Oral History - Brown, Murray


E. Brubaker (00:00):
This is an interview with Murray Brown Of Cambridge Ontario, and Murray is a 1951 OAC graduate. It's being conducted in the home of Ed Brubaker in Guelph on January 10th of 2001. The interview is part of the alumni in action oral history committee program. Murray would you tell us a little bit about yourself, where you were from, and what you did at home and why you chose to come to the OAC?

D. Murray Brown (00:55):
Yes, Ed. I was born and raised North of Barrie Ontario on Highway 93, the Old Penetanguishene Road at a little community called Dalston. I was born on the farm along with my older brother and three younger sisters. It's of interest to mention that we were all born in the same bedroom on the first floor of the farm and brought into this world by a country doctor. And the other point of interest is that my brother was born in 1927. My youngest sister born in 1938. So that means we were raised during the Depression. We did not have any electricity in the home until September of 1938. My younger sister was born in March, which means my mother raised five children without electricity. But she did have the advantage of having a hired girl to help when each child was born. Just like we had hired men to help with field work during the summer season, my mother had help to raise children for six to nine months after we were born.

D. Murray Brown (02:22):
Now I attended a two room country school in the village of Dalston. We had to walk about half a mile to school, and it was on the old 93 Highway as I said, and there was lots of snow in the wintertime. But we still treaded through that snow and made it to school on time I think most mornings. I also attended the high school in Barrie Ontario, and we traveled to that school by bus. This was the first bus used in Ontario as far as I know, and it was driven by a man by the name of Brandon. You also mentioned that I should comment on why I came to the agricultural college. My father was always very cooperative with the agricultural representative in the county. And the summer of 1947 when I finished high school, I was asked to conduct an experiment, checking out chemicals for a late blight of potatoes.

D. Murray Brown (03:32):
And these chemicals were sprayed on small plots of potatoes using a little spray motor operated by Briggs and Stratton motor. And I conducted that, applied these chemicals every week during the summer, which was the common practice at that time to control late blight of potatoes. Now, in addition, there was a student at the Ontario Agricultural College, and actually that experiment was also run from the Ontario Agricultural College. [inaudible] who was in the class of '48 was the assistant agricultural representative that summer. And he encouraged me to register for the Ontario Agricultural College. So I started to the Agricultural college in the fall of 1947. I believe it would be late September, or pardon me, mid-September or a little earlier.

E. Brubaker (04:32):
Murray, what were your expectations coming to the OAC? Did you want to be an Ag rep or were work in that type of work? Because you've mentioned the Ag rep several times.

D. Murray Brown (04:46):
Well Ed, when I came to the agricultural college, we had been in junior farmer clubs, which were operating at that time. They're now known as 4-H Clubs. And so we judged a lot of cattle. I spent time with seed crops, so I was going to properly think of the agriculture representative service, but I was quite good in chemistry, as well as in animal science actually at that time. So it was a toss up between chemistry and animal science. But chemistry won out and having taken chemistry, I took a much different direction on graduation than I would have if I'd taken animal science, I'm sure. Although when I graduated, I was offered a job in the Agriculture Representative Service.

D. Murray Brown (05:43):
And because I had worked as a summer student during my undergraduate career in the soils department and had done some soil survey work, I was offered a job with the Department of Highways, believe it or not, to look at soils in new areas where they were putting in highways, especially Highway 401, which was being built across Ontario at that time. So, I guess I've always been pleased that I ended up in chemistry, but rather than worked for either of those jobs, I decided to take graduate work. And I took my Master's degree in Field Husbandry, which is now Crop Science at that time, and specializing in potatoes. You heard me mention earlier that I was doing that experiment on potatoes on the home farm. So I still had some interest in potatoes. So I switched from chemistry to field crops and undertook a Master's, and completed that in 1953. And then moved on to my first job after I completed my Master's.

E. Brubaker (06:58):
Murray, when you came to the OAC, I presume you lived in the residences here. And can you recall any highlights of that residence life, or any problems associated with it? What were your first impressions and expectations here?

