Southern Utah News Articles
Area Icon - Marlin Brown, ink by the barrel
* Editor’s note-The Southern Utah News has had an occasional feature through the years highlighting a person who has been significant to this area’s history or business community. Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting Marlin Brown would agree he has been instrumental in shaping and growing the community. Years of owning and writing the newspaper, as well as two other businesses, have not only made him a man in the know, but one who has positively influenced the community of Kanab.
Marlin Brown’s entire life has revolved around the printed word. From the time he was a young man in high school and working at the local newspaper; to working at the BYU print shop in Provo; to moving back to Kanab and buying the newspaper; to operating a print and office supply store; to owning Canyon Bookstore – communication has defined his life.
It was by chance Kanab native Marlin Brown got into newspapers. Fresh out of LDS Business School, he stopped into the local paper in Kanab. “I went in to place a classified ad to get a job,” said Brown. “The gentleman running it said, ‘well you can work here!’ I talked to the owner, Eugene Roberts, and was immediately hired.”
Brown quickly became a valuable employee. Getting a newspaper out was much more difficult back when Brown started at the paper. Hot lead typesetting was labor intensive, but he quickly learned the physical aspects of printing a paper.
Owner Roberts was quite a character. “He was always dressed up in a suit and tie, which didn’t make much sense when you’re working with ink,” recalled Brown.
Since Roberts’ hands would get ink on them, he would kind of shimmy his arms down around the waist of his pants to hitch them up, thus lessening the chance of his clothes getting dirty. Brown said the movement was so funny, people around town started calling him ‘itchy britches!’ “I was mortified one day when I caught myself doing the same thing! I quick looked around to see if anyone was looking.”
Roberts sold the paper to Errol Brown (not a relative). “He didn’t know how to run a linotype, and I was still just learning how to set type. We were quite the team at first,” commented Brown good-naturedly. “I worked for him a couple of years, basically running the newspaper.”
But his newspaper career would have to wait. Marlin Brown was called to serve his Latter-day Saint mission to Hawaii. Time was short between his calling and when he was to go, and he worried about leaving the paper. But things worked out and Brown enjoyed serving on all of the beautiful islands but one. “I loved the Polynesian people,” recalled Brown. “I fell in love with the people. I always tell people to play ‘Aloha ‘Oe’ at my funeral.”
Brown returned in 1954, and went right back to work with paper publisher Errol Brown in Kanab.
Not all was work for the returning missionary!
He met this lovely girl named Delores Kaufman in Salt Lake City while helping his brother move out of an apartment, that Delores and friends were moving into. “I thought she was flirting with me (Marlin’s memory), so I asked her if she wanted to go to a show later after I finished helping my brother move. I was late and I think she had probably given up on me because she wasn’t ready, but we did end up going out, “ said Brown, even recalling the movie they saw – “Long Gray Line.”
The young couple spent time together, and decided to see if they might want a future together. To that end, Marlin bought Delores a Trailways bus ticket to Kanab for a visit. Only the young Romeo (Brown) made a misstep upon her arrival. “Her bus was to arrive at 2 a.m. here, and my alarm clock didn’t go off! Fortunately, the city marshal would always go open the local cafe for anyone who needed to use the restroom or wait for a ride. A (probably frustrated) Delores told the marshal her ride wasn’t there, and he asked who it was. She said Marlin Brown, and he responded, ‘oh, he’ll be along shortly.’ “
But Marlin must’ve had the gift of convincing words early, because he and Delores were married in October of 1955 in the Idaho Falls LDS Temple.
The young couple lived in Kanab at first, but economics soon dictated a move to a better paying job at the newspaper in Cedar City. “I worked there for six months, when our linotype operator said that Brigham Young University was hiring,” said Brown. “I went for an interview, got the job and we moved north.”
Provo was good to the Browns, as their young family grew and Marlin worked for the university’s printing press. “While it wouldn’t seem like much now, we were making good money for back then, and even had a new home in Provo.”
Fortunately for southern Utah, the red rocks called the Browns home. Marlin Brown worked at BYU for nine years, “but I’d come home every chance I got.”
The Browns met with still-owner Errol Brown, and forged a deal to buy the paper. Provo’s loss would most certainly be Kanab’s gain! “Errol said he’d rather sell it to me, so we decided to do it.”
The Brown family, which eventually grew to nine children, bought the paper in 1966.
Owning and operating a newspaper is an enormous, life-consuming undertaking!
“It was very much a family business,” said Brown, adding with pride he believed the labor-intensive work was really good for his large family. “The kids were always helping, mainly because they had to. Sometimes they’d even run the press!”
Brown said the kids’ hard work wasn’t without protest. Manually folding pages and inserting ad circulars were tedious and time-consuming! “When I was first printing the paper, we had about 650 subscribers. I told them when we got to 1000, I’d buy an automatic folder. We hit the goal, and I found a used folder up north, borrowed a pick-up and went and got it. The kids were happy, but then they would complain about loading the folder.”
While preparation and distribution were enormous jobs, there was also the all-important editorial content to worry about. While Marlin had periodic editor, freelance and stringer help, often times reporting meetings, writing stories and editorials, and taking pictures landed squarely on his shoulders. “It was just a lot of work,” said Brown, adding his load lightened when son Matt returned to Kanab and became involved. “I hired one or two others to help him.”
Brown said that while he enjoyed operating the newspaper much of the time, there were times it got him in hot water! In newspapers, sometimes people want to kill the messenger, and in small towns they know you, and usually where you can be found!
“One time after I had reported on an event of someone of import throwing garbage and animal entrails into a city ditch, the mayor, who was quite angry, came into the newspaper office with the sheriff,” said Brown. “I think it was to intimidate me. It didn’t work, but that doesn’t mean that people didn’t try!”
Marlin and staff won numerous Utah Press Association awards through his years of publishing the paper.
Marlin, Delores and family sold the Southern Utah News to Dixie and Dennis Brunner and family in 1992. The Browns had run the Kanab newspaper for 26 years. They were great to purchase the business from, because in the early months, Marlin and Matt helped us learn the ropes.
But Marlin and company weren’t put out to pasture after getting out of the newspaper business! Always active in his beloved LDS faith, Marlin had been named Patriarch, an honored and respected church position requiring much demands on his time.
From a business standpoint, he began focusing more on the bookstore (Canyon Book) he and Delores had purchased in the mid 70s. “I liked the book store,” said Brown, of the business that was initially located next door to Denny’s. The newspaper and bookstore were later moved to Main Street. During the same years, the Brown family also owned and operated an office supply business as well. Canyon Book recently closed its doors after serving the community for well over 40 years!
“Kanab’s changing,” observed Brown, “especially in the past few years. I guess progress to some is not progress to somebody else. I don’t particularly care for those big four story motels. But I do like some of the progress – like the new Kanab Center. I think the design will remind us old-timers of the old high school that used to be right there on the hill behind.”
When asked what he and Delores will miss after all these years in the public eye, Brown just smiles. “We’ll miss the people. With both the newspaper and the book store, every day we would get the opportunity to visit with some folks we knew, and others we didn’t. That’s been very special to both of us.”
Marlin Brown and family have made enormous contributions to the Kanab business community, both by operating successful businesses and providing for an informed public through the newspaper. It’s probably time for a little rest and relaxation, but knowing Marlin, we kind of doubt that!