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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.

mediaoffice# # # # #

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.

January 20, 1969.

January 20, 1969. An uncharacteristic bout with bad spelling.

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.

More from the Methodist church retreat. This, believe it or not, is one of the reverends.

When the Blumenaus of Hope Street crossed paths with a noteworthy person or people, I like to write about it.

For instance, I’ve written about times my dad not only saw but chatted with his jazz idols, and the time my grandpa convinced one of the NFL’s finest defensive players to stand still for a casual portrait.

One of the faces in the photography post of earlier today merits the same treatment; and hopefully, I can do justice to his accomplishments.

But first, inevitably, a few words about me.

# # # # #

rainesbaseball

Having been born in the summer of 1973, I came along too late to witness the socially active priests of the 1960s — people like the Berrigan brothers, and Milwaukee’s Father James Groppi, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and of course the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I always understood the Rev. Dr. King to be a giant of his generation. But from what I read in retrospect, some of the other socially active men of the cloth seemed rather too keenly interested in publicity.

(As a pop-culture fan, I am reminded of the lines from Paul Simon’s “Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard”: “Then the radical priest come to get me released / And we was all on the cover of Newsweek.”)

Indeed, my template for the socially active priest is probably the Rev. Scot Sloan, the gently parodic composite introduced by Doonesbury’s Garry Trudeau in the early 1970s.

The early Sloan, while earnest, was a bit too self-aware … a bit too interested in projecting the right image of coolness in his book-jacket photo, and a bit too excited when a national magazine described him as “the fighting young priest who can talk to the kids.”

When I saw my grandfather’s portrait of a handsome young minister, puffing a cigarette as coolly as if he’d just played a set at Birdland, I thought to myself, “What have we here? Another fighting young priest who can talk to the kids?

My father and Google have jointly convinced me that considerably more respect is called for.

# # # # #

rainescamp

When the cigarette photo was taken — as well as the other photos in this post — Rev. John C. Raines was 24 years old and nearing the end of a two-year period as youth minister at my family’s church, Springdale Methodist.

He made a deep impression there, in my father’s words:

He was indeed a smart dude and wonderful teacher. … He was one sharp dude, really.  Told me if I applied myself I could be a knockout classical organist in three years (I was a high school junior at the time).  Unfortunately, I chose jazz.  And that engineering stuff.  

He was the perfect youth minister when he was 24; knew everyone and knew that there was no one way to reach everyone.  All the girls loved him because he was cool, athletic, good looking (your grandmother thought he looked like a Greek God), had a great smile.

Rev John Raines

Raines’ subsequent career would show a substantial amount of backbone to go along with the quick mind and charming smile.

As mentioned in my earlier post, he was an active participant in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. In 1961, the first year of the Freedom Riders, he was arrested with several compatriots for protesting the segregation of the Little Rock, Ark., bus station. (Fifty years later, Raines noted, the city’s mayor welcomed him back to town as a “public hero.”)

Ten years later, Raines took part in an even more audacious act of civil resistance: With his wife, Bonnie, and six others, he helped plan and execute the burglary of an FBI office in Media, Pa., near Philadelphia.

In a remarkable action against the nation’s top investigative agency, the group made off undetected with more than 1,000 documents that showed the extent of surveillance the government was devoting to its own citizens, particularly those active in protest.

A statement issued by the group explained its purpose. (The highlights are mine.):

On the night of March 8, 1971, the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI removed files from the Media, Pennsylvania, office of the FBI. These files will now be studied to determine: one, the nature and extent of surveillance and intimidation carried on by this office of the FBI, particularly against groups and individuals working for a more just, humane and peaceful society; two, to determine how much of the FBI’s efforts are spent on relatively minor crimes by the poor and the powerless against whom they can get a more glamorous conviction rate, instead of investigating truly serious crimes by those with money and influence which cause great damage to the lives of many people—crimes such as war profiteering, monopolistic practices, institutional racism, organized crime, and the mass distribution of lethal drugs; finally, three, the extent of illegal practices by the FBI, such as eavesdropping, entrapment, and the use of provocateurs and informers.

