Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Nov. 15, 2017: RIP.

The Philadelphia papers are reporting the death of teacher, pastor and activist John Raines at 84.

Raines showed up in this space about two-and-a-half years ago, in his role as youth pastor of my family’s church in Springdale. Of all the stories that have ever been told on Hope Street, his is probably the most remarkable.

Consider checking it out. It’s worth wading through the introductory crap about me to get to the rest.


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April 30, 1971, is a Friday. It’s the end of another work week, and as the year hits one-third finished, people stop and wonder where all the time’s going.

In the national headlines, President Nixon signals an interest in visiting China, while Americans await the imminent launch of a new national passenger rail service, Amtrak. (China is much in the news: The covers of both Time and Life magazines feature pictures and stories about a U.S. ping-pong team whose visit to the country indicated a developing thaw in relations.)

It’s a travel day for the president, though not to Peking just yet. Nixon takes breakfast at the White House with former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, then flies to California and eats dinner in San Clemente with the president of Reader’s Digest.

“Summer of ’42” is in movie theaters, as is Joe Cocker’s “Mad Dogs & Englishmen” concert movie, whose ads promote “All Elements of the Truth Captured Live On Film.” On TV, the post-Diana Ross Supremes appear on David Frost’s show, while Fred Astaire visits Johnny Carson and Don Meredith stops in on Mike Douglas.

This being the ’70s, the sounds on the radio are a wild ragbag of the sacred and the profane (“Put Your Hand In The Hand” next to “One Toke Over The Line”), the raging and the conciliatory (“Eighteen” next to “We Can Work It Out”), and the disposable and the eternal (make your own calls here.)

In basketball, the Milwaukee Bucks win their first NBA title. In baseball, the Mets and Yankees both win, and the Mets close out April in first place in the National League East, a game in front of the Montreal Expos. Sportswriters are reporting that New Orleans — with its proposed Superdome — and Honolulu have moved ahead of Dallas-Fort Worth as the favored cities to obtain major-league baseball teams through relocation or expansion.


April 30, 1971.

Of course, you know how these posts work; you’re just waiting for me to dial the focus in on 1107 Hope Street and, in particular, its head of household.

It seems to be a fairly quiet day for my grandfather. He’s not working. The only event that passes muster to be recorded on his calendar is a phone call to Boston, where my aunt is going to grad school.

My aunt’s car, which was still registered to my grandpa, had been stolen and then recovered two weeks before. It appears the call had something to do with that.

My aunt was also scheduled to graduate in two weeks’ time, so maybe they spent some time talking about commencement arrangements too.

# # # # #

Whatever those arrangements were, they would not come to pass.

April 30, 1971, turned out to be a historic day for my grandpa, for reasons not anticipated and not shown on his calendar.

The next day he had a heart attack that laid him up for a while. As my dad has commented here, it changed my grandpa’s personality and approach to life. He became more relaxed, and less likely to get wound up by daily details.

That change didn’t happen instantly, of course; but you could argue that April 30, 1971, was the last day that Bill Blumenau approached the world in the way he had become accustomed to approaching it. After that, life required something different of him.

The heart attack also officially ended his working years. He’d been semi-sorta-retired before it; he was retired after it.

If you roughly divide my grandpa’s life into periods — we’ll call them Boy, Teenager, Young Workingman and Family Man — April 30, 1971, could be seen as his last day as a Family Man … the last day of that swath of years in which he brought home a paycheck (or wanted to) and provided for a household with kids.

(My dad was already out of the house, married with a kid of his own, by April 1971. My aunt’s impending graduation and entry into the real world also signaled that the family years at 1107 Hope Street were coming to an end.)

The bright side — at least seen in retrospect — is that the transition to a new phase of life ended up working out pretty well. My grandfather lived 29 more years. He met three more grandchildren and a great-grandchild. He painted. He grew tomatoes. He drove to the grocery store. He watched the Buffalo Bills on the television. He took things easy.

So if there’s anything to be learned from April 30, 1971, it’s probably the obvious:

  • The status quo can take a hard left turn on any day. Today could be your April 30, 1971. (Or mine.) So take time to be thankful for those ruts, routines, abilities and daily experiences that favor you.
  • When life does change, it’s not always for the worse, so keep your eyes open, be patient and try to adapt.

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This entry started as me gawking at one of those long-gone activities my grandpa engaged in — something I considered outdated and foreign to my experience.

