Philip Ray Brown's Oral History

This oral history project was conducted for a media history class at Brigham Young University. Philip Ray Brown remembers watching the very first color movie, The Wizard of Oz, in the movie theater. He was raised in St. Johns, Arizona. He is now 68 years old.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Philip Ray Brown's Oral History

Interview with Philip Brown
Date of Interview: November 7, 2004; Sandy, Utah
Interviewer: Alexis Brown
Transcriber: Alexis Brown
Begin Tape 1

A.Brown: This is the Philip Ray Brown Oral History Project, session number one with Mr. Brown on November 7. We’re here in his home, 1824 Abbedale Lane in Sandy, Utah. The interviewer is Alexis Brown, Brigham Young University.

A.Brown: When and where were you born?

P.Brown: I was born in Los Angeles, California on June 19, 1936 at the Rice Maternity Hospital. I was the seventh child of Joseph Albert and Elda Whiting Brown.

A.Brown: Your family lived in St. Johns, Arizona, why were you born in California?

P.Brown: My mother traveled from St. Johns, Arizona to stay with her brother Ernest Whiting, who lived in LA, California to have me. Ernest’s wife Burl stayed the whole time in the Hospital and even after claimed me as her boy- I was quite small, 5 pounds ½ ounces. Uncle Ernest upon seeing me the first time told his little sister, “Heck, if I had one that little I would just start over.”

A.Brown: Where was your father?

P.Brown: He was in St. Johns with the rest of my siblings. Uncle Ernest called Holbrook, AZ to my Aunt May Whiting Berry to say Elda had a boy and told her to call St. Johns and tell the whole family there. Aunt May forgot and so my entrance came to my father and the family a week later on a postcard from another Aunt that wasn’t it nice to hear Elda had another boy.

A.Brown: Were you an easy birth for your mother?

P. Brown: My mother had a hard time in carrying and had morning sickness the whole nine months carrying me.

A.Brown: What time were you born?

P.Brown: I was born in the early (2 to 3 AM) morning.

A.Brown: How many siblings do you have?

P.Brown: I had four older sisters: Geraldine, Elma, Nathel, and Louine and one brother Jack who is seven years older. The year before my brother who was two years older than me died of scarlet fever. Then five years after I was born my brother Brent was born who was the last child.

A.Brown: Was the death of your brother Quinn hard on your parents and family?

P.Brown: Yes. He was only nine months old. It was very hard on my parents and older brothers and sisters. I came along a year later and I suspect I was treated different and coddled because of the death of Quinn.

A.Brown: Are they all still alive?

P.Brown: No, my sister Nathel died in 1988 of cancer and then of course Quinn died before I was born.

A.Brown: Where was your father from?

P.Brown: My father was Joseph Albert Brown and was born on January 29, 1895 in St. Johns AZ, which I guess I should tell you is located in northeastern Arizona near the famous Petrified Forest. He was the sixth child of eight of John William Brown and Cynthia Berry Brown.

A.Brown: Were your grandparents members of the LDS Church?

P.Brown: My grandparents were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and believed in the practice of polygamy. My Grandfather took a second wife when he married Cynthia’s younger sister Thurza and they had seven children. Grandfather Brown was the Principal of the local church school, the St. Johns Academy, which served as an elementary school and high school for the area. He also had a farm. My Father was raised in St. Johns and attended school up through high school at St. Johns Academy.

A.Brown: Did he play sports like his son?

P.Brown: He was an excellent athlete and student. His junior and senior year their basketball team was undefeated. He went on to Northern Arizona University called a teachers college after high school.

A.Brown: Was your mother from St. Johns?
P.Brown: My mother was born to Edwin Marion Whiting and Anna Maria Issacson and was the seventh of nine children. They moved to St. Johns AZ from Utah when my mother was five years old in 1901. She was raised their and attended school up through high school at St. Johns Academy. She graduated with my dad from high school. She was an excellent student. They were married the next year in 1918 and both finished as teachers.

A.Brown: Did they both work as teachers?

P.Brown: My mother taught 19 years and my father about seven or eight years and then he became the Post Master for 27 years.

A.Brown: Where did you attend high school?

P.Brown: I was raised in St. Johns just like my parents and attended the same school, St. Johns Academy, as them also. I played basketball and was Student Body President.

A.Brown: How did you use the media growing up?

P.Brown: While I was growing up we had radio and no television until I was twenty-one years old. We listened to the radio a lot. I remember Red Skeleton, Jack Bennie, the Lone Ranger, and the Green Hornet.

A.Brown: What did you do as a boy?

P.Brown: My father had a ranch and a farm so I grew up as a farmer and cowboy. I trained and broke in my own horse, a mare named Ginger when I was 12 years old. I was a happy child with loving parents and brothers and sisters. I was secure in the small town ambience of St. Johns with the population of 2500.

A.Brown: When did you first watch television?

P.Brown: I first watched T.V. in Los Angeles, California when I was 13 or 14. I also watched in Phoenix, AZ and Salt Lake City, UT about the same time. The first time I watched color television was in early 1950’s, but there was no television in St. Johns until 1957 while I was in Brazil as a missionary. I saw color television while in college at Brigham Young University. I like it for the professional basketball because I could never see before. I remember the first time I saw Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlin, and Jerry West when I got home from Brazil. The shows I liked to watch were Have Gun Will Travel Bonanza, Peter Gunn, and Maverick- Brett and Bart.

A.Brown: Did you watch movies at the cinema?

