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Posts Tagged ‘wedding’

I come from what I’d call a close-knit family. And, thinking about it, I think I owe some degree of that to geography.

My mom and dad grew up in the same city. They’re not from the same neighborhood, I don’t think — I’m pretty sure they didn’t go to high school together. But they both come from the same community.

(Mapquest tells me that the homes my grandparents lived in when I was a kid were less than two miles apart.)

This contributed to a cross-familial closeness that I’m not sure is present in families with broader geographical roots.

When I went to visit Stamford as a kid, we would stay with one set of grandparents, but always spend quality time with the other. The grandparents took turns hosting.

There was never a sense — at least not to me — that we had to work to balance our grandparental time, and never a sense that anyone felt left out. It seemed organic: A visit to one was a visit to both.

My parents’ parents also got along nicely. Again, maybe there were subtle tensions that a little kid wouldn’t catch; only my folks know for sure.

But by the time I came along, it was common for my dad’s folks to get invited to events on my mom’s side of the family, and for my mom’s folks to stop by Hope Street for a dinner or other occasion.

This week’s calendar entry features one such occasion — another link in the knot that binds a close-knit family together.

April 27, 1974.

April 27, 1974. The Yanks come out on the short end of a seven-hitter thrown by David Clyde, who is nineteen years and five days old.

The event, on an unseasonably warm day, was the wedding of my cousin John and his wife, Maria.

John is the son of my maternal grandpa’s brother. I don’t know as he was that close to my paternal grandparents. But by 1974 — seven years after my folks got married — those grandparents were woven strongly enough into the family fabric to get an invite to a wedding on the other side of the family.

Being in a close family has its obligations, of course. I imagine my paternal grandpa might have spent April 27, 1974, working in his garden or washing his car, rather than putting on a suit and going to a wedding.

Still — given the million ugly ways in which dysfunctional families can shatter and wound — it is infinitely better to have the obligations of a close family than the pains of a distant one.

I’m glad to report that John and Maria’s 40th anniversary is coming up this spring. They are grandparents themselves now, and just hosted their kids and grandkids at a family get-together a couple of weeks ago.

My mom and dad were there, too. All these years later, the family ties still exist.

This pic doesn't have

This pic doesn’t have anything to do with the family-ties narrative, but I’m adding it anyway ’cause it’s so great. This is my dad on April 27, 1974, outside Stamford’s Sacred Heart Church after the wedding. The violin is my mom’s, the briefcase probably has organ music in it, and the camera is well-protected against the elements.

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Over the years, I’ve used my grandfather’s calendar entries to follow him to all kinds of long-closed businesses.

There was Stamford’s beloved Chimney Corner Inn … the Clam Box in Wethersfield, a heavenly-sounding family-owned seafood place … a Red Coach Grill chain restaurant in Framingham, Massachusetts … and the expensive-but-worth-it Carriage House in Westport, just to name a few.

It’s kinda nice to come across a place on his calendars that’s still in operation, under its original name, all these years later.

It’s like a minor connection to his world — and a reminder that, while the retail world is fleeting and capricious, a few businesses do it well enough to really last.

June 6, 1973.

June 6, 1973. The Yanks, winners today over Texas, are only a half-game back.

New Hampshire has only 13 miles of coastline (18 by some measurements), so I figured Amarante’s had to be one of a relative few restaurants lucky enough to nestle in. Must be some of the state’s most expensive real estate, I figured. Did the food match the view?

I was totally off the mark, of course. “N.H.,” in this case, meant New Haven, just up the coast from my grandparents, a city they’d visited when my Aunt Elaine went to school at what was then Southern Connecticut State College.

And it was my Aunt Elaine they were once again meeting there — this time, I’m guessing, to scout out the potential site of a wedding reception.

Amarante’s, unlike the places I listed above, isn’t a restaurant. It’s a wedding and function hall overlooking the ocean, in the Morris Cove area on the east side of the city’s harbor.

Apparently, the place did well enough at the June 6 visit to win over my family and get the gig.

August 17 and 18, 1973.

August 17 and 18, 1973. Hope they remembered the napkins.

Serpe Bros., the tuxedo shop mentioned in my grandpa’s August 17 entry, is still in business on Bedford Avenue in Stamford.

And Amarante’s, now known as Amarante’s Sea Cliff, is still serving up chicken piccata and “Brick House” to a whole new generation of southern Connecticut brides and grooms after more than 50 years.

I’ve not been there myself, so I couldn’t endorse the place, but they must be doing something right. It takes some degree of skill to keep any service business going that long, no matter how good the location.

I’ve wondered before about how much, or how little, my grandfather would recognize if he were able to visit his old stomping grounds today.

Change is inevitable — and often for the better. But it’s still kinda cool to find out about a place he’d know, and a place where he (presumably) had a good time while marking a major family event.

Although I’ve never been to Amarante’s, I can sort of imagine my grandfather looking out across New Haven harbor in his rented gladrags, munching a plate of cheese and crackers, and smiling.

