Committed to long distance swimming
Originator of the two-mile cable swim, Clifford S. Brown, was born in Utica, N.Y., on August 20, 1906. The oldest of the five children he was always interested in and involved with swimming. He swam with the YMCA, and competed in competitive swimming whenever he could. Born of modest means, upon his father's untimely death, he assumed the role of breadwinner, and began to learn the tool and die trade. His love of mathematics led him to study engineering at New York City College night school, while he worked as a tool and die maker by day.
He married a young legal secretary, Dorothy, and both embarked on, among other things, raising four children, Edith, David, Neal and Sandy. Cliffs' interests led him to various jobs in sales and design. Ultimately, he ended up developing several patents for book shelves and operated as a designer, consultant and manufacturer of library equipment and installation of library equipment in libraries, both through his own company, the C.S. Brown Company, and various other manufacturing firms such as Hamilton Mfg. Co.
When he first learned about Masters swimming through his eldest daughter, Edie Gruender, in the early 1970s he became an instant devotee of Masters swimming and participated in competition at both the local and national levels. He was regularly ranked in the Top 10 of his age group. His favorite stroke was the backstroke, but he really enjoyed long distance swimming.
He believed the Masters needed more open water, long distance events. To that end, he worked hard with the County Parks Department of Waukesha County, Wisconsin to give him permission to use Trout Lake near his home in Menominee Falls, Wis., to set up a quarter mile cable swim course. At his own expense, he had two large rafts constructed and a steel cable course surveyed and laid out between the two rafts, which were anchored on the lake bottom and tethered to opposite sides of the lake.
The first race was held in 1975 and was sanctioned by the Long Distance Swimming Committee (headed by the legendary Dale Petranach) which was then part of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). The first meet featured a long distance race of a mile and one-half for women and two miles for men. Cliff conducted the two-mile cable championships also in 1976 and 1977, until he passed away in December 1977. Since he had already been awarded the 1998 Championship race, his daughter, Edie Brown Gruender organized and conducted the meet in 1978 as a memorial to her father.
In 1979, the Long Distance Swimming Committee posthumously awarded Clifford S. Brown the Glenn Hummer Long Distance Swimming Award for his contribution to Long Distance Swimming. The award was accepted in his honor by his daughter, Edith Brown Gruender. The friendships and camaraderie with other Masters swimmers at picnics at his house in Menominee Falls after meets, participation in training and local and national swim meets were enjoyable experiences for both Cliff and his wife Dorothy and enriched their lives. His contributions, and efforts to conduct the cable swims enriched the experiences and opportunities for all Masters who were fortunate to be able to participate. His efforts on behalf of Masters swimming is another example of the many volunteer efforts by Masters to promote, build and provide venues and events to expand and promote the sport of Masters swimming. Today, the Cable Swim Long Distance event continues in various locations and has become a specialty of the Virginia Masters.