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By Teresa Bigham/The Hesperian-Beacon—
LOCKNEY – Claude Brown owner of Brown’s Department Store turns 99.
Brown was born in the small community of Muncy on April 2, 1921. The family soon made their way to Lockney, and it has been home ever since. He had an older sister, who was five years older, and a younger brother, who was two years younger.
The family didn’t have a lot, but they made do. Brown remembers playing outside with his sister and brother in the summer, but there were always chores to be done.
In the summer, he spent his days herding cows in the hot dry Texas heat. With no shade trees to be seen, Brown had to rely on sweat to keep him cool.
“Both me and that ol’ horse were worn plum out most days.” said Brown. Even with the temperatures almost unbearable Brown always enjoyed working.
When the Great Depression hit Texas in the early 1930s, it hit everyone hard. In fact, it was the worst economic downturn in modern history. During this time in history, about a quarter of the U.S. workforce was unemployed. Although these were the hardest times in history, Brown managed to keep himself employed.
“Back then there were several barber shops in downtown Lockney, and I shined shoes in every one of them,” Brown said. Gentlemen would go in to get a haircut and shave, and while they were in the barber chair, he would shine their shoes. “I would work at getting every pair of shoes so shiny a person could see their own reflection in them. They would pay me a penny.”
The Brown family did what they could to make ends meet. Like many Americans across our country, their family had a motto: Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.
“We had a garden where we tried to grow all our vegetables, and it was everyone’s job to keep that garden going. So when I wasn’t herding cattle or shining shoes, I was helping my family in our garden or delivering the Grit Newspaper around Lockney,” said Brown, who learned his strong work ethics very early in life.
When summer was over and it was time to go back to school, Brown would get the Grit out way before the classroom opened, and as soon as school was over, it was back to work. He’d work till the sun went down.
“One summer I was herding cattle along the railroad tracks for one of our local farmers, and he let me use one of his horses. At the end of that summer he gave me that horse. I was very fond of the horse. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was so very proud of him, and ever since, I have loved horses,” Brown explained.
After Brown graduated from Lockney High School, he packed up and moved to Tulia. He found employment at a dry cleaner. “I don’t recall the name of the cleaners, but I remember the smell of the steam and fresh clean clothes. I remember the sound the machines made,” said Brown.
(Editor’s note: First part of a four-part series)