P.Brown: Actually, my family owned the local movie theater and I watch every movie I wanted to for free. I didn’t pay for a movie until I was at college. I watched every movie that came through our theater. I remember when The Wizard of Oz came out. It was the first color movie ever and I thought it was very interesting. But the color didn’t really excite me until I saw professional basketball like I said.

A.Brown: Do you remember any big news events from your childhood?

P.Brown: I remember when I was about five years old we had a big fire in our town and it burned up five stores and the post office. A gas tank blew up and killed two people. It was pretty devastating for our little town. I was also five when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. I well remember when Germany was defeated and when the two atomic bombs were dropped when I was eight and nine years old. I read and saw newspaper and newsreels at the movies. So I saw pictures of Ike Eisenhower, General Patton, and President Roosevelt and all the leaders.

A.Brown: Where is your wife from?

P.Brown: My wife, Antoinette Hatch Brown, was born to United States citizens in Mexico City, Mexico. They had move to Mexico City form the Mormon Colonies in Chihuahua, Colonia Juarez. Her father was there to be a broker for the apples, peaches, and pears that were produced in the mountains there and were superior to the fruit grown elsewhere because of the climate.

A.Brown: How many people were in her family?

P.Brown: She was the third child of six to Ernest Seville Hatch and Fanny Bluth Hatch.

A.Brown: Was she athletic as well?

P.Brown: She was an outstanding athlete. She was chosen the best woman basketball player in Mexico twice and was an All-Mexican four times. She was excellent at any sport she played.

A.Brown: Where did you meet your wife?

P.Brown: We were both at B.Y. U. In the spring of 1960 I went to play tennis with one of my friends from St. Johns and roommate, Burl Jarvis. We finished playing and slipped into a concert by Carmen Cavelleiro who was a popular piano player of the 1950’s and 1960’s. We went into the Smith Field House a little late and sat down on the west bleachers. At the intermission my friend and missionary buddy from Brazil, Larry Memmot, came down to sit by us. He was from the Mormon colonies in Colonia Juarez, Mexico. As he stood talking to me, my wife called down and said something to him in Spanish, Larry responded. I was interested in who this beautiful brunette woman was right then. When I asked Larry, he told me she was Donna Hatch’s little sister. So I told him, “Well fix me up for heaven sakes, how come you haven’t before?”

A.Brown: What did you guys do on your first date?

P.Brown: We decided that two days later we would take dates to Sacrament meeting. In those days the meetings were split up and Sacrament meeting was in the evening. She worked in the cafeteria at Helamen Halls and she was tired and decided she was too tired and wanted to get out of the date. She tried to call Larry but couldn’t reach him, so she just got ready to go. Larry and I went into the dorm to phone her and she came walking down the stairs. I thought she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen and her personality was equally wonderful. She would tell our children that when she was introduced to me that night she looked into my eyes and said that I had the kindest eyes she had ever seen and she was going to marry me.

A.Brown: How long did you date?

P.Brown: Well, we hit it off super well and never dated anyone else for the next year. She worked at the Hill Cumorah pageant in New York that summer. We spent about three weeks together after that and I asked her to marry me. She said yes and I took her to Mexico to meet her parents.

A.Brown: When did you get married?

P.Brown: We were married on December 20, 1960 in the Arizona Temple. We had receptions in Colonia Juarez and in St. Johns.

A.Brown: Where did you live after you married?

P.Brown: We went back to school and graduated in May 1961 together. My Father had cancer and died in March of 1961, so we then moved back to St. Johns. I taught at the local school for two years and worked out at the ranch. In 1965, we bought a farm near Tachna, AZ which is by Yuma, AZ. I was there for two years until we moved to Phoenix where I got a job with the state of Arizona as a Real Estate Appraiser. I then went on to work for the Bureau of Land Management as a real estate appraiser. I went to fight fires in Alaska in the summer of 1968 and was there for three weeks. I earned enough overtime and hazard to pay to take my wife to the Olympics in Mexico City in 1968. Her brother, John Alexander Hatch, played on the BYU basketball team and was on the Mexican Olympic team. We were there for two weeks. I really enjoyed it.

A.Brown: How long did you stay in Phoenix, AZ?

P.Brown: Well I worked in the BLM in Phoenix for another three years and then was transferred to Kingman, AZ for three years. I then returned to Mesa, AZ for the rest of the years with the BLM. I was an appraiser and then later became the Chief and Review Appraiser.

A.Brown: How long did you stay in Mesa before coming to Utah?

P.Brown: We lived in Mesa until 1990 when President Hinckley called me to be a mission president in the Porto, Portugal mission. In 1993 on returning to Mesa, I worked for a year as a private appraiser and then the mission department from the Church Office building in Salt Lake City, UT called me and wanted me to be in charge of the couple missionaries. So in July of 1994 I came to Sandy, UT and began working in the missionary department. And that’s where I have been for the last 10 years.

A.Brown: How many children did you have?

P.Brown: We have 11 children. There are seven girls and four boys. The oldest is 43 and the youngest is 21. They were all natural births and no twins. My wife was one heck of a woman.
A.Brown: Are any of your children married? Do you have any grandchildren?

P.Brown: Yes. All are married but the youngest two girls. We have 26 grandchildren and my daughter just found out she’s pregnant.

A.Brown: When did your wife pass away?

P.Brown: My wife died on February 24, 2000 in Cancun Mexico of a massive heart attack. She was 63 years old and I miss her dearly. I’ll probably being seeing her sometime soon, not too soon for my children’s sake, but soon.