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Thread: John A Brown

  1. #1

    Default John A Brown

    I would love to hear stories, jingles and or pictures of the John A Brown department store that was located in Oklahoma City. I have two postcards that were sent by Della Brown from London and Paris trip in 1963. I remember the familar John A Brown and Company gift boxes. I also have a bridal book from the store, very intresting indeed.

    GREATAMERICAparks.com: miscellaneous audio
    Last edited by rondvu; 10-09-2008 at 07:07 PM. Reason: add a link

  2. #2

    Default Re: John A Brown

    My first job and I wasn't old enough to drive a car. Sold leisure suits (God help me) and outsold all the old pros in the suit department. Had a blast, but I know I'm going to hell for selling that much polyester.

  3. #3

    Default Re: John A Brown

    I think the store was located in the old downtown Capitol Hill district. If I remember correctly the building is still there but is occupied by someone else now. There is still a cornerstone in that building with the company's name on it.

  4. #4

    Default Re: John A Brown

    I'm dating myself, but here's what I remember.

    There was a John A. Brown in downtown OKC. I don't remember the exact location, but I do remember that the store spanned an alley. If you were on the first floor, you might have to walk across the alley to get to another department.

    Wasn't the Anna Maude's cafeteria in the basement of the same building?

    There was a John A. Brown in Penn Square when it first opened and also a small one on Campus Corner in Norman. There was probably one in Capitol Hill, too, but I never went to that store.

  5. #5

    Default Re: John A Brown

    I remember being taken to see Santa at the downtown Brown's store (on Main, IIRC). It was torn down as part of the Urban Renewal fiasco of the late 60s/early 70's.

    The other Brown's store I remember were on SW 25th/Commerce in Capitol Hill, Penn Square and Crossroads. The last two were taken over by Dillards when they bought out JAB.

  6. #6

    Default Re: John A Brown

    Quote Originally Posted by BB37 View Post
    I remember being taken to see Santa at the downtown Brown's store (on Main, IIRC). It was torn down as part of the Urban Renewal fiasco of the late 60s/early 70's.

    The other Brown's store I remember were on SW 25th/Commerce in Capitol Hill, Penn Square and Crossroads. The last two were taken over by Dillards when they bought out JAB.
    There was also a JAB at Shepard Mall in the far north end. That one also became a Dillards when Dillards bought all the JABs. I have several memories of the downtown store from when I was a kid. Actually, I remember several of the stores. My favorite was (Rothschilds, I believe) that had a big stuffed lion. I believe it was a real lion. I just loved going there to see that lion. And JAB downtown was on 3-4 floors IIRC, and the elevators had operators who ran then up and down. What a great time.

  7. Default Re: John A Brown

    I have better images that I've not scanned, but here are a pair of small ones:

    In the 1960s


    In the 1970s


    It is hard to imagine a more "fun place to shop" than the John A. Brown Department store, generally between Harvey & Robinson on the West and East, and between Park Avenue and Main on the North and South. Various older buildings had been interconnected and sort of "strung together". Shopping was a delight.

    Although it had earlier origins, it existed at the above location from sometime in the 1930s until its destruction in 1977.

    Both these images view the main entrance on the North side of Main.

    ON EDIT: Have done some research this morning, it appears that the main building was used by Brown's (and it's predecessors) as early as the late 1910's (e.g., 1918), if not sooner (but not then Browns but a predecessor). If I get the date pinned down, I'll add another post.

  8. #8

    Default Re: John A Brown

    Quote Originally Posted by yukong View Post
    There was also a JAB at Shepard Mall in the far north end. That one also became a Dillards when Dillards bought all the JABs. I have several memories of the downtown store from when I was a kid. Actually, I remember several of the stores. My favorite was (Rothschilds, I believe) that had a big stuffed lion. I believe it was a real lion. I just loved going there to see that lion. And JAB downtown was on 3-4 floors IIRC, and the elevators had operators who ran then up and down. What a great time.
    Sorry, bro. The charter north end anchor was a Kerrs department store. When the Kerr family got out of the department store business (late 60s, IIRC), they sold that store to Dillard-Brown-Duncan, the predecessor of the present day Dillards chain. I don't remember Browns ever having a presence at Shepherd Mall.

  9. #9

    Default Re: John A Brown

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Loudenback View Post
    It is hard to imagine a more "fun place to shop" than the John A. Brown Department store, generally between Harvey & Robinson on the West and East, and between Park Avenue and Main on the North and South. Various older buildings had been interconnected and sort of "strung together". Shopping was a delight.

