The Life of Dennie Briggs

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Personal Biography

I was born in a bank.Well, what was formerly a bank, that had been closed by the Great Depression, the only one in a tiny town, and had been converted into a few apartments. My father, recently graduated from high school, had found a job cooking in a dining car for railroad construction workers. My mother worked in the local dry goods store and, from photos, was quite a “flapper.” And she wrote poems.

When World War II broke out, we moved to Cincinnati. Coming to a large city, I found myself in wonderment with all its diverse racial and ethnic groups, museums, trolleys, escalators and so on. I got a job afternoons and Saturdays as mail boy for a large department store. This job put me in contact with salespeople, buyers and administrators, enabling me to sample all the delights of the greater world. And then we moved again, to a small town in Illinois. I was now in my last year of high school and, as I didn't want to be drafted into the Army, joined the Navy.

I wanted to travel, meet new people, have new experiences. My assignment to the Treasure Island Naval Base in San Francisco rescued me from the confines of the mid-West and opened another new world for me. After graduation from college, I received a commission in the Navy where I spent the next eight years. There I met Maxwell Jones, who later brought me to Scotland.

Living in London, I bumped into John Maher, who was to be my partner for the next 25 years, living in Paris, San Francisco, and Italy. While in London, I took a cooking course; then John came along and got the grand treatment from Rosemary Hume and Muriel Downs at their Cordon Bleu School: I was the benefactor.

Retirement has meant a way to escape part of the hustle, the “trance of ordinary life.” But meaningful routine still shapes my day. I begin writing at 4 AM, when there is quiet, solitude, no disturbances. About 10:00, I look after other things: gardening, errands, occasionally watching a “soap” at noon—I do get some good lines I might want to appropriate!— while preparing my main meal. I enjoy cooking, trying new recipes, and entertaining a few friends. I take a nap in the afternoon. I watch very little television; usually in the evenings, I read or listen to music.

Starting out in an abandoned bank building, I have learned that wealth can be measured many ways. Perhaps I’ve made-up for my insolvent beginnings by trying to lead a life rich in beauty, relationships and commitment to vital social concerns.

Articles by Dennie Briggs

Behind the Scenes (Notes From Editing An Open Life. Joseph Campbell in Conversation With Michael Toms)

Joseph Campbell and Maxwell Jones.

Homework Proposal- Charting your own learning

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Pictures of Dennie

Early Years 1 Adolescence
Early Years 2 Later Years

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John Maher's Biography

John Maher's Biography

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Other Collections

Library of Congress Navy archives - Non Digital

Milne, Ian.2003 “Dennie Briggs—Not a Forgotten Hero.” The Joint Newsletter.July p. 43.

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The Dennie Briggs Living Digital Archive is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License

Please click on the link above to see your rights under the CC License

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