D. Murray Brown (07:19):
Yes, Ed. They were very happy times for students in those days. We were crowded into, what's now known as Johnson Hall and four students to a room that were really built for two students. There were two bunk beds, and so I had three roommates. I always remember when I arrived at the OAC my mother meeting one of my roommates the first day, his name was Gus Gibson, and my mother commenting what a wonderful chap he was. And I had three great roommates in that year. Now what happened, my mother gave me some advice just before she left. And she told me, she said, "Murray, you know you won't be doing chores before breakfast, so you may not have the appetite, but be sure to eat a good breakfast." And I've always followed that advice my mother gave me in September of 1947. Now you talked about pranks in residence. I do remember us having water fights and sometimes having the water flowing down those steps in Johnson Hall, which was very unfortunate.

D. Murray Brown (08:39):
But I guess as youngsters, we were full of pranks and like to jostle with our neighbors in residence. Now that changed somewhat by the time we got to the 4th year, because the president changed. President McLaughlin came in, in I believe about the fall of 1950. And boy, he clamped down and he fined our year considerably when our water fight happened. So I believe from there on, there were fewer our fights in residence because the president clamped down. Now, when it comes to friends, we made many friends of course, which we still have to this day in our classmates, because our year has had a reunion every year since graduation. And it's great to get back and meet those classmates. And we have had, since I did spend my career partly on campus, we still have those friends, which were stayed back to undergraduate dates.

E. Brubaker (09:56):
Murray, I think you were in residence for your full college career here the four years and two years post-graduate work, which different residences were you in and was there any difference in them? And the other thing is, do you remember any particular professors or staff that were outstanding and maybe you remember some that you feel you didn't gain as much from?

D. Murray Brown (10:28):
Yes, Ed. As far as residence is concerned, you were right. I was in residence for six years and Johnson Hall for three years, and Maids Dorm for one year, in fact two years as an undergraduate in my third year, and then as a Proctor when I was taking graduate work. And in addition lived in Mills Hall, and for some reason I ended up in the basement of Mills Hall and now always said that it may have been because my roommate and I didn't keep our room in Maid's Dorm that well. You also mentioned experience with professors. Certainly I remember the professors in chemistry, especially Daniel McDougal. He taught us quantitative analysis and agricultural analysis when I was specializing and he had a big influence on me. I can remember one time in the laboratory he held up my laboratory reports and said, "Now this is the should be done."

D. Murray Brown (11:40):
So I think comments like that on your undergraduate career can have a big influence on how you proceed in life. Stewart Brown, who was chairman of chemistry at that time, taught us physical chemistry. He would walk into the classroom with his notes, open up his notes from the page where he left off the day before, he would lecture to us and make some notes on the board and then close up his notes and often walk out of class without asking us if we ever had any questions. That was quite memorable. But one of the most inspiring professors was Dick Waghrn who taught us biochemistry in our third year, I believe. And he would walk into class without a note in his hand and make notes on the board and talk from a whole 40 to 45 minutes that our lectures were at that time. And he was also very inspiring. So in addition, I remember my English professors, Chippy McLean and Dr. Rayman who wrote the trail of the black Walnut.

D. Murray Brown (13:03):
They were very memorable because I was not that good in English, literature particularly, but they helped me considerably to overcome that lack of confidence, I guess, in my adeptness in that subject. So those are some of the professors, but there are many others, for instance, in animal science. A professor by the name of Staples, we called him Dr. Staples. He would ask questions in our judging classes that brought me back to the junior farmer days in our judging. So there were many others who had a big influence on us. During my Master's I guess it was professor Huntley who later became director of education research for the Ministry of Agriculture and Food. And he had a big influence on me and certainly helped considerably when it comes to writing my thesis for my Master's. So I have many great memories of the faculty and staff that were part of our education system at the entire agricultural college.

E. Brubaker (14:25):
Murray, after graduation, you started into postgraduate work. I guess, can you give us any reasons why you went postgraduate instead of taking a job at that time? And your graduate work was in the crop science department. You worked a lot in potatoes. Can you comment about your work there and people you worked with?

