Remembering the Browning family show
Editor’s note: The following column originally ran in the June 18, 2010 edition of the Daily Mail.
Carol Ann Winburn lives in Butler, Mo., but is well-known to those of us in Vernon County, especially in banking and financial circles. Her latest project has been creating a beautiful book telling the story of her unique childhood, along with her seven siblings, as part of the Browning Family Show. Her book is subtitled, “A father’s legacy in photos and philosophy.” She worked closely with her father to enable the reader to get acquainted with the talented family and understanding his thoughts and ideals.
Carol Ann is the oldest of the eight children — six girls and two boys — all who had inherited their parents’ musical talents. The book shows pictures of their performances all over the upper Midwest and Canada, but the main purpose was to preserve the ideas of the father, Eugene Browning.
These ideas are clarified in seven categories: spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical, moral (ethical), financial and social. On page seven, Carol Ann states, “For him, all good things can be traced back to (or are born with) a thought. Who we are is a product of our thoughts and our choices. Ultimately, our most productive and successful choices are born of a spirit of love.
“We’re talking here about love in action. We’re talking about love that manifests itself in many different ways and in many different aspects of our lives.”
For many years the family had what they called “Browning Family meetings” on Sunday evenings. All 10 members of the family were expected to participate in this free and open discussion. They brought their challenges to the entire family for encouragement and support. Carol Ann states that there were no pat answers or easy solutions and no ideas were right or wrong, good or bad. In these meetings, they developed the Browning Family Creed. This creed is reproduced on the back of the book jacket and is available for reproduction. The text of the creed follows. “Today is the most wonderful day in our lives. Yesterday is gone; tomorrow may never come; so today we must be master of our destinies. Today we will love instead of hate … We will spread cheer instead of gloom. We will think positively instead of negatively. We will seek knowledge instead of idle gossip.
We will do our very best and learn from our mistakes. Today, above all, we will be thankful …Thankful for our health, our wealth, our wisdom, and the Godly state of mind which allows the Supreme Power to make all these things possible through us.” A family member read this creed during each presentation of the Browning Family Show.
The shows began on a stage built at the back of the Eugene Browning Mercantile store in Lee’s Summit, Mo., in the mid-1950s. Their mother, Margaret Helen Griffith Browning, was a skilled pianist who accompanied the children. None of the children were really outstanding as a musical performer, but it was the impact and power of 10 family members on stage together, singing in close harmony, playing various instruments together, and dancing as a group with simple routines in the beginning and modern jazz numbers as they grew older, that gave the show its appeal.
Each of the children added to the book with a personal message at the end of the book. Barbara, the youngest girl but big sister to the two brothers, used this memory of her father. “Remember that each day you should be having fun, making money, or learning something — preferably all three but don’t get stuck on any one!