Midtown History: Greg Brown
Written by Karen Lawrence

GREG BROWN grew up in Midtown. He attended Jordan Junior High School in the mid-60s, and fondly remembers his after-school routine...first to Eddie's Fountain for a double maple nut ice cream, then to the bakery (where the florist is now) for a maple bar and a cinnamon twist, back to the Toy Variety (now site of the 7/11) for 100 thin red licorice whips, then to A&W so he could slurp root beer through the licorice whips until they melted.

He also remembers going to the Supermarket Basket for Charleston Chews, cookies and cigarettes (yes, gasp) which were 25 cents. Since this issue and our next general meeting is devoted to parks, we asked Greg to tell us his favorite memory of Greer Park. He smiled and told the story of Rick Rush and his family who lived under the big screen of the Palo Alto Drive-In and served as caretakers before it was Greer Park.

Photo by Karen Lawrence
Greg is probably best known for his wonderful (perhaps a bit wicked, perhaps a bit whimsical) murals all around Palo Alto (and many other places). He says he knew from the age of 5 that he would be an artist; he started cartooning as a kid, and did oil painting (serious stuff) at age 9. His mother encouraged his art and he studied in downtown Palo Alto when he was 12. He fondly remembers an entourage of 12-year-old boys following him to his art class - they couldn't believe that he got to look at naked women for hours at a time.

So how did this muralist get started in Palo Alto murals? In 1975, he got a job under a CETA government grant, working for the city as an artist-in-residence (at $4.65/hour!) The job was undefined, and Greg started an inventory of places where art might be suitable in the city. During this inventory stage Greg suggested that he paint a mural on the wall of the Palo Alto Drug (now Taxi's). It was fairly simple then. Greg describes it as "let me paint on your building, it will be fun" and it required only a single page of agreement between them. So the first mural was a guy in a trench coat with a little bird on his shoulder, the "art inspector." Many wonderful murals followed, and, as they say, the rest is history. Although Greg has dabbled with other forms of artistic expression, he is centered in the semi-realistic painting he does so well; he likes to "suck people in with realism and then take them somewhere else." We hope to be so transported for years to come…

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