But the more I think about it, the more I think the quirk lies with me, not with the passage of time.

Maybe I’m wrong.


January 6, 1965.

What we have here appears to be a home visit from a TV repairman. (His charge of $10 is equivalent to $76.62 in current money. I’m assuming the $10 charge was for the service visit and not for the dancing lessons.)

The notion of a home service visit for your TV brought me back to the days when TV sets were big heavy monsters full of tubes, and sometimes built into big wooden cabinets as well.

Nowadays, it seems to me you’d bring your TV to the repair shop to be fixed– if indeed it went on the fritz at all, which hasn’t happened to me in quite a while.

But some Googling suggests I’m wrong. Here in the Lehigh Valley, I found websites for two TV and electronics repair shops that seem willing to make service calls.

(I suspect they are more interested in fixing a big, integrated home audiovisual system than in fixing just a TV set. One of them promises in-home repair “for your larger items.” But, from the looks of it, they’ll probably come to you and do whatever you call them for.)

And, my perception of in-home TV repair is probably clouded by the fact that my TV stays off most of the time.

I watch literally no TV at all. Zero. I’m even out of the habit of watching hockey and baseball games. My wife has Hulu and is more likely to watch her chosen shows on a tablet than a TV screen. And my kids use the TV mostly as a video-game screen.

So the fact that my previous TV set lasted a good dozen years without repair doesn’t mean the home TV service call is a thing of the past. It just means I’m an outlier … and that a machine that isn’t used very often will last a long time.

If you have experience with home TV repair calls, or lack thereof, let me know in the Comments. I’m curious to hear from others whether this is a thing of the past or a thriving concern.

# # # # #

One imagines my grandparents, great-grandma and aunt would have wanted to put their newly repaired TV to use that night. What would they have watched?

Newspapers from Jan. 6 say the night’s network lineup included “The Patty Duke Show;” “Beverly Hillbillies,” Dick Van Dyke, Danny Kaye, and — most interesting to me, though not necessarily to them — “Shindig!” with Sal Mineo, Bobby Sherman, the Zombies, Sandie Shaw and the Righteous Brothers.

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Past installments of Hope Street have found my grandpa hobnobbing with mayors and mingling with U.S. Congressmen.

This week we explore the possibility that he met a governor — although my grandpa wouldn’t have known it at the time, and if anything, the governor would have been trying to impress him.

Somehow, it largely escaped my notice until recently that incumbent Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy is a native of Stamford. Malloy served four terms as the city’s mayor before being elected governor in 2011.

(As mayor, Malloy tried to take more control of the city’s fire coverage by steering resources toward Stamford’s professional fire department and away from five volunteer departments that also serve parts of the city. Full disclosure compels me to mention that a close relative of mine is among the volunteer firefighters who landed on the opposite side of the table — and the courtroom — from the Malloy administration. None of this directly affected my grandpa who kept the calendars; he was long gone from town by then.)

Anyway, this magazine mini-profile of Malloy mentions that he held a job as a teenager at The Squire Shop, a clothing store on Stamford’s Atlantic Avenue. According to the story, he started as a stockboy, then worked his way onto the shop floor selling men’s suits.

The story doesn’t mention dates. Since Malloy was born in 1955, I’m guessing we’re talking about the early to mid-1970s. In the latter half of the decade, Malloy was at Boston College getting his law degree; he became an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn in 1980.

(Thinking about the Stamford rag trade, I was reminded of this prior Hope Street post. Did everybody famous who came out of Stamford hawk men’s clothing at some point or another? And is anybody monitoring the current roster of city schmatta vendors in hopes of discovering a rising star?)

I could have sworn I’d seen several calendar entries of my grandpa’s mentioning the Squire Shop.

But when I looked, I could only put my hands on one — from December of 1965, too early for the future governor to have been on the other side of the counter.


It’s still possible that my grandpa went to the Squire Shop at other points and just didn’t write it down. Or, he did and I didn’t take a picture of it.

But, any firm proof that he crossed paths with a young man bound for notability is lost to history.

Of course, just because a person has fame in their future doesn’t automatically mean they’re the only noteworthy side of a transaction. The future Gov. Malloy should have been just as glad to deal with my grandpa as my grandpa would have been to deal with him.

Indeed … while I know (for various reasons) that it won’t happen, I like to imagine Gov. Malloy looking at the photo on the About page, thinking, “Hmmm. I wonder if I ever handled that suit.”

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In recognition of the end of another losing season of Philadelphia Phillies baseball.