    Although it had earlier origins, it existed at the above location from sometime in the 1930s until its destruction in 1977.

    Both these images view the main entrance on the North side of Main.
    I had forgotten that, but now that you mention it, I remember that the floor levels of the various interconnected buildings didn't line up exactly, so you'd walk up or down ramps as you went from one end of the store to the other. In looking at that 1970's photo, you can see the different architectural facades of the buildings.

  10. #10

    Default Re: John A Brown

    Wasn't there a JAB at Crossroads?...I remember you could get ALL of your Cub Scout needs at the JAB in Capitol HIll...Got my wolf badge there.

  11. #11

    Default Re: John A Brown

    Yes, when Crossroads opened, Browns was one of the original anchors. Somewhere around 1980, Dillards bought them out and changed that location as well.

  12. #12

    Default Re: John A Brown

    Here's an old picture from Woodland Hills in Tulsa:


  13. Default Re: John A Brown

    This thread has caught my fancy and I've been doing some research this morning in the Oklahoman's archives ... I'll do a blog post over the weekend, maybe today, and will show some additional information in this thread. I don't know why I've not done an article already ... downtown Brown's was such a neat place!

    Does everyone remember the pneumatic tubes used when making payment?

    I've edited my earlier post ... the main Brown's building on main was used much earlier than the 1930s ... a Brown's predecessor used the main building at least as early as 1918, if not sooner. More later.

  14. Default Re: John A Brown

    So I guess it backed up to Robinson Renaissance/Perrine Bldg? You can see City Place in the background in the second pic.

    What made OCURA decide to keep Robinson Renaissance and the Colcord while ripping down everything else on those 4 blocks?

  15. Default Re: John A Brown

    Quote Originally Posted by jbrown84 View Post
    So I guess it backed up to Robinson Renaissance/Perrine Bldg? You can see City Place in the background in the second pic.

    What made OCURA decide to keep Robinson Renaissance and the Colcord while ripping down everything else on those 4 blocks?
    Location: very close but not quite. The Park Avenue side of Brown's wasn't as wide (east/west) as was the Main Street side ... if I'm remembering correctly. I'll try and pin that down. The north (Park Ave) buildings were just sort of eclectically added, I think.

    Steve is a much better source for the OCURA history ... Chapter 4 of OKC 2nd Time discusses this ... the Perrine/Cravens/now Robinson Renaissance WAS on the chopping block as the "gateway" to the Carrozza projects, mainly the proposed Galleria shopping mall. The image below is from page 62 of Steve & Jacks' wonderful OKC: 2nd Time Around and shows the proposal for that space ...



    Why it was spared, I'm not completely certain (I'd need to re-read Steve's Chapter 4) ... preservationists opposed the Perrine's destruction, but, also, I think that OCURA was running out of money, plus, as time went on, the Galleria project was becoming far less than certain to ever occur. Probably all such factors combined to avoid the Perrine's destruction. Carrozza lobbied the city heavily to include the demolition basically saying that it was critical to the success of the Galleria, if I'm recalling correctly from OKC: 2nd Time.

    The Colcord was one of the spared historic buildings in all of the Urban Renewal plans as they developed, probably because of its more profound history and lineage, but I don't know that for sure.

  16. Default Re: John A Brown

    Oh wow.

    I'd never seen that rendering. Thank God that didn't happen. Is Carozza the architect of Oklahoma Tower and Corporate Tower?

  17. Default Re: John A Brown

    I don't know if he was the architect or only the developer. But he was certainly the latter.

  18. Default Re: John A Brown

    Oh I see. So the mall was intended to connect to the two buildings with a big grand entrance there, it appears. That is probably why the bottom 3 floors or so of Oklahoma Tower have no windows on the back.

  19. #19

    Default Re: John A Brown

    Does anyone remember the jingle "Hey look us over see what we've done Brown's is the store for everyone"? I also seem to remember something about a daisy sale. Below is the PC signed by Della Duncan Brown on her European trip during the summer of 63.

    Image of Della Dunkin Brown - Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

  20. #20

    Default Re: John A Brown

    So the mall was intended to connect to the two buildings with a big grand entrance there, it appears. That is probably why the bottom 3 floors or so of Oklahoma Tower have no windows on the back.
    Exactly.