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A little thematic music.

Awwwwwwright!

This is the 167th post I’ve written for this blog. And after two-plus years of writing about grandchildren, cookies and retirement, I finally get to write about some debauchery.

Well, some very well-mannered and proper debauchery. But debauchery nonetheless, by Hope Street’s buttoned-down standards.

So slip your flask in your side pocket, travel back to the end of the Summer of Love, and get ready to kick out the jams …

# # # # #

The story starts with my dad’s lifelong best friend, Louie Chiappetta.

(Faithful readers will remember Louie playing with my dad’s college band, Oedipus and the Mothers, in this earlier post, and — appropriately enough — drinking beer in this one. He’s known my dad since junior high and is still putting up with him today.)

Less than two months after my parents got married, Louie and his bride, Kathy, also tied the knot in Stamford.

Louie was such a close friend of the Blumenau family that my grandparents and great-grandma got invited to the wedding, along with my mom and dad.

And there was no question that everyone would attend. It was on the calendar, after all:

September 16, 1967.

September 16, 1967. The Yankees are three-hit by Sudden Sam McDowell.

Everything went fine until the wedding party and guests arrived at the San Souci for the reception. There, they were greeted with one of those pieces of mood-harshing news that isn’t supposed to happen on a wedding day: The reception hall chosen by the newlyweds had been double-booked and was still in use by another couple.

The managers of the San Souci, no doubt sweating furiously under their business suits, made the Chiappettas an offer they couldn’t refuse:

If the stranded wedding party and guests would be willing to wait in another, smaller room for a while, they could have all the free booze and hors d’oeuvres they could hold down. The Chiappettas and guests could move into the main room as soon as it was empty and clean.

(“As I recall this was at least an hour and a half, maybe pushing two hours,” my dad recalls.)

By my dad’s telling, the parents of the groom were understandably displeased by this snafu on their son’s special day. They quietly urged the guests to load up at the San Souci’s expense.

Many of them — including my grandpa — gladly complied.

And at the peak of the celebration, with a strolling Italian wedding band with clarinet and accordion working the room, my dad saw something he had never seen and would not see again:

My grandfather, feeling no pain, twirl-dancing with one arm around my grandma and the other around a support post in the middle of the room.

“This was the only time I ever saw your grandfather even remotely under the influence, and he was a very happy and sociable drunk,” my dad says.

It was, according to my dad, completely in keeping with the event. Nobody got pushy or obnoxious or loud on the San Souci’s booze; everyone was loose and friendly and having a good time in their own way.

By the time the formal dinner rolled around, my grandpa had sobered up, and probably felt no ill effects the next morning.

“All things considered, it was quite a successful wedding …” (my dad again) “… everyone was quite happy, there were no problems, and the establishment provided a reasonable solution to an untenable situation (double-booking weddings).”

Louie and Kathy’s wedding day worked out fine in the long run. The guests had a good time; the San Souci paid for its mistake; and the newlyweds are still married all these years later.

I wish I could have been there. It sounds like a swingin’ time.

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The following has absolutely no connection with family history. If that’s why you’re on the train, come back next Monday.

I love beer. Adore it, in fact. Nectar of the gods and all that.

There have been beer-related posts here before; and there are likely to be more in the future.

In fact, here comes one now …

# # # # #

For this past Monday’s post, I found myself looking at pictures of my parents’ rehearsal dinner, held in July 1967 at my grandparents’ house in Stamford, Connecticut.

Many of my dad’s fraternity brothers attended. So it’s no great surprise that beer mugs, cans and bottles are visible in the pictures.

I decided it would be an interesting historical expedition to try to figure out exactly what my grandparents chose to serve on their big occasion.

(I assume my grandparents, as gracious hosts of the party, supplied the beer, and that it was not brought by the fratboys. I am sure my grandparents would have wanted to make sure everyone was happy.)

And what did the hosts with the most offer their guests? For the most part, they served a brand still familiar today:

My dad-to-be with the Champagne of Beers.

My dad-to-be with the Champagne of Beers. Is there a sweeter sight than a nearly-full mug of beer?

7/21/67

Not sure whether the cans pictured are flipped upside-down because they’re empty, or whether it was the Thing to Do to open them upside-down. (If you’re using a church key, you can go either way, no?)

But Miller High Life wasn’t the only brew there … and that’s where things get historically interesting.

The can in my dad's hand is probably a Miller, though it looks vaguely Schlitzy. But more importantly, what's that brown can -- Gabl-something?

The can in my dad’s hand is probably a Miller, though it looks vaguely Schlitzy. But more importantly, what’s that brown can — Gabl-something?

Another brown can in the hand of my dad's best man, Louie Chiappetta. Looks like we can complete the name: Gablinger's.

Another brown can in the hand of my dad’s best man, Louie Chiappetta. Looks like we can complete the name: Gablinger’s.

