Brown, Neave (2 of 19). National  Life Story Collection: Architects' Lives

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  • Recording date

    2013-12-07, 2013-12-14, 2014-02-08, 2014-03-08, 2014-03-15, 2014-03-29, 2014-04-26, 2014-07-27, 2014-08-10, 2014-08-17, 2014-12-06

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, London

  • Interviewees

    Brown, Neave (1929-) (speaker,  male)

  • Interviewers

    Franklin, Geraint (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 2: Description of father, his character and behaviour. NB’s embarrassment at father’s ‘scenes’ in public. Inattentive father. Mother maintained self-discipline. Effect of father’s behaviour on NB. Parents dressed well. Mother’s identity as American women in England. Friendship of John Milne and NB’s mother. Milne took NB on ‘Mystery trips’; mentioned going to Military Tattoo in London. Remarks on class prejudice before the War. A mixed background has remained an integral part of NB’s life. [00:10:27] B went to stay with aunt [Margaret Clark-Williams] and uncle [Howard Williams] in America at beginning of [Second World] War. They lived in Bronxville, a suburb of New York. Aunt’s dislike of Bronxville but decision to live there because it had a good high school. Only black people in Bronxville were servants, who lived in nearby village of Tuckahoe. Refusal of estate agents to sell property to Jews. NB joined high school aged ten. After a year mother and sister joined them, arriving on last boat from England before America declared war on Germany. Uncle’s departure from house. Household included NB, his aunt, sister, mother and two cousins. MCW had two children, son [David] at Harvard and later joined army; daughter at Smith [College]. NB remarks on having ‘two mothers’. Later move of NB, sister and mother to an apartment on Park Avenue in Bronxville. NB lived in America from 1939 to 1945. [00:15:00] Evacuation of children from English urban areas to the countryside. Some parents able to send children to America; remarks on class aspect of this. NB ‘an American boy’ in appearance on return. Return of family to England at end of August [1945] and NB started at Marlborough College. [00:19:00] Account of arrival in America in 1939, and description of aunt’s house in Bronxville. Open plan layouts of ground floors of American houses. Aunt unprepared for NB’s arrival, but coped with the situation well. Aunt voluntary supervisor of waiting lounge for military officers at Grand Central Station. House guests of aunt included Paul [Émile] Victor, the artic explorer. Aunt’s friendship with PEV’s family in Paris. PEV accompanied NB on trips to art galleries and looked at his paintings. Visit of English Captain, one of the first soldiers to enter Auschwitz. Aunt wanted NB to read ‘All quiet on the Western front’ by [Erich Maria] Remarque. Aunt’s intellectual position, a dislike of prejudice and encouragement of critical thinking. NB’s love for aunt. Temperamental differences between NB’s mother and aunt. Disruption of war on family life. [00:31:00] Father running the family business during the war. NB’s correspondence with his father. Awareness of the difference between NB and his school friends in Bronxville. Comments on social and cultural mixed background. [00:34:17] Schooling at Bronville. Entered fifth grade with Miss Farrowby. Co-educational school. Comparison with NB’s experience at preparatory school. Back gardens interconnected, and children ran through each other’s back garden. Comments on ‘openness’ of America. NB’s sister later joined school. Liberal attitudes and teaching of school. [00:37:55] Remarks on differences between English and American cultural attitudes, including status social class. Awareness of race and religion in America and how this has changed over time. At Marlborough College, prefects were appointed through headmaster; at Bronxville High School everything voted on by children. Contrast between authoritarian nature of English institutions; ‘in America the rituals and the routines are set up in defiance of that’. [00:42:03] Awareness of class differences as a child, much greater then than it is now. Mother helped to look after children in the slums; NB’s encounter with child mother brought back to the house. Middle classes did not enter working class areas. Modes of address. [Some background noise]. Remarks on industrial poverty in the 1930s. Family employed a nanny and maid: normal for upper-middle classes. Normal for children to go to boarding school.

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