D. Murray Brown (14:49):
Yes, Ed. I did take my Master's because I felt I wasn't quite ready to take on a job, I guess. And I was offered this position in the field husbandry department to work on potatoes with Norm Thompson, who was the federal employee at that time that was responsible for the potato program. So I took my Master's, but really did it with Don Huntley, as I said earlier. And he had a big influence. And so having competed my Master's in the potato program and as well as looking after the potato program, because Norm Thompson was away taking his PhD, I was offered this job at the Ontario Research Foundation in 1953. And I was only there a month when Norm Parks from Ottawa and Don Huntley came down to the research foundation and was asked if I could come back to look after the potato program at Guelph, but that was not in the books.

D. Murray Brown (16:06):
So I might mention too, that Gary Johnson took that position. And I think we all know about his famous Yukon gold potatoes that were developed during his career at wealth. I expect that wouldn't have happened if I'd taken on the program. But anyway, I moved on then to the entire research foundation with Lyman Chapman and spent my first year or two there on a soybean program, looking into the expansion of soybeans in Ontario and started some research work on that crop. But in the fall of 1954, I decided to go on for a PhD and took leave of absence to go to the Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, and took my PhD between the fall of 1954 and completed in early 1958. And that's a piece of research that I conducted during that tenure was mostly done in Ontario, although there was some work done in Iowa and that was on soybeans. And so that's what started my career.

D. Murray Brown (17:26):
And I worked at the Ontario Agriculture College until 1965, when at the end of 1965, I resigned and came back to the university to the department that I originally worked as an undergraduate student. That is the soils department at that time, and later it became the department of land resource science.

E. Brubaker (17:57):
Murray, you did quite a bit of work on corn as well with soys with the research foundation. Can you tell us a bit about that work?

D. Murray Brown (18:07):
Yes, Ed. It was rather natural since both corn and soybeans grow during the frost free season in Ontario. And since I had plots at several places, including Harold, Guelph and way up to Honeywood, it was decided to include corn as well as soybeans in those experimental plots. And I remember selecting four varieties of corn in cooperation with the Ontario Corn Committee to include in those plots. And we decided that we needed to grow the same varieties across the range of climatic conditions in Ontario. So they were grown from Harrow up to the Dundalk uplands, which has a place called Honeywood. And those experiments were conducted from 1956 actually to about 1961 and the work on soybeans resulted in scientific papers that were published partly from my PhD at work and which we zoned the great lakes region actually for soybean recommendations, variety recommendations, that is.

D. Murray Brown (19:33):
That map that was developed for the great lakes region was based on what was known as the soybean development units to characterize the zones different climatic zones across that region. And as a result of that work, it became of interest to do the same thing in Southern Ontario in a little more detail. And this resulted in what was known as the corn heat joint map for Ontario for field crop recommendations. That map has been used since 1964, and it was updated in the early 1990s. And these units are still used for corn, soybean, white bean and sweet corn recommendations in Ontario.

E. Brubaker (20:30):
Murray, when did you start work at the OAC or the university of Guelph and what were your primary responsibilities here?

D. Murray Brown (20:44):
Ed, I came back to the University of Guelph at that time in January the first 1966, after spending 12 and a half years at the Ontario Research Foundation. Burt Matthews, the chairman of the soil science department at that time hired me. And I was hired into what is known as the agri-meteorology section or program of that department. That program has started in the late 1950s by Dr. Ken king, who was actually a classmate, an undergraduate classmate in chemistry. And he initiated a research program on micro meteorology and agriculture meteorology. And when the university formed in 1964, it allowed departments to expand their graduate programs. And Ken was very instrumental in developing what became known as the agri-meteorology program, the first graduate program in that area in Canada. And I suppose we've had well over 100 students graduate, Master's and PhD students graduate in that program over the last 35 years.

