Every year when the middle of summer rolls around I think of Johnny Brown.
Johnny Brown was the first person that I actually knew that died. It was the summer of 1970.
My first memory of Johnny was in second grade. It was lunch time at Forks Elementary and as I went to sit down he pulled my chair out from underneath me and I fell on the floor.
A teacher saw the deed and off to the principal’s office went he went. A few minutes later I saw the teacher motioning me to come, “Why did they need me?” I was the victim.
I was escorted into Mr. Windsor’s office where Johnny was sitting in a chair with his head down. Mr. Windsor said, “So, should we give him a swat?” Oh boy, why was this decision going on my shoulders?
I looked at Johnny and then Mr. Windsor and I said, “No.”
From then on we were “friends.” At times much to my dismay.
Johnny was a kid that seemed to always be in trouble. He was a talker and teachers constantly struggled to keep his attention.
In third grade his cousin married my uncle. He was so happy about this he went around telling everyone we were related — I went around telling everyone we were not related.
I think it was fourth grade when the movie “Hard Days Night” came to town. The line at the Olympic Theater snaked around onto Main Street. I was on pins and needles, afraid I was not going to make it in, but I did. Johnny was running around in and out of the line.
As I settled into my seat three rows from the screen, I heard a voice behind me — it was Johnny Brown telling me he was going to cover my eyes with his hands every time Paul McCartney came on the screen (I loved Paul McCartney and unfortunately I must have shared this secret with him.) Mrs. Higby, the theater bouncer, escorted him out about a half hour into the movie.
In sixth grade my family was living in Evergreen Loop. My friend Lori Kelso and I had a summertime tradition of camping in the backyard of one or the other of our homes on occasion.
We had pitched our tent in my backyard and it was about 10 p.m. when we heard something in the woods. It was Johnny Brown, he had ridden his bike through “The Burn” (a trail that most Forks kids are familiar with) and crashed our campout. I think he had a crush on Lori.
My mother heard the commotion and with arms crossed told Johnny Brown to get on his way home and we were to get in the house.
On July 30, 1970, 14-year-old Johnny Brown was killed instantly when he was taking his 1969 mini-bike across Highway 101 between Sol Duc Way and the Calawah Bridge near the north entrance of Forks. He went right into the path of an oncoming car that was carrying a vacationing family from Austin, Texas.
Was he not paying attention again? It was a terrible tragedy.
We started ninth grade without him.
Over the years I have thought about Johnny and wondered what kind of an adult he would have been, and as an adult I think of the pain his parents suffered. The short time he lived, he lived to the fullest. Maybe he was never meant to grow old?