Neil and Marlene Brown
Marlene Brown is a devoted wife, mother, and grandmother and currently pastors and counsels at Eagle Vision Church, formerly called Edmonton Community Worship Hour. Together with her husband Neil Brown, Marlene is willing to share her memories and first-hand knowledge of the Black Community experience in Amber Valley and the impact it has had on their lives and on the lives of those they grew up with.
Marlene Brown describes having many family members and various family reunions, the last of which was held in Toronto around 1997.
(Running Time: 0:38)
Neither of Marlene's parents were from Amber Valley. Her father's family came from Texas and settled in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. Her mother's family came from Missouri and settled in Wildwood, Alberta (formerly known as Junkins) as well as in parts of British Columbia. Marlene spent her childhood visiting relatives in British Columbia and Manitoba and it was not until she met her husband Neil that she came to Amber Valley.
(Running Time: 2:00)
Her Children and Racism
Marlene describes the challenges her oldest son Brad faced while attending school in Fort Saskatchewan. There were few Black families in the area at the time, and Brad, who later committed suicide, had to fight a lot of ignorance and prejudice. In doing so, he made it easier for his younger brothers.
(Running Time: 3:06)
Immigration and Church
The church has helped Marlene and her family through many difficult times. While her father and paternal grandfather did not attend church, they were nevertheless very spiritual and had a very strong belief in God. Marlene's maternal grandmother did attend church and the church became a focal point in Marlene's life.
(Running Time: 1:49)
Joining the Ministry
Marlene's children attended church and Sunday school when they were small. Pastor Collins, a central figure at Shiloh Baptist Church, had a profound influence on Marlene. Over the years, she became increasingly interested in starting a women's ministry and eventually became an ordained minister.
(Running Time: 2:22)
Marriage and Children
Marlene lived on the south side of Edmonton and left school at 16, worked at various jobs, and married at 18. She had her first child Brad at 19 and stayed home to raise her children. Although she and her husband Neil have lost two children, they have persevered and continued to raise their two surviving children.
(Running Time: 1:38)
Mother and Divorce
Marlene's father worked on the railroad, while her mother, 20 years her husband's junior, was a housewife. They separated, reconciled, and separated again for good.
(Running Time: 1:32)
Relatives and Church
Marlene's grandmother Williams loved God and prayed a lot. Marlene's aunt Lydia Williams heard the call of God and eventually became a minister in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. It was in part due to her aunt Lydia's influence that Marlene, at 28, gave her heart to God and became a minister.
(Running Time: 1:49)
Status as a Family
Marlene and her husband hope to see their children and grandchildren raised right, knowing and serving God.
(Running Time: 0:49)
Neil C. Brown grew up strongly influenced by his grandmother, Mrs. Murphy, who ran the first post office and store at Amber Valley. She was the first Black woman to do so.
Neil walked the road to school, engaged in farm chores, and is filled with a wealth of information we would not want to lose.
Dealing with Racism
Neil describes the coping mechanisms he used to deal with racism and, in some cases, forge friendships.
(Running Time: 0:44)
Diverse Friends in Athabasca
Neil's family lived in Fort Saskatchewan, but he often goes to visit relatives, some of them Cree, in Athabasca. He was very close with some of his father's friends, including Joe Beaver, Charlie Short, and Everett Medlock.
(Running Time: 1:30)
Education and Work History
From Grade 6 to Grade 12, Neil attended school in Grassland. Upon graduating, he worked in a plywood plant before attending the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) to become a chef. He worked at the Hotel MacDonald before going to work 42 years as a process engineer for Sherritt Gordon Mines Limited.
(Running Time: 1:15)
Neil offered his family farm to his sons, but they did not want it.
(Running Time: 0:24)
Neil's great-grandparents and grandparents came from Oklahoma and settled in Athabasca. In 1905, Neil's grandparents Lonnie and Isabel Brown came from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Alberta. They had eight children, one of whom was Neil's father, Feilx Brown. Neil's mother is the daughter of Henry and Nettie Murphy.
(Running Time: 1:44)
Growing Up in Amber Valley
Neil grew up on his parents' farm in Amber Valley. Neil's father, Felix Brown, was also a trapper, carpenter, and hunting guide. It was his mother who looked after the farm. Neil attended a one-room schoolhouse in Amber Valley. As an only child, he had to find ways to entertain himself: he went to movies on weekends and played baseball, tag, and tug-of-war with his cousins.
(Running Time: 4:03)
Neil's parents' home was always open to everyone, regardless of race. They offered others food, drink, and a place to stay. They instilled those same values and hospitality in Neil.
(Running Time: 1:28)
Hunting and Trapping
Neil's father learned to hunt and trap from his grandfather, Grandpa Reed. A good hunter and trapper with a love of fishing, Felix Brown ran a trapline from Grassland north to Fort McMurray. Neil developed a love of hunting because he and his mother were often charged with cleaning the skins. Neil learned he good make good money for himself hunting squirrels, coyotes, muskrat, and beaver.
(Running Time: 2:03)
Marriage and Children
Neil met Marlene at a dance in 1964; he walked up to her and stated he was going to marry her. They married in 1965 and later had four sons and nine grandchildren.
(Running Time: 0:54)
Neil has forged many solid friendships and still looks up friends from high school whenever he visits Athabasca.
(Running Time: 0:46)
The Role of Church in Life
Neil welcomed the Lord into his life in 1983 and re-dedicated his life to following Christ. He sees similarities between Christ and his mother and between his father and Peter. When she first became a Christian, Marlene would often ask Neil questions.
(Running Time: 1:24)
Neil's one grandmother was Baptist and another was Protestant. The two would often have spirited debates and, with his mother, were Neil's great mentors. His father was Catholic, and his mother, quiet and even-tempered, took lessons from theBack to the Bible Hour. Several neighbours were Jehovah's Witnesses.
(Running Time: 3:56)
Neil has travelled extensively throughout Canada and the United States. If Marlene was unable to accompany him, he would go alone, travelling by truck for weeks and sometimes months. He expresses a love of, and desire to return to, Alaska.
(Running Time: 0:44)
Work and Fertilizer
From the time he left home until his retirement, Neil always worked. Although he loved cooking, he disliked having to work split shifts. He worked at Sherritt Gordon Mines and at Agrium. He was a supervisor for 27 years before returning to operations. He shares the philosophy that made him an effective and respected supervisor.
(Running Time: 2:40)