The Daily Times and Chronicle, Tuesday, July 3, 1979
Burlington Past and Present, by John E. Fogelberg
(Article # 002)
Ken Brown made the Credit Union go
The Burlington Municipal Employees Federal Credit Union was born in February, 1962 by a small group of school teachers and custodians, under the leadership of Herb Danielson, under the name Burlington School Employees Federal Credit Union. The present name was adopted in November 1963 when any employee of the town became eligible to join.
The hardest work of the credit union is performed by the treasurer. For most of its history that person has been Kenneth Brown, who served in that capacity from February 1964 until poor health forced him to step aside in 1975, when he became the secretary and fiscal advisor to his wife Elta, the treasurer since that time. The phenomenal growth of the credit union occurred mainly during Brown’s tenure, membership jumping from the original 17 to a total of 647 today. His business acumen and dedication to his job can be judged by the following figures: from December 1962 to December 1978, assets grew almost 5,000 percent; loans have grown to a high of $596,000, and shares have increased from a first year total of $13,797 to almost $630,000. An excellent record.
Ken Brown came to Burlington in 1939 and occupied a small house in Winnmere until he moved into his present home, when relatives of his by the name of Pratt moved out in 1947. He joined the fire department as a call man that year and was appointed a regular firefighter in 1954. He was forced to resign several years ago because of smoke inhalation, which has caused him so much distress that he has been hospitalized several times in serious condition when his lungs have almost refused to function.
The fire he remembers most vividly occurred about 25 years ago when the old Beacon Club on Lowell Street was destroyed. Lowell Street in colonial times was known as the Swamp Road. Today it is Beacon Street. That club was in the barn of the old Charles Marion farm then owned by Mr. Bassett. The house still stands facing Rte. 128 on the first rise of land off Winn Street. The weather was exceptionally cold, and once hoses were laid, water could not be shut off due to ice. Black smoke obscured the stars. Flashes of dull red fire lit up the scene and caused huge icicles to glow eerily. Blue flames shot sporadically from ice-covered broken electric wires. Helmets soon were coated with more than an inch of ice, making one’s head ache with the load. Gloves stuck to hose nozzles. And, when It was all over, the lines of hose could not be rolled up! Each had to be folded upon itself in sections and were so heavy that the town’s front-end loader was sent to pick them up.
Ken remembers one other fire just as vividly, for it brought home to him the treacherous and dangerous nature of fires in general. At a brush fire on Prouty Road at the Billerica line, a pine grove suddenly crowned from the heat and fire raced madly overhead, jumping both Ken and the his tank to continue burning on the other side.
His little white house on the corner of Winn Street and Peach Orchard Road was built, according to Ken’s Aunt Lena Pratt, in 1799, the year the Town of Burlington was incorporated. This may be so, for the location of many of the small properties assessed that year is not known. However, there is no doubt that the house was there early in the last century and may have been built by a Jonas Lawrence. Later deeds show a Francis A. Lawrence in 1872; Abel Harrington in 1875, Ella Harrington Hanson in 1890, Ethel R. Bixby in 1912, and Lena Harrington Pratt in 1934.
Ken was born in Woburn, as were his brother and two sisters, the children of Cyril Brown. His grandfather Cyril was an early salesman for the Singer Sewing Machine Company. In 1934 Ken met and married Elta Burgess of Tewksbury. The couple has four children and now host on holidays 13 grandchildren. Elta Burgress Brown can trace her ancestry back seven grandfathers to a colonial who settled in Sandwich. On her mother’s side she is even more of an American, if that is possible, for her mother’s grandfather married an Indian maiden. Ken hasn’t traced his family tree back seven grandfathers, so the following item may have nothing whatever to do with that tree, but it does have a connection with the family name of Brown. In December 1682, court records show that a John Brown of Woburn was convicted of stealing a horse and was sentenced to restore threefold damages, to pay costs and to be whipped 20 stripes. Maybe Ken should do a little research on this other Brown!