A. Lee Brown
Writer, Scientist, Professor emeritus
Author of The Varsity and more recently published Cradle of Bitchin: A Story of Mentors, Watermen, and the Sea (2023)
As an academic teacher and researcher, Lee produced scholarly pieces ranging from video to refereed publications. Examples of his written work would be: journal articles (e.g. "Politics Through Literature," Social Science Quarterly), text books (e.g. Rules & Conflict, Prentice-Hall); trade book chapters (e.g. "Water Status in California & Texas," Water & the West, Island press); policy white papers (e.g. "Fresh Developments in Long Range Water Planning," Western Governor's Conference) and scientific reports (e.g. "Hydrologic Evaluation of Big Wood River Watershed," U. of Idaho Press).
More recently, Brown's interests have turned to fiction and feature writing such as: "His Setterness" (Gun Dog Magazine, 2019); THE VARSITY: A Story of America's Underage Warriors in WW II (2020); and most recently CRADLE OF BITCHIN: A Story of Mentors, Watermen, and The Sea (2023).
Born in Texas and raised in Point Loma, California, Lee attended the same schools as did his wife and, later, their children. After graduating from high school, Brown worked for Scripps Institute of Oceanography and in 1960 became a deputized marine safety officer and ocean lifeguard for the City of San Diego; a job allowing the completion of two college degrees.
Both his bachelors and masters are from San Diego State University, the AB major was English literature and the MA in political science with a thesis on political novels. Lee and Kathy married in 1967 and relocated to Minneapolis to pursue a doctorate at the U. of Minnesota. It wasn't in the cards. With his wife pregnant, income scant, and America disassembling over Vietnam, Lee accepted a tenure track position at Grossmont College and returned to southern California in 1969.
For the next decade, Brown taught a variety of courses including his favorite---politics through literature. In 1972-73, the family (now a foursome) lived in Oxford, England where Lee was a Fulbright Scholar both teaching and writing. Highlights of that experience included meeting J.R.R. Tolkien in the Bodleian Library, having lunch with Francis Crick, dinner and drinks with C.P. Snow in the House of Lords, and having his first article published in a scholarly journal.
For almost a decade, he taught at both Grossmont College (lower division) and San Diego State (upper division) until the late 1970s. In 1978, the US Department of Energy funded his idea to establish a Summer Institute for Water and Energy to train high school resource teachers about emerging water and energy issues in western states. About the same time, Prentice-Hall published his first book, Rules and Conflict, adopted by colleges and universities around the globe. A few years later, the Browns moved to Austin, Texas where Kathy completed her doctorate in medical genetics while Lee retooled in water science. It was also a period where he worked for Texas Department of Water Resources to lead a team charged with rewriting the state's Master Water Plan. In the mid-1980s, Dr. Kathryn Brown became a clinical geneticist at Scripps Clinic and Lee was chosen as the Dean of Mathematical, Physical, and Behavioral Sciences at Grossmont College.
A decade later, the children were up and out allowing Lee and Kathy to relocate to the northern Rockies of Idaho. Shifting from theoretical academic science to its application, Dr. Brown became the lead hydrologist for The Nature Conservancy and later a regional manager with Idaho Water Engineering. In streams and rivers during the day,he turned to writing fiction and feature articles at night. With a lot still to learn, his first efforts placed in regional contests and magazines. It was also the time and place where the story of America's underage veterans during WWII was incubated.
In 2012, Lee and Kathy returned to San Diego, where he became the academic coordinator for a burgeoning water management program at California State University, San Marcos. Dr. Brown continued to balance academic administration and writing until 2018 when he resigned to complete the VARSITY project.
Over time, Brown's contributions have been recognized by Sunset Magazine, the US State Department, Outstanding Educators of America, Distinguished Faculty Award (SDSU), National Institute for Organizational Development (U. of Texas), City of San Diego Award for Excellence, San Diego County Association of Business Outstanding Educator, and Who's Who of American Community College Scholars. Additionally, Lee's ideas have received financial support from the Idaho Humanities Council, US Department of Energy, Ford Foundation, National Science Foundation, US State Department, Donner Foundation and University of Texas Patterson Fellowship.
