Don’s artistic abilities were discovered at Fort Collins High School by his agriculture teacher, who encouraged him to develop his talents by attending art school. After graduation, he attended the Denver Art Institute (of Denver, Colorado). He then joined the Army and voluntarily transferred to Panama. In Panama, his duty was to guard the Panama Canal in the event of a World War II Axis invasion. Although this did not come to pass, the United States kept guards on the Canal throughout the war.
After serving in Panama, Don was transferred to Ecuador, where he was part of an early warning system guarding Central America. Then Don was transferred to Europe (some point shortly after D-Day). In Europe, he served as an Army courier atop an Army-issue Indian motorcycle. He saw the Maginot Line; the Seigfried Line; the siege of Nantes, France; the destruction of Germany, and the famous United States General, George Patton.
Throughout his time with the Army, Brown maintained a high stream of luck. In Panama he had malaria when his appendix burst and they had to operate. On the Seigfried Line, just across from the Maginot Line, he was hit by shrapnel; one piece entered his chest, and missed puncturing his lung. In Louisiana, he was riding his motorcycle and got hit, but came out unharmed. At one point, while delivering a message, he became so exhausted that he pulled over and fell asleep on the side of the road. While he lay there, a truck barreled right over him. Instead of being crushed, he just sank into the swampy ground.
Upon his return from the military in 1945, he tried to pick up life where he left off. With visions of a house and a family, he attempted to rekindle the relationship with his high school sweetheart. She, however, refused any part of his grand plan. Instead, he began dating Mildred ("Mid") McRae of Fort Collins. With Mid, he was able to share his love of motorcycles and life. By September 5, 1945 the two were married; nine months later, their only daughter, Norma Dee Brown was born.
While he was picking up the other strands of his life and starting a family, Don also resumed his education at the Denver Art Institute. During that time, he and Mid lived in downtown Denver. In 1947, he graduated with a degree in commercial art and they returned to Fort Collins.
Small town Fort Collins provided a friendly and challenging environment for Don and his upstanding, but sometimes wreckless group of friends. During High School they developed major interests in motorcycles and early automobiles that are photographically documented in Don's scrapbooks. Bob Hoyt (Don’s life-long and teenage friend) describes the group in his oral history, “if they didn’t have a motorcycle, they wasn’t in.” The group rode only Indian motorcycles, believing Harleys to be inferior! They built engines for their motorcycles strong enough to race with the best and to make the difficult Horsetooth Hill Climb (located just outside of Fort Collins, it was one of the steepest hill climbs at the time). Don was known to also stand and balance on his motorcycle seat while driving down College Ave. and trying the patience of the local police.
Don and his friends built race cars for the dirt race track that was then located near the old Fort Collins airport east of town. These race cars achieved speeds of 90 mph and beat other racing cars throughout the country. He continued his interest in the automotive for the rest of his life, later making the magazine series "Factorama" (informational tidbits with accompanying sketches) on the subject and joining antique auto clubs.
Preserving the history of Fort Collins, Colorado & the Cache la Poudre region