Last Monday night, I put up a special bonus post about an interesting person who’d crossed paths with the Blumenaus of Stamford, Connecticut.
Turns out that the student minister at their church in the late 1950s (minor edit: student minister, not youth minister) rode with the Freedom Riders in the Deep South … took part in the remarkable burglary of an FBI office, helping to expose the Bureau’s surveillance of U.S. citizens … and taught at Temple University for forty-plus years.
I might have just given away the meat of it; but if you missed it, consider reading it anyway. It’s quite a yarn.
Before I get into this week’s regularly scheduled calendar entry, I’m going to touch on an amusing thought I didn’t discuss in that post.
My grandfather –the guy who kept the calendars — was a law-and-order type. Not in the knee-jerk Southern-sheriff fashion, but in the sense that he believed in respecting authority and obeying all applicable laws.
Like other Americans of his generation, he’d been exposed to plenty of pro-FBI mass-media messages. He probably believed that if J. Edgar Hoover was watching you, you’d done something to deserve it.
When the story of the FBI burglary unfolded in the newspapers, my grandfather was most likely appalled. Those lawless kids, he would have thought. Where will they stop? What kind of criminal would do something like that?
He never would have imagined for a moment that the charming, intelligent, clean-cut student minister who had connected with his kids — heck, who had probably sat at his table for a cup of coffee — was among the masterminds.
The minister’s intelligence and ability to connect with others made a deep impression on my dad. My dad believes that, if the minister had been able to sit down and talk with my grandpa, my grandpa would have understood his point of view and recognized, if not endorsed, the need for civil disobedience.
It’s a shame that didn’t happen — it would have been a conversation for the ages — but of course it couldn’t, for any number of reasons.
And so my grandpa went about his daily life, walking the line, never suspecting he had a personal connection to the rebellious counterculture.
And now for our regularly scheduled post, which will reaffirm how mainstream and conservative my grandfather was.
Over the 15-year timespan of my grandpa’s surviving calendars (1961 through 1975), both he and Richard Nixon had pretty eventful rides.
This week’s calendar features a high point in Nixon’s experience; and it seems like my grandpa relished it as well.
When first I wrote about my grandpa and Richard Nixon, my dad wrote in to suggest the former was not that strongly attached to the latter.
My grandfather — a Nixon voter, and a classifiable member of Nixon’s famous “silent majority” — was not one to get worked up about politics or politicians, my dad said.
This week’s calendar entry makes me think that my grandfather liked Nixon a little bit more than that.
I don’t think the other presidential inaugurations during that period (Democrats Kennedy in 1961 and Johnson in ’65, and Republican Nixon again in ’73) made it onto my grandfather’s calendars.
If they did, I didn’t take a picture of them … and I took a lot of pictures, so if I don’t have it, I don’t think it was there.
But Nixon’s first seems to have been a noteworthy occasion in my grandfather’s eyes. Maybe even an occasion to celebrate, given his use of Nixon’s campaign slogan. It sure looks in retrospect like “Nixon’s the one” seemed to Bill Blumenau like something worth repeating, even savoring.
Jan. 20 fell on a Monday in 1969, so my grandpa would probably not have watched the big event. I doubt Time-Life was so profligate in those days as to provide a TV set to distract its employees. He could have made the short drive home for lunch and turned on the tube, I suppose, but I doubt he would have done so. When a man’s at work, a man’s at work.
(By contrast, I remember watching Barack Obama’s first innaugeration — er, inauguration — on a flat-screen TV in a conference room at my current job. Having worked in newsrooms for a dozen years before that, it wouldn’t shock me if I’d seen at least parts of other ceremonies while on the job … though comparing a Nineties reporter’s job to a Sixties corporate gig is chalk and cheese.)
A 28-minute clip of Nixon’s first inaugural is available online, in probably much the same grainy quality my grandpa would have seen had he turned on his TV set at home.
Wiki, meanwhile, offers a transcript of his inaugural address. It’s a nicely written and even uplifting piece of work, full of references to brighter, turmoil-free tomorrows.
Watching Nixon confidently deliver it in the archival footage, it’s easy to understand how the average American would have bought in.