Sam Harris "Buddy" Brigman
Dec. 19, 1947 - Jan. 3, 2017
Sam Harris Brigman, aka 'Buddy' passed away from acute myeloid leukemia at age 69. Sam resided in Tarpon Springs, Florida with his wife, Vicki L. Brigman. Sam was born in Huntsville, Alabama, to parents; Sam (deceased) and Virginia Brigman and has one sister, Alice Brigman (LHS '64). Sam is survived by one daughter, Jennifer King and one son, Nathan Brigman; two granddaughters, Paige and Emily and one nephew, Patrick Shane Henry.
Sam graduated from Lee High School, joined the Air Force and was stationed in Thailand during the Vietnam era. He had a degree in cabinet making and worked as a carpenter and as a graphic artist. Sam loved the outdoors, traveling and making others laugh. There will be a celebration of his life in Huntsville, Alabama at a later date.
Published in The Huntsville Times on Jan. 15, 2017
Space Cadet, Part II
What happened to me the day I saw Stepsons of Terra and A Man Called Destiny conjoined at Grand News is what the French call un coup de foudre (literally “lightning bolt,” and figuratively, “love at first sight”). I was beguiled--my senses stimulated and my curiosity aroused—precisely the reactions that paperback publishers aimed for with the lure of their bold illustrations and catchy tag-lines. Bingo—a sale! Shortly after I made the book my own, my romance with science fiction heated up.
As with the Tom Swift juvenile novels, I had encountered a series well underway. Ace had begun publishing its sci-fi paperbacks in 1953. Suddenly an ardent and watchful suitor in 1959, I bought the new double books as they appeared, but I also wanted to procure as many of the earlier ones as possible. Venturing out from the mothership of Grand News, I began intently scrutinizing the paperback racks at drugstores and supermarkets around the city. I discovered a few of the older Aces in an unexpected place: a used bookstore that operated in the basement of one of the old buildings of Cotton Row, the location, in ante-bellum Huntsville, where the planters and cotton factors had transacted their complicated business regarding the lucrative crop. I retain clear memories of the odd texture of the sidewalk in that area—so different from the rest of downtown’s square. Walking over the tilted, worn, and dark stones put you in touch with the unreconstructed past, though you might not have realized it.
Utilizing available technology, I sent probes beyond Huntsville in search of stories about extraterrestrial life and intelligence. Through ads in sci-fi magazines, I had found addresses of specialty bookstores and dealers in New York. Communications were initiated. Telemetry came back: typed lists of the stores’ holdings. Sources for the earlier double novels (the D-series) had been found. Literary payloads were soon arriving at 1924 Bide-A-Wee Drive.
I was faithful to the Ace novels in my fashion—reading and collecting them fervently. However, I also played the field. I had to. As exciting and entertaining as they were, the Ace novels rarely broke new ground in the science fiction genre, which had emerged from cult status by then (due, in part, and somewhat ironically, to the very popularity of the Ace series itself). The books served as a perfect introduction for a new fan; their whizzbang adventures, featuring such themes as time travel, deadly aliens, invasions from other dimensions, or just big troubles in the local solar system, were fun, but I (and many others) wanted more: better writing, innovative themes, and larger visions. I didn’t suddenly become a sophisticated and discerning reader, of course, but over time I made my way to the masters of modern sci-fi: Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, and Philip K. Dick--to name just five of the most skillful and imaginative authors in the field. I enjoyed the creations of many other outstanding authors as they lighted me out beyond the confines of the Ace sci-fi galaxy.
I read and collected sci-fi paperbacks avidly from 1959 to 1966. The evidence of that young passion (and another more meaningful one) can be seen in the picture above, taken at Christmastime 1965. By enlarging the image, I have determined that about 250 paperbacks were crammed into the shelves mounted behind my mother, father, Gudrun Wagner, and me. Another 50 or so books found a home in a small bookshelf that’s out of view on the right. Summer jobs financed the amassing of the large collection.
Also displayed in the picture are two trophies and a plastic 1950 Mercury—the awards for and an example of the hobby my younger brother and I loved in the early 1960s: building and customizing plastic models cars (the evolution of an earlier hobby of assembling model planes, ships, tanks, and rockets). I recall that at one point we tried a tip from a customizing magazine: use fingernail polish to achieve a classy pearlescent sheen and depth in the paint jobs. That resulted in a couple of streaky, expensive messes. Gunter, already a talented artist and craftsman then, won the trophies at a local hobby shop for his customized dragsters. Hey, it wasn’t all imaginary (and real) rocket science and space opera at our house.
In the fall of 1964, I enrolled at Auburn with the aim of becoming a chemical engineer. Influenced by the technological zeitgeist and parental expectations (not demands), I had pondered the vague notion, all through high school, of becoming an engineer. But what kind? 11th grade chemistry, with the charismatic and excellent Tom Fox, seemed to help me answer that question. I did well in his class, and I thought I had found a branch of engineering that would suit me. By that time, I could also claim some limited experience and credentials: summer jobs at Spaco and Brown Engineering, and membership in the JETS (Junior Engineering and Technical Society) at Lee.