My dad and his buddies might not have realized it at the time, but they were on the bleeding edge of a massive development: Light beer.

Just two weeks before the rehearsal dinner, Time magazine ran a story about how Rheingold, the venerable New York brewery, had purchased a Swiss chemist’s formula for making carbohydrate-free beer.

As of July ’67, the beer had just been rolled out, and was being pushed in the Tri-State Area by a “saturation advertising campaign,” the magazine noted. Perhaps it was that selfsame ad campaign that inspired my grandparents — or somebody — to pick up a sixer of Gablinger’s for the big party.

(The development of lower-carbohydrate beer is also commonly credited to a biochemist named Joseph Owades. Perhaps Dr. Owades, who worked for Rheingold, took the Swiss chemist’s formula and adapted it for Rheingold’s use.)

Gablinger’s print ads stressed that the beer was made the same way as any other brew — except with a mysterious “extra step” that removed carbs, making Gablinger’s a beer that “wouldn’t fill you up.”

Other ads, more directly aimed at weight-watchers, described Gablinger’s as a “diet beer” with fewer calories than skim milk.

Neither pitch connected with the frothing mass of America’s beer drinkers.

Perhaps those people felt that drinking “diet beer” was tantamount to an admission of being overweight. Perhaps, if they were slimming down, they simply chose to cut out beer altogether. Or, perhaps the pale golden brew simply didn’t deliver enough beer flavor and body to win over drinkers.

Whatever the reason, Gablinger’s was a failure, and Rheingold went out of business as an independent brewery less than a decade after the “diet beer” was introduced.

It was Miller — that other brand at my folks’ wedding reception — that finally hit paydirt years later with light beer, using a humorous, jock-filled series of TV ads that emphasized the tastes-great, less-filling angle while playing down the “diet” pitch.

(Using athletes was an ingenious way to connect with diet-shy drinkers: “That’s Mickey Mantle! He can’t be fat; he’s Mickey Mantle. Hence, Miller Lite must not make you fat.”)

And today, light (or “lite”) beer is inescapable. There will be countless rehearsal dinners across America this summer where the participants quench their thirst with Bud, Miller or Coors Light.

Personally, I’d rather have a Sam Adams … or, in a pinch, a Miller High Life.

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I think after last week’s screed, I’ll write something inoffensive about home and hearth this time around. Disaffected patriots are a dime a dozen on both sides of the aisle, anyway.

# # # # #

On a shelf in my parents’ basement sits a small box, labeled in my dad’s hand with words to this effect:

Rod & Lynn Love Letters (Yech)”

When I was a small boy who loved poking around in the basement, I was young and daft enough to read a few of the letters my parents exchanged before their marriage. I don’t remember what they said any more, and wasn’t really old enough to understand them anyway.

(OK, one letter I can’t help but remember. It was the mid-1960s, and my mom was going to college in Boston. My dad had the cheek to address a letter to her at “Boston University, Somewhere Near Where The Strangler Is, Boston, Mass.” I would later inherit his blue eyes and his black sense of humor.)

The time period of my grandfather’s calendars — 1961 to 1975 — trace my dad’s evolution from high school senior to married father of two.

And in so doing, it provides the occasional awww-isn’t-that-sweet glimpse of my parents when they were young and in love … just like the letters inside the yech-box.

The glimpses look kinda like this:

January 21, 1967.

January 21, 1967. (Coincidentally, Albert DeSalvo – who claimed to be the Boston Strangler – was convicted of other, unrelated crimes earlier that week.)

I didn’t ask my folks whether they remember anything about their trip to New York for an engagement ring (however exotic it might have been — were there no acceptable rings in Stamford?)

I guess I’d rather imagine what those days were like.

I can’t imagine them too specifically, of course, since I wasn’t actually there. My mental images of my young-and-in-love folks are kinda like cardboard figures, fleshed out somewhat by my knowledge of their personalities and my views of photo albums from those early days.

I know they were both musical, and that probably provided considerable common ground in their earliest days.

I know that they carried on much of their courtship more or less long-distance, without benefit of Skype or email, and made it last anyway.

I know they moved together, right after their marriage, to a place neither of them had much of any familiarity with, and found it a place to sink roots.

And I know that, despite their disparate personalities, they had some unquantifiable degree of interpersonal chemistry.

A bit of byplay at my folks' wedding rehearsal dinner. July 21, 1967.

A bit of byplay at my folks’ wedding rehearsal dinner. July 21, 1967.

Forty-six years after that calendar entry, the same ring is still on my mom’s finger. My parents have gone from being young soon-to-be-marrieds, to being the last couple standing when the wedding DJ starts clearing the dance floor a decade at a time.

It hasn’t always been easy (it never is), but some essential part of the compact they forged back in the mid-1960s is still alive. Something lives in the yech-box that has not been chased away by kids and job pressures and gray hairs and all the other pressures of adult life.

How ’bout that.

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