D. Murray Brown (22:13):
So my responsibilities in that area was more in the climatology area, which was a natural from the work that I had done at the Ontario Research Foundation. And I had responsibility for teaching the climatology and the agri-meteorology undergraduate program or course in the department. And I might also mention that the department of soil science became land resource science with this agri-meteorology program. And when the geology program, also some of that program at least was being taught in the department. So the department became known as land resource science, and as you will know, it's housed in the Richards building at this particular time, and although that may change in the next few years. So I not only taught, but I also supervised graduate students and I believe it was 12 or 15 graduate students. And those students were from around the world and some are back in their home countries. And some have remained here in Canada.

D. Murray Brown (23:43):
As I said in total, the program probably has graduated in excess of 100 students. And in that part of the program within the department, there were three other faculty members, as I mentioned, Dr. King, Dr. Terry Gillespie and Dr. George Therold. Terry is the only one still in that section, and there are two new faculty members in that section at the present time. So it's been a good program and I think has had a big influence on the effect of weather and climate on Canada and the information. I should also mention that in addition to teaching and research, we had considered work in the extension program. And several fact sheets were published to be used by farmers in the agriculture meteorology area. One of those of course deals with the corn units, frost free seasons and frost control and field work days, and several other back sheets in that area.

E. Brubaker (25:01):
Murray, in your work here, what do you think had the greatest influence on Ontario agriculture and maybe Canadian agriculture? What part of your work? And did you get any honors along the way?

D. Murray Brown (25:26):
Oh, Ed I believe probably the biggest influence that we had on agriculture in Ontario and Canada was development of that heat unit system that's used for field crop recommendations. And then during my term at the Ontario Research Foundation, I was involved with the two publications. One, the climates of Canada for agriculture. And in that we actually prepared a heat unit map because it was prepared just after the heat unit system was developed and frosty seasons, temperatures. And we ended up with climatic region and maps for land use planning. The second publication was called the climate of Southern Ontario, and it was published in 1968 and has been used since then for undergraduate teaching in geography and agriculture. So I guess the major impact that my research and studies have had is in crop recommendations and land use planning, having used those maps that were developed.

D. Murray Brown (26:57):
Just yesterday. I attended a meeting of the Ontario time of advisory committee. And they're planning now to revise that publication, which is over 30 years old. You mentioned honors? Well, one of the honors, I guess perhaps the only one that resulted from my career, I was made a fellow of the Canadian Society of Agricultural Meteorology in about 1994, 2 years after I was retired. That society is a society affiliated with the Agricultural Institute of Canada, along with societies like the Canadian Society of Agronomy, Canadian Society of Soil Science and other societies. Actually that society was formed in about 1987 and I happened to become the first president of the Canadian Society of Agronomy, oh pardon me, the Canadian Society of Agriculture Meteorology. And as a result of that, this society has met with the Agriculture Institute of Canada at their annual conference every year. And we have had very, very good attendance at our scientific sessions.

E. Brubaker (28:25):
Murray, you've always been actively involved with your church, currently the United Church here in Guelph and I presume also in Cambridge. Can you tell us some of your church activities please?

D. Murray Brown (28:40):
Yes, Ed. I've always been active in churches from the time I was married in a Presbyterian church in Barrie, and then in Applewood Acres in Missisauga and Trinity United Church here in Guelph. But now that I live in Cambridge, we have become involved with the St Luke's Congregation in that municipality. And I serve on the board in the church and actually on the board of the senior citizens residents in that facility, it's called St. Luke's Place. In addition, far as community work, I volunteer drive senior citizens to medical appointments and other appointments in Cambridge for an organization known as PATER, People Assisting The Elderly Residents. And I drive about two or three times a month for that organization.

D. Murray Brown (29:47):
So in addition, I like to participate in the game called curling and do a little cross country skiing. So I keep active and hopefully I will be able to maintain my health for many years to come.

E. Brubaker (30:07):
Murray, you got married, you mentioned. In fact, you've been married twice. Can you tell us something about your family and what they are doing and your second marriage?

