By DOTTIE DEWBERRY
For Starkville Daily News
Back 70 years ago a young man (Claude) spied a delectable blonde (Vivian) at the post office in Ethel and fell head over heels in love with her.
It was kismet; one day when Vivian was visiting with Claude’s Aunt Josie, she saw Claude’s baby brother Jack (Boyd); she asked if she could have him as he had such beautiful black hair.
It just happened that Claude’s father and mother were visiting his Uncle Henry and Aunt Josie that same day. Claude’s father, Jesse James, told Vivian that she could not have that child, but he had one at home that she could have; this was Claude he was talking about. Eventually, Claude and Vivian got to meet; this was in April of 1941. After a brief courtship, they married in June of 1941. The rest is history.
After a series of various and sundry jobs with logging and lumber mills, cotton picking, flipping burgers, and some construction jobs, Claude got old enough to be drafted into the military; this was in November of 1942. He reported to Camp Shelby in January of 1943 to be sworn in. His first post was in Fort Bliss, Texas. Vivian traveled with Butch, the baby, by bus there. They only stayed there a short time as Claude was sent to Riverside, California. Vivian moved there shortly thereafter, where she stayed with the Salvation Army before she moved into a home with a family to take care of their children; she did this for room and board, plus a dollar a day. You do what you have to do.
In 1944, they were transferred to Colorado Spring, Colorado, where Claude was in the Advanced Infantry. James (Jim) was born to the couple in the Colorado Memorial Hospital. This is the present day site of the Air Force Academy. Vivian had to move back home to Ethel for a month, because Claude was transferred to Camp Gruber, Oklahoma. This is where Claude trained people to cook.
Later that year Claude and family were moved to Camp Rucker, Alabama, where they lived in a converted chicken house. They had a 12 X 12 foot space, where they had a bed, a table with two chairs, one window, a two-burner stove, and a bathroom located outside. When WWII was over, Claude was still in Fort Rucker, AL. Vivian had moved back to Ethel where she had their third child-Edwin Earl Brown, who was born on Thanksgiving Day in the Kosciusko Hospital. Claude was in Ft. Bragg, NC, but he got home in time to be there for the baby’s birth.
After his discharge, the family moved back to Maben and lived on 52/20; this means they got $20.00 each week for 52 weeks from the Federal government to live on. Claude went back working in the lumber business, either for Moller-Vanlandbomm or for his Uncle George Wright or for James and H. E. Thompson Logging. The family in Ethel decided that Claude should run for the position of Marshall of Ethel, which he won, but he did not take the job; he re-enlisted in the military.
He was stationed in Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, doing food service again. At least the whole family was there: Claude, Vivian, Butch, Jim, and now Connie, who was born on October 20, 1948 in the Keesler Field Hospital.
In August 1949, Claude was sent to Anchorage, Alaska; Vivian moved back to Ethel with her parents. Claude requested a “hardship” and got a discharge from the military in 1950. Claude was to be flown back home, but he was bumped off the plane. This plane disappeared! Vivian thinks he is dead. As Claude was standing around waiting for another plane, the phone rings; Claude answers it. It is none other than Vivian on the phone, thinking that Claude is dead. You can only imagine the joy and relief. It took Claude four days to get home form Tacoma, Washington. In 1950, they moved to Biloxi as civilians; Vivian worked as a waitress and Claude did the housekeeping. In August of that year Claude got recalled into the military, where he reported to Kelly Field, Texas. It was a mistake for him to be there as they thought he was someone else-the chief administrator. For their mistake, they ask him where he wanted to be sent. Unfortunately, they could not send him to Mobile, but they sent him someplace even better. They went him to the National Air Port, where the President’s planes are kept. Claude and his crew fed the plane crews for Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy. He did food service also in London, England and in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
The children went to school at the Air Force Base Schools. Jim got to go to a boarding school when they were in England. By this time, Butch was old enough to come back to the States for college. The family lived in Fairfax, Va. from 1950 until1961. One day a salesman of cemetery plots came to the door. Vivian soon sent him on his way by telling him, “It is all I can do to live here, and I sure as heck do not want to be buried here.” She said that you could blame her rudeness on her hormones as she was pregnant and hot.
While they were in Swindon, England, Claude worked for the NCO clubs. They had the pleasure of doing business with the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimmy Dean, Hank Lockland, Jimmy Dickens, and Jerry Reed. Claude said he, unfortunately, had the displeasure of having to fire the Beatles at the club one night because they played too loudly and would not tone it down.
Vivian recalls having the unique pleasure of dancing on the table top with Jimmy Dean. Ask her for the rest of the story.
Vivian was a “looker” back in the day, especially her legs according to Claude. Each year they would have a Halloween costume party, where everyone must come unrecognizable, which Vivian did. Finally a night manager told Claude: “That woman is your wife, nobody has legs like she does.”
While they were in Swindon, Claude was put in charge of athletics, where he coached the men’s fast-pitch softball. That year their team won the United Kingdom Championship; which was played against other military bases.
It was during this time that President Kennedy was assassinated, the family was allowed to go into Westminster Abbey to sign the guest register.
During their time in Virginia, the family would go down to the Potomac to watch the boats. Sometimes while they were there, this pretty young woman who worked for the Washington Post would come and take pictures. Connie, who was about 4 years old, would go over and talk to her. The young woman was none other than Jackie Bouvier, who married John Kennedy.
One of the biggest surprises of their life was when Joyce was born in 1965. She was born in the hospital at the Columbus Air Force Base, where Vivian was the only patient on the maternity floor. Vivian was 43.
Over the 70 years, they have had many unique experiences and a variety of working situations. Claude worked for the military for 23 years, for the MS Game and Fish Commission for 20 years, and was an Oktibbeha County bailiff for 17 years, giving him 60 years of public service. Vivian worked as a bailiff also for 20 years.
Today, the family lives on Bell School House Road with a yard full of flowers and a back yard full of buildings, gardens, old freezers full of worms for sale, lots of yard art, trees and grass to be mown. They spend part of the day at the kitchen table playing cards and eating cookies, working in the yard and visiting with friends or children that drop by. They continue to be involved with the First Baptist Church in Maben. Neither of them is ever at a loss for words. Through personal observation, they love each other today as much as they did seventy years ago. He thinks she is wonderful and she thinks he is wonderful too. It was love at first sight and it is still love seventy years later.
They have six children, 15 grandchildren, 29 great-grand children and 10 or 11 step -great-grand children. Once they marry into the family, they all belong to the Brown family.