As I related in a past article for Lee’s Traveller, I realized very quickly that I didn’t have the right stuff for even the preliminary courses of engineering studies at Auburn. Admittedly, I could have worked harder at the beginning, but I was never destined to be a good fit for that career. An accumulation of failures marred the first year. I struggled the second year, too. Because I could see no obvious alternative for myself, I struck off in another direction—not boldly, but maybe intuitively, with an attitude of “let’s see where this goes.”
What came to life for me—through the encouragement of another charismatic teacher--was my love for literature and the liberal arts, whose rudimentary forms I had enjoyed at Lee (English, history, music, art, economics, sociology) and earlier in my life. The importance of those personal proclivities and joys to my nature had been undervalued and largely forgotten in the angst of preparing for a career I had some reservations about. “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,” sang Johnny Nash with a reggae beat. Although I had buried myself almost exclusively in sci-fi, which engaged and expanded the intellect, far more important was the artistic sustenance and inspiration I found there, which fueled my imagination and came to direct my future. A seed had been planted.
When I switched from engineering to English in 1966, sci-fi got sidelined for a while. The collecting dwindled to a trickle. American and English literature became my main focus, both for school and my efforts of self-education. I had to play catch-up again. However, all the ensuing studying, writing, and teaching as an undergraduate and graduate student didn’t lead to a career in the academic world; that life path wasn’t meant for me either. That Brer Rainer ended up in the briar patch of libraries at Emory and the Gwinnett Public Library system in Georgia was his good fortune.
I had returned to reading sci-fi in the 70s, but not to the exclusion of other genres and subjects. The liberal arts education had broadened my interests considerably. A motley collection of books grew and grew in our homes in Clarkston, Stone Mountain, and Snellville, even though I worked in a library most of those years.
When Gudrun and I began our preparations for moving back to Huntsville in 2006, I knew I had to reduce the size of my collection. I was ruthless: lots of books ended up in recycling bins or dumpsters. As I have written in an earlier memory piece, I only saved the A volume of my beloved set of the 1954 World Book Encyclopedia. When I got to the sci-fi paperbacks, I discarded everything but the heart of my Ace collection, the fifty-one early D-series double novels I owned. In that case, I could not single out one of them to stand as the symbol of my youthful passion. They had been a collective expression of my individuality. They all had to come back home to Huntsville.
The remaining 51 paperbacks are between 50 and 60-plus years old. If the Antiques Roadshow came to Huntsville, and I carted them in for valuation, could I expect to hear a pleasing dollar figure? The books are on the edge of collectability due to their rarity, the uniformity of format (the pioneering dos-a-dos arrangement and common design elements across the series), and because several of the authors had distinguished sci-fi careers. My collection is essentially worthless, however. For one thing, in spite of my zealousness, I didn’t acquire all of them. In addition, I was so proud of my ownership that each book bears my name in pencil. Since I didn’t become famous, that’s a big no-no. The spines are cracked and scuffed; many are held together with ancient Scotch tape. The paper is acid and yellowing. If I read just several pages into any of the books now, it would probably come apart in my hands. Ah, but all those covers remain a delight.
My College Choice
Dianne Hughey McClure
My graduation from college was later in life than most, but I did it anyway. I had planned to go to nursing school in Birmingham after graduation, but that took a turn when I met and married a sailor. My family offered to get me a new car so I could come home on weekends, but as saying goes life is what happens when you have plans.
My college was put on hold while I raised three children, getting them almost through college before I decided to go. I started college when I was 53 years old and, needless to say, I wasn't exactly the youngest in class. I graduated from UAH at the age of 57 with a BSN and went to work as a nurse at Huntsville Hospital. I feel I sort of had the best of both worlds. I was able to be at home with my children and was also able to get the degree I wanted as well as the career. It would have been good to have received my degree earlier so I could have worked longer. I guess I did it backwards but I did it and that is what matters.
You are never to old to go after your goals it helps you feel younger just a little longer.
Memphis, TN - My thoughts and prayers go out to Alice Brigman and the family of Buddy this week. Although I never knew Buddy that well, we are all saddened by the continuing trend of losing our classmate friends. I could not find a senior picture of Buddy, but in the 1964 yearbook he is shown with the Class of '66, but there may be a chance he eventually graduated with the class of '67. I appreciate all of you who put forth the effort to keep me and the rest of you informed about our other classmates.
I am still in the catch up mode and am trying hard to not omit anything sent to me for sharing. Please keep the stories coming and I will continue to use them.
My brother Don (back), my mother, and me and our TV on East Clinton Street.
The Vintage Television
1964-65 TV Part 2
From Our Mailbox
Subject: My New Year's Eve Story
There is a follow up story of my article about spending New Year's Eve riding around H'ville with Carol Jean, Pat Hartselle and Randy Roman.
At our 50th reunion in September 2015, Carol Jean told me what an impact my piece about riding around Huntsville with her, Pat Hartselle and Randy Roman on New Year's Eve, until 4:00 AM had on her and her parents. She proudly showed it to her father as an example of her virtue. After a long hug and a big laugh, Carol Jean said: "For 50 years I've been telling my Daddy that I was a Good Girl in high school, but he never believed me until he read your article." Any one who could be around Carol Jean for more than two minutes without laughing was either deaf or did not have a pulse.