, you are a remarkably good blogger. Thank you for sharing this and have a delightful Saturday night and Sunday, dear friend!

Cindy Ellison said...

Thank you, Shady for such nice compliments! I am lucky, too, to have found Clint. Who could ever imagine these two AOL Pen Pals would marry? It is hard to think of people being hungry and good to know your family fed and clothed them. The performance of Cloris Leachman stands out most for me in The Last Picture Show, it was a great movie.

... ♪ put a frog down my back at the Carroll County picture show ♫

Cindy Ellison said...

P.S. Yesterday a FaceBook friend left a comment on my link to this blog that she and her husband had gone to The Clarence Brown Theatre in Knoxville, TN, to see The Merry Widows.

The Clarence Brown Theatre is located at the University of Tennessee. I have seen some performances there and hope to see some more in the future.