Regular readers would be excused for thinking that my family is a bunch of maniacal hoarders.

In the five-plus years of Hope Street, I’ve posted things like:
my grandfather’s resume
the license plates he got for his very first car, and the check he wrote the dealership for them
– itineraries and costs for a long-ago train trip on a line that no longer exists
– excerpts from a journal that show every significant improvement my grandpa made to his house, from the 1940s to the 1980s
– an internal company newsletter from 1963
– and, of course, all the day-to-day calendar entries that have defined the blog’s soul.

I suspect these are more mementos, and more obscure, than the typical American family has in its basement.

Now that they’ve turned out the lights at Citizens Bank Park, though, I’m going to write this week about one family item that didn’t make it down the years.


The old baseball cards scattered throughout this week’s entry date to the Fifties, but they aren’t from my dad’s collection.

That’s because, at some far-distant and unnoticed point, my grandma threw out my dad’s cards.

Coulda been while he was off at college; or sometime after he moved out and got married. Who knows? It wasn’t a big enough event to end up on my grandpa’s calendars, that’s certain.

All that matters is that, at some point, they went … the superstars, the bonus babies, the steady veterans, the flashes in the pan, even the umpires … all out to the curb, alongside the wrapper from last Thursday’s pound of hamburger.


Lest you think I am winding up to sing you the blues … no, not really. Despite being an avid card collector as a kid, I’ve never been all that worked up about the ones that got away.

I read about the hobby as a kid, and I was aware that quite a few American mothers had thrown out their kids’ cards — never anticipating that anyone would have an interest in them. It was a common thing, and easy enough to understand.

Plus, this was my grandma we were talking about … the kindly lady who baked blueberry pies. You don’t get mad at your grandma, or at least you didn’t in my family.

So, while I would have found it interesting to have a big stack of Washington Senators and Philadelphia A’s to look at, it was no big thing that I didn’t.

I had a friend in elementary school whose dad’s collection had made it through the years. He let me trade some of my Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden cards for some of his dad’s doubles, which fulfilled any desire I had to own vintage cardboard.

At the time — circa 1984 — Dwight Gooden for Jim Greengrass seemed like highway robbery. Now, it doesn’t look quite so skewed.


The cards I’ve collected from my generation, including my remaining Goodens and Strawberrys, aren’t worth enough on an individual basis to buy a sandwich … and my grandma played a role in that too.

See, the supply of ’50s baseball cards is limited, in part because of all those cleaning-happy moms who threw out their sons’ stashes.

The sons, who never anticipated future demand either, are also to blame for doing destructive things like putting cards inside their bicycle spokes to go flap-flap-flap. Things like house fires and basement floods have claimed a percentage of the remaining ’50s stock over the years, too.

Rarity made the prices of older cards boom in the ’80s, as nostalgic baby boomers and new collectors alike pursued cards that were tough to find in good condition.

(The prices of those cards are still booming. Just last year, a pristine example of the famously rare 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle fetched upwards of $525,000.)

The prices being commanded by ’50s cards put the light of future profits into collectors’ eyes. They bought brand-new cards and socked them away in pristine condition — all the better to cash in in 30 years — while card manufacturers stepped up production.

Unfortunately, nobody threw any of the new cards out, much less stuck them in bicycle spokes or doodled on them with ballpoint pens.

So the pendulum of supply and demand swung back on a grand scale. Relatively few cards produced in recent decades are worth all that much. Some cards are desirable, but few are truly rare or command anything close to the older cards’ prices.

This story about the 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck card, the most famous card of my generation, provides some context. There may be as many as 1 million of these cards in the world, and while examples in absolute mint condition can cost you three figures, you can also pick one up for less than $10.

(The ’89 Upper Deck Griffey has been called “the last iconic baseball card,” a phrase that speaks volumes.)

These developments don’t really bother me either. I’ve never bought a pack of baseball cards, or an individual card, with the intent of reselling it — much less sending my kids to college on the proceeds.

The trends are amusing to watch from a distance, though, as I tell myself that the kindly old lady with the blueberry pies is partially responsible.


I enjoy looking at things from my grandparents’ daily lives, like car catalogs from years gone by. And I’ve made considerable hay from those leftovers on this blog over the past five years.

But I don’t have to have or hold everything that passed through 1107 Hope Street. What went by the wayside is interesting too.

Some things — like the hope that attends the start of each Phillies season — just have to be parted with.


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