As this study proceeds, the results obtained along with the FBI documents pertaining to them will be sent to people in public life who have demonstrated the integrity, courage and commitment to democratic values which are necessary to effectively challenge the repressive policies of the FBI.

Some of the newspapers that received copies of the documents declined to print them. But the Washington Post wrote the story and others followed, giving the country its clearest look at the disruptive reach of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI.

None of the burglars were caught or charged, despite an extensive investigation. Washington Post reporter Betty Medsger, who broke the story in 1971, later wrote that only one of the eight was on the agency’s list of suspects when the case was closed in 1976.

The surviving burglars came forward about a year ago. Raines — who drove the getaway car and helped distribute the documents — told the New York Times that the group saw itself as a last line of defense against overreaching government surveillance.

“It looks like we’re terribly reckless people,” Mr. Raines said. “But there was absolutely no one in Washington — senators, congressmen, even the president — who dared hold J. Edgar Hoover to accountability.”

“It became pretty obvious to us,” he said, “that if we don’t do it, nobody will.”

# # # # #

If those two incidents had been the extent of Raines’ career, it would have been remarkable.

Of course, they weren’t. He also taught for more than 40 years at Temple University in Philadelphia, serving for a time as the chair of the college’s Department of Religion. (Raines continues to teach a class at Temple but is now largely retired.)

An online festschrift compiled by his students shows the respect he engendered in that role, with contributions including “My Heartfelt Gratitude to Professor John C. Raines” and “I Chose Temple (Because of John Raines).”

To quote the introduction:

His example, as well as his words, makes him one of the premier scholars of the academy; and for his witness, his testimony, and his example, we—his students—are deeply grateful.

The cigarette-puffing young man of 1960 seems to have approached the times he lived in with an uncommon amount of both wisdom and willingness to act.

That seems worthy of note and respect, not just on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but every day.

One of my most loyal readers, Maryanne, said last week she enjoyed seeing pictures of the Springdale Methodist Church before and after it partially burned in 1967.

That got me thinking:

– I’ve got a whole lot of my grandfather’s old pictures, many of which capture sights around the Springdale neighborhood of Stamford.

– My grandfather much enjoyed photography, and would probably have liked the idea that people around the world could see his pictures.

– Nobody’s really going to be disappointed not to read 800 more of my words.

So this week I’m going to post a bunch of my grandfather’s photos from the 1950s through the ’80s. The photo buffs and local-history fans will dig it; others might enjoy a look back in time, not to mention more glimpses of my grandfather’s artistic vision.

Click to see the pix larger, if you’re interested:

1957 or '58. Maybe the Stamfordites in the crowd know where this was taken; I don't.

1957 or ’58. Maybe the Stamfordites in the crowd know where this was taken; I don’t.

Same year, probably same parade; the Dolan Junior High Band. My dad is visible in this pic but I am more intrigued by the young lady in the foreground, who has the gently alarmed look of a double agent who has been discovered.

Same year, probably same parade; this is the Dolan Junior High Band. My dad is visible in this pic but I am more intrigued by the detached (perhaps hostile) young lady in the foreground whose lipstick adds a flash of colour to the proceedings. I imagine her playing Julia in a movie treatment of “1984.”

Circa 1958. My aunt Elaine, newly conscripted into the Eisenhower Youth, stands ready (sits ready?) to ward off attacking Commies.

Circa 1958. My aunt Elaine, newly conscripted into the Eisenhower Youth, stands ready (sits ready?) to ward off attacking Commies.

Model trains, late 1950s. How much to ride on the All-American Turnpike?

Model trains, late 1950s. How much to ride on the All-American Turnpike?

Speaking of trains, this is somewhere in Stamford, 1959.

Speaking of trains, this is somewhere in Stamford, 1959. I think it looked uglier than it really was.

Crowd, Darien High vs Stamford High football game, 1958.

Crowd, Darien High vs Stamford High football game, 1958.

