Who Remembers the Famous Kalamazoo Siblings, The Brown Twins?
Do you remember Marian and Vivian Brown, the twins from Kalamazoo who went on to gain fame in California?
Recently, in the Facebook group Vanished Kalamazoo, someone named Grey Gabry posted a series of photos of the Brown Twins. His caption reads, in part,
Photos here of the Brown Twins of Mattawan/Kalamazoo (1927-1973) and of San Francisco (1973-2013). They served as semi-official ambassadors of each city for decades.
I found myself surprised by the well over 200 comments from locals sharing their memories of the Brown Twins considering I've never heard of them.
If you're in the same boat, here's a very quick summary of their life:
Who Were the Brown Twins?
Marian and Vivian Brown were born on January 25th, 1927 in Kalamazoo but went on to grow up in Mattawan. They graduated as co-valedictorians from Mattawan High School and even gave their speech together, according to Wikipedia.
Apparently, they gained recognition around Kalamazoo after they were spotted multiple times strolling down the Kalamazoo Mall, dressed alike and walking step-by-step in unison.
In 1970, the pair left Kalamazoo destined for San Francisco where Vivian became a legal secretary and Marian began to work at a bank. However, their uniquely matched appearance (they apparently even ate at the same speed) ended up being the reason they became famous.
Their Fame in San Francisco
It's unclear exactly when they blossomed in their celebrity status in California. But, according to an article from sfgate.com, they posed in ads for companies like Joe Boxer, Reebok, IBM, and more. They made public appearances and even had a cameo in the classic movie, 9 to 5, starring the legendary Dolly Parton.
A few fun facts from sftravel.com:
- They were often spotted in leopard, fur coats. But, the fur was always fake
- They were once asked if they ever wore pants (they were usually in dresses). Marian confessed that she had never owned a pair and didn't intend on getting a pair.
- In 2000, they won 2nd place in the San Francisco Chronicle's "Best Local Character"
The people of San Francisco were enchanted by the pair for four decades. Here's a random Youtube video of an encounter between the twins and a person behind a channel called 'Off the Couch'
You can tell those two were more than happy to be in the public eye and would probably kindly converse with anyone that said hello.
Unfortunately, Vivan passed away at the age of 85 in January of 2013 with Marian following at the age of 87 in November of 2014.
Locally in Kalamazoo, people were happy to share their experiences and memories of the twins on the above-mentioned Facebook post. Here are just a few:
Sam H. posted: I too, remember seeing them walking downtown. They dressed like movie stars...necklaces, not a hair out of place. They were very friendly and didn't mind people doing a double-take and asking questions. I think they even lived together and worked together. They really made Kalamazoo famous!
Lori V. wrote: I remembered them from Kalamazoo when I saw them walking in San Francisco one evening during a vacation there. I ran up to them and we talked for a bit.
Donald C. said: They would come in JC Penney’s in high school and sit down and I would fit them with matching shoes. One had 1/2 size larger than the other. Wouldn’t buy unless there were two pairs!
Kathy B. commented: I worked for North Central Airlines before they moved to San Francisco and I saw them quite often. They were as sweet as their smiles! So often “celebrities” are not approachable but the Brown twins were just the best ladies.
Clearly, they made an impact on the people of Kalamazoo, too.
Back in San Francisco, after the twins passed the city decided to plant matching cedar trees to remember the pair. One was planted after Vivian's passing. And the other, right beside the first, after Marian passed. It's a beautiful tribute which you can read more about here.
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