When I was a little kid and went downtown Kalamazoo with my parents, I would often see a pair of identical twins who drew my attention. Two blonde adult women, dressed to the nines, always in matching outfits, promenading the outdoor mall. Twin boys lived behind us, Timmy and Tommy, both redheads and they wore striped Tshirts. But they weren’t nearly as fascinating as these women who walked as if they had learned to walk with dictionaries on their heads and whose outfits often included matching hats and gloves.
My dad and Uncle Frank were twins, but fraternal, and they looked nothing alike. But they did have that “twin thing” going on. They were very close. Nevertheless, unless you knew they were twins you might have thought my dad was younger when they were kids as he was smaller and that my dad was older when they were adults because my dad went prematurely gray and Frank didn’t.
But to see adult twins who looked identical–wow, that was something I couldn’t forget.
Imagine my surprise when I went on the Vanished Kalamazoo website a few years ago and discovered that these women were very well known in the city–and that they became even more famous as The Brown Twins when they moved to San Francisco.
Marian and Vivian Brown were born 25 January 1927 in Kalamazoo and, after being co-valedictorians at their high school, went to Western Michigan University, which is in Kalamazoo (and my alma mater).
According to their Wikipedia page, “In Kalamazoo, the Brown twins were often seen in the Kalamazoo Mall, dressed identically. Both were petite at 5 feet 1 inch tall and weighing 98 pounds. They were always seen together. They dressed alike, walked in lockstep and ate at the same speed, even lifting their forks in unison. Neither married, but they said they had double-dated twins they met at a twins’ convention.”
In 1970 the twins moved to San Francisco in search of better weather.
“For more than 40 years, the Brown twins were an entertainment fixture of the San Francisco social scene. They appeared in public in identical outfits, becoming neighborhood celebrities. They gained wide exposure in a 1988 television advertisement for Reebok, which led to appearances in talk shows and modeling in advertisements. They appeared on television with Richard Simmons, Tom Snyder and Vicki Lawrence. They were featured in over 25 television advertisements over the years. Corporate advertisements in which they appeared included IBM, San Francisco Chronicle, Pay Less, Virgin Atlantic, Joe Boxer, Macy’s, AT&T, Dell Computers, and Apple Inc. The Brown Twins appear in an establishing shot in the film 9 to 5, ostensibly set in Los Angeles.” (Wikipedia)
These lovely ladies are now gone. With their branding of their uniqueness, I think they were ahead of the times. They took what life gave them and created exciting lives for themselves.
Did you have memorable characters on the periphery of your childhood?