CRADLE OF BITCHIN: A Story of Mentors, Watermen, & the Sea
THROUGHOUT HISTORY THERE HAVE BEEN HORRIBLE TIMES AND PLACES TO BE ALIVE…
THIS IS NOT THAT STORY
Lee Brown’s Cradle of Bitchin is a firsthand account of one of the most wonderful decades in human history to be young and alive. It is a tale of how “watermen” and lifeguards of southern California helped prepare youngsters to navigate the dangerous shoals of adolescence during the 1950s and early 1960s. Under the guidance of these elders, the author and his cohorts learned to surf, dive, sail, and explore the sea’s extensive bounty while acquiring a deep respect for the sea’s moods.
Cradle explains how growing up in the coastal California town of Ocean Beach, with its alternative education, instilled a sense of awe, joy and wonder in him that has had a lifelong impact. It is a story chock full of humor, trials and errors and quirky characters whose attire, music, values and infectious way of life that influenced the rest of America beyond southern California.
VARSITY: A Story of America's Underage Warriors in WW II
The Story Behind Varsity
The genesis of VARSITY can be traced to a high school reunion dinner years ago. Seated next to Brown was a complete stranger, a man who had lettered in varsity football in 1948 at Point Loma High just as Lee had done a decade later. Over the course of the evening the stranger made a curious, offhand, remark saying that varsity teams in 1945/46 had been legendary across the country.
Brown's interest was piqued, and he couldn't help but ask "Why so?"
His answer was jaw dropping. In the early stages of WW II, tens of thousands of kids left their high schools to enlist. In fact, they were so young, that at war's end many were still teenagers. The support of the GI Bill worked well for those young men and women had earned a high school diploma before enlisting. For veterans without a diploma, however, admission to a four-year university was almost impossible. Since the GED alternative was still in the planning stage in 1945, and junior colleges tended to focus on vocational education, the most likely path to higher education was to return to high school.
Although few empirical records remain, it is believed about 30,000 underage veterans re-entered former high schools at war's end. Among that number, some 5,000 engaged in school athletics. Prior to writing, it was necessary to verify the story and its authenticity. Ransacking the normal databanks was hit and miss until discovering an organization formed in 1991---Veterans of Underage Military Service (VUMS). After contacting the VUMS national commander, Brown was invited to their National Reunion in 2010; an event that opened the doors for personal interviews and hundreds of experiences.
Another turning point was to discover that Don Giddings was still alive. Don had been the varsity coach at Point Loma High in the 1940s and early 1950s and was willing to talk about it. To my surprise, Coach Giddings remembered me and was eager to share what memories about the teams of that period.
"Yes" he said, "I think we did have a fellow who was a National Guard veteran, but my worry was that La Jolla had two veterans." We spoke for hours as Coach Giddings explained his use a combinations of Michigan and Stanford formations to revise the single wing. Don died at age 97.
By now, enough material on underage veterans during the war and after the war was scattered in boxes around the office---it was time to create and write.
The story of VARSITY: A Story of America's Underage Warriors in WW II is best described as a saga in the classic Hero's Journey format…with but one exception. The main characters are not leaving hearth and home in search of adventure but, instead, attempting to avoid hardship. At age fifteen, and for different reasons, two best friends enlist in the Army and Marines to fight in World War II. Its story line follows them through the travails of the killing zones of Europe and the Pacific then home at war's end. While the protagonists are fictional they represent amalgams of actual VUMS interviewed by the author. Like many others, without a high school diploma they are ineligible for the GI BILL and must return to the high school left behind three years earlier. As they soon learn, they are not altogether welcome by existing seniors, the PTA, and faculty worried about discipline. To counter both these challenges and the banalities of senior year hi jinx the two decorated veterans, still in their teens, join the perennially losing varsity squad and help turn it into a championship team.