D. Murray Brown (30:23):
Yes Ed, I'm glad to do that. I was married in Presbyterian church in Barrie Ontario to Lilian Warnica. That family was a prominent Herford family, Herford Bredia family. And when we were first married, I was living in Toronto. So we lived in Toronto and then in Ames, Iowa during graduate studies and then in Mississauga. All our children were born while we were in Mississauga and were all born in Toronto Western Hospital. And we moved to Guelph, as I said in 1966, and my wife became very active in Trinity United church and became actually an honorary life member of the women's Institute of the United church. As I said Ed, we had three children. My oldest son lives here in Guelph, and he is in the assessment office. And in fact, he is in charge of the assessment office here in Guelph for Wellington and Dufferin county.

D. Murray Brown (31:44):
And my daughter who graduated in nursing from McMaster University, she decided to take up teaching when her children went to school and she's now a kindergarten teacher in Burlington. And they're very active in the church in Burlington, the Alliance Church. And my youngest son who lives in the subdivision that he was raised in for his first four years in Applewood Acres. They're quite active in Applewood Genetic Church. Both he and his wife were Actuarial Math graduates from the University of Waterloo and he works in the insurance industry. He is presently working for a head hunter organization in the insurance industry and lives, as I said in Mississauga. And as you know Ed, I was married the second time in 1992 because my first wife passed away as a result of cancer in 1988. I remarried in 1992 to Una Amos.

D. Murray Brown (32:54):
She was the wife of an undergraduate classmate of my Bill Amos and he had passed away in 1983. When we were married, we decided that we should be in a neutral city and a neutral home. As it turned out none of our family live in Cambridge and so we have a home in Cambridge. Una has six girls and they are spread around from Burlington to Winnipeg. Her youngest daughter lives in Winnipeg, her third youngest daughter lives in Wisconsin, and the other four live here in Ontario, in Kitchener, Stratford, London, and Burlington. And we love to get together with our grandchildren and have 18 grandchildren now between the two of us. So we feel we are very fortunate. And since we had very successful first marriages, we decided that we should get together and as I said, love to have our grandchildren come and visit.

E. Brubaker (34:12):
So Murray, you are blessed with really two families, your family and your wife's family, but you love them all and you put them together. As families do they mix very much or is it mostly you associate with your wife's children in one group and your own children in another group at another time? They know each other, but do they really associate very much together?

D. Murray Brown (34:40):
Well, Ed, they all attended our wedding, but you're right. They tend to meet separately. For instance, we had just had Christmas at our house for both families and then one family, we held Christmas on the Saturday before Christmas, and for Una's family on Christmas day. I might add that there were 14 of us when my family met and there were 26 of us when Una's family met. Now, I think this is probably a natural way the families go. And I often thought that they might exchange cottages and have vacations at my cottage or at Una's cottage with her family going to mine. This has not happened. They tend to be associated with their upbringing. And I think as I just said, this is a natural occurrence.

E. Brubaker (35:49):
Murray, what influence do you feel your life at college as a student, an undergraduate and a graduate student head on the rest of your life? Because now almost 50 years since you've graduated.

D. Murray Brown (36:12):
Yes Ed, when you mention that it is 50 years coming this spring when we completed our undergraduate program and certainly the undergraduate career had a big influence on my life. And I owe a lot to the Ontario Agricultural College. I would say to young people when they're attending university, that it's very important for them to have association with their alma mater and also to remember that when they participate in community activities, to make people aware especially for young people who are in high school. What an influence universities can have on their future life and career, and also to encourage them to participate in community activities throughout their life, because that as much as their work can influence other people. And I think this is very, very important for future generations. And we hope that the life at Guelph for our students will impact on their lives like it has on mine.

E. Brubaker (37:46):
Thank you Murray, for a very good interview and for coming here this morning to talk to us. It's important to have a record of the lives of students and graduates and people who have been involved with the OAC and now the University of Guelph for many, many years. Thank you very much. This has been an interview with Dr. D. Murray Brown on January 10th at Guelph Ontario for the alumni in action committee.