    There was to be a Trusthouse Forte hotel where the IRS building is now and a 50-story building where the library sits. And the big parking lot had subterranean level(s) and the mall was to sit on top of that:


  21. #21

    Default Re: John A Brown

    Quote Originally Posted by BB37 View Post
    Sorry, bro. The charter north end anchor was a Kerrs department store. When the Kerr family got out of the department store business (late 60s, IIRC), they sold that store to Dillard-Brown-Duncan, the predecessor of the present day Dillards chain. I don't remember Browns ever having a presence at Shepherd Mall.
    You are correct...my mistake...I remembered the name Brown in the DBD, and was thinking of the wrong thing. The JAB was at Penn Square, west end.

  22. Default Re: John A Brown

    Quote Originally Posted by jbrown84 View Post
    So I guess it backed up to Robinson Renaissance/Perrine Bldg? You can see City Place in the background in the second pic.
    Having done much more research than when I replied to your question earlier, and earlier having said "close, not quite," I now STAND CORRECTED.

    Having located lots of images along Park Avenue (formerly NW 1st), it is absolutely clear that on Park Avenue the frontage of Browns ran from the west edge of Perrine/Cravens/Robinson Renaissance all the way west to Harvey. My personal memory is consistently suspect ... I've pretty much completed my research but, as is absolutely observable from the photo below, the Perrine was the east boundary of the part of Browns that was on Park Ave/NW 1st:



    More to come.

  23. #23

    Default Re: John A Brown

    Some memories of JAB.

    I don't remember it having an entrance on Main Street. The various buildings were indeed disjointed. I remember having to exit the main building in the alley between Park and Main, and re-entering another building on an escalator which was outside in the alley. I have never seen another escalator on the outside of a building like that.

    The Men's department was on the West end at Harvey and Park. It featured a life-size stuffed Tiger. On the right shoulder of the tiger was a little wire hook, that when pulled would emit a loud "roar." Whenever we went to Brown's I had to find the Tiger and my mom would lift me up so I could "moo the tiger." I continued this event until Brown's closed its downtown location. I guess the tiger was quite old (as was all of JAB's fixtures) by then, and I was a grown man. The commotion "mooing the tiger" brought was great fun as JAB's customers and employees were totally unaware of my discovery.

    I do remember the pneumatic tubes, and also the little metal "JAB charge card" my mother cherished. JAB issued the metal cards, which looked like military dog tags, with a small leather cover. All of the pertinent data was on raised letters that printed on receipts with carbon paper. Totally mechanical.

  24. #24

    Default Re: John A Brown

    JAB was a fabulous store! Especially since we lived nearly 100 miles away from OKC when I was growing up, and the "big" trip to THE City meant we would go to John A Brown's! We'd park in a lot near the old YWCA somewhere off of Hudson St. and walk to Brown's. To a small town gal, it was heaven to see all those clothes in one place!

    Oh yes, anyone remember a store called "Haliburton's" in downtown? [I think I've spelled it correctly.] It was similar to Brown's.

    I was deeply saddened when Brown's and Rothschild's closed. Never been any stores like them since!

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane!

  25. Default Re: John A Brown

    Papajack, you always have such great stories! The tiger one is completely new to me -- what a hoot!

    I recall the south (Main St) entrances better than the north (Park Ave), as is evident from the fact that I still don't remember Brown's abutting what was then the Cravens Building, the above photo notwithstanding. Here are a few more perimeter shots ...

    From Harvey & Park, looking easterly



    From Harvey & Park, looking southeast



    Main Street looking northwest



    Main Street looking northeast



    Main Street Christmas Decoration



    Judy the Elephant parade looking west on Main from west of Broadway



    Crop of Judy the Elephant parade showing adjoining shops, looking west from Robinson



    The Brown's cafeteria did not escape the 1960's sit-ins ... I'll have some pics of some of that when I get the article done, some time this afternoon, I hope.

    The early-day history turned out to be not as hard to trace as I expected -- the Oklahoman's archives really helped big time with that. In a nutshell, Brown's origins are: By 1901, the Mitscher-Mitchell Dry Goods store existed; by 1905, it became Brock Dry Goods; around 1915 it became Rorabaugh-Browns (Rorabaugh being a major department store Kansas person); in 1932 Rorabaugh sold his interest to John A. Brown. You can recognize the main element of Browns in this 12/1921 ad for Rorabaugh-Browns:



    I'd also forgotten that there was a Brown's in Norman on Campus Corner ... my then wife shopped there while in law school ... it may have just been women's clothes, I don't recall ...



    There was also a Brown's Tire Shop at NW 39th & Penn.

    If you want to peruse what I've found, articles & pics, they are in this photobucket folder: DougLoudenback/browns - Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting . As I find anything else, it will go there, also.

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