Cape Gazette
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Saltwater Portrait

George Brown: A lifetime in Milton and love of its school

Once attended as student, later visited as parent, now serves as chief custodian
By Melissa Steele | May 21, 2013
Photo by: Melissa Steele George Brown stops traffic on Federal Street every day during Milton Elementary School's dismissal.

George Brown knows every inch of Milton Elementary School. He should; he's spent a large chunk of his life there.

The 67-year-old chief custodian for the elementary school graduated from the building when it was Milton High School; he watched his two boys attend when it became Milton Middle School, and now has worked at Milton Elementary School for the past 17 years.

"My wife says I need to spring a cot here because I'm here more than I am at home," he said from his basement office at the school.

Brown and his wife, Gail, married for 32 years, live in a house he built on Diamond Horse Farm Road - an area where he grew up and has lived his entire life.

Brown was the youngest boy in a family of eight when Cave Neck Road was mostly open fields and farms.

"I like the old way when you knew who your neighbors were," he said.

His father died when Brown was in seventh grade. He went to work clamming on the local waterways to support his mother and younger sisters.

"I was the youngest boy, and they always came to me when they needed something," he said.

Throughout high school, Brown was a standout athlete, earning all-conference honors and serving as captain for basketball, baseball and cross country.

Following graduation, Brown went into the reserves but was never called on to go to Vietnam. In 1968, he also went into business with his brother. Together they opened Brown Brothers Service Station, a car shop in Georgetown that they sold in 1997.

Between the car shop and trips to a Harbeson convenience store where Gail worked, Brown met his future wife, dating her for about 10 years before they married.

Two sons came along shortly after: Douglas and Tyler, now 31 and 25, respectively.

District employee

Brown said he didn't set out to work for the school district. After the car shop was sold, a friend of his talked him into working as a substitute custodian.

"He said, you get along with people and kids, and it would be a good job for you," he said.

Pretty soon, Brown was just about working full time. When a chief custodian position opened up at what was then Milton Middle School, he went ahead and applied for it.

"I didn't want to be chief, but all the guys said 'Come on George, take it,'" he said. "I put in for it and have been here ever since."

Principal Kevin Mumford, for one, is glad he did.

"He knows everything about the building," Mumford said. "It's incredible to have someone working here with his knowledge."

Mumford learned firsthand how passionate Brown is about the original hardwood floors that grace the gymnasium and classrooms throughout the building.

Five years ago when he first started as principal, Mumford walked out on a polished gymnasium floor with dress shoes on. Brown said he immediately told him he should be wearing sneakers.

"That's how it was when I grew up," Brown said. "We weren't allowed on the floors without gym shoes."

Every year, Brown said, he strips and seals the wood floors. Then he puts on a thin layer of wax to give them extra shine and protection. It's a recipe that works; even after a year of wear and tear, the floors held a nice shine during a recent visit.

Over the years, Brown has found a collection of school items squirreled away in nooks and crannies nobody knew about. Mumford has a collection in his office that includes a device that holds five pieces of chalk to make lines back in the days of blackboards; a crimper that was used to hold papers together before staples became popular; and a No. 4 jersey that Mumford likes to say was once Brown's.

"There's all kinds of things he finds and brings to me," he said.

Brown said he would take Milton Elementary's solid construction any day over Cape high school, the district's newest school.

"This building is in better shape than the new high school," he said with pride.

But it's what's inside the building that keeps him coming back every day, and most weekends, too.

"I couldn't ask for a better crew - top to bottom, it's a great staff," he said. "Everyone works together. It's like one big family."

Then there are the kids.

There is not a kid in the building he doesn't know. And they all know him. He greets them as they arrive at school in the morning and when they go home in the afternoon.

He teases some by telling them their shoe is untied when it's not. Others, particularly the shy ones, he tries to make just smile and come out of their shells.

"The kids are wonderful," he said. "They know when I'm joking, but they also listen when I raise my voice because they know I mean business."

At 67, most are ready for retirement, but not Brown. While he said he's thought about it, he is not ready to retire yet.

"The way I look at it, as long as my health is good, I'm going to keep working," Brown said. "I'm going to keep chugging along."

 

George Brown knows Milton Elementary School inside and out. (Photo by: Melissa Steele)
George Brown coordinates dismissal at Milton Elementary School. (Photo by: Melissa Steele)
No job is too small for George Brown. (Photo by: Melissa Steele)
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