Stamford High football, this time 1959. Not sure who they're playing, but it appears to be an extremely confusing visual matchup of orange vs. red.

Stamford High football, this time 1959. Not sure who they’re playing, but it appears to be an extremely confusing visual matchup of orange vs. red.

Springdale Methodist confirmation class with Pansy, the neighbors' dog.

Springdale Methodist confirmation class with Pansy, the neighbors’ dog.

My grandma at some rest stop somewhere, 1959. I love this pic but couldn't tell you why.

My grandma at some rest stop, 1959. I love this pic but couldn’t tell you why.

Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison, Connecticut, 1959.

Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison, Connecticut, 1959.

Merritt Parkway, somewhere in Connecticut, 1959.

Merritt Parkway, somewhere in Connecticut, 1959.

Talmadge Hill commuter rail station, New Haven, c. 1960.

Talmadge Hill commuter rail station, New Haven, c. 1960.

Dancing at a Methodist church youth retreat, 1960. Everyone's hands appear to be where Jesus can see them.

Dancing at a Methodist church youth retreat, 1960. Everyone’s hands appear to be where Jesus can see them.

More from the Methodist church retreat. This, believe it or not, is one of the reverends.

More from the Methodist church retreat. This is one of the reverends, believe it or not. Google suggests he went south, joined the Freedom Riders and got arrested a year or two later. Wonder if Little Rock’s finest let him keep his cigarettes?

Cove Island, Stamford, 1960. In the days before pollution controls, lots of big hairy stuff used to just float around in the air.

Cove Island, Stamford, 1960. In the days before pollution controls, lots of big hairy stuff used to just float around in the air.

Springdale train station, probably fall 1960, with a cameo by the New York, New Haven & Hartford.

Springdale train station, probably fall 1960, with a cameo by the New York, New Haven & Hartford. I can’t barely remember the last time I went out into a public place and saw multiple men wearing hats.

Easter sunrise service, somewhere in Stamford, 1960.

Easter sunrise service, somewhere in Stamford, 1960.

This appears to be the sorriest-looking strawberry festival ever held, Springdale, 1963. Several of the people seem to be looking at the camera with outright hostility.

This appears to be the sorriest-looking strawberry festival ever held, Springdale, 1963. Several of the people seem to be looking at the camera with outright hostility.

The same strawberry festival, this time with the Blumenau family Ford in the foreground, shining as if it had just rolled out of a magazine ad.

The same strawberry festival, this time with the Blumenau family Ford in the foreground, gleaming as if it had just rolled out of a magazine ad.

Backyard picnic, Hope Street, 1964. Check out my grandpa, digging into what appears to be a chicken leg, with (as the kids on the Internet say) absolutely zero f--ks given.

Backyard picnic, Hope Street, 1964. Check out my grandpa, digging blithely into what appears to be a chicken leg.

Trip to the beach, summer 1964. That's a lot of Detroit metal right there.

Trip to the beach, summer 1964. That’s a lot of kandy-kolored Detroit metal right there (and two representatives from Wolfsburg).

World's Fair, Queens, 1964.

World’s Fair, Queens, 1964.

My grandma and aunt plot their next course, World's Fair, 1964.

My grandma and aunt plot their next course, World’s Fair, 1964.

One of my great-grandma's piano recitals, 1966. Anyone spot themselves?

One of my great-grandma’s piano recitals, 1966. Anyone spot themselves?

My great-grandma, 80 years old, 1967.

My great-grandma, 80 years old, 1967.

1968.

1968.

No beer.

No beer.

A look out onto a surprisingly placid Hope Street, circa 1970-72. Dunno whether the fruit basket was coming or going.

A look out onto a surprisingly placid Hope Street, circa 1970-72. Dunno whether the fruit basket was coming or going.

The three Mrs. Blumenaus, Penfield, N.Y., 1975.

The three Mrs. Blumenaus, Penfield, N.Y., 1975.

My brother, not sure he likes either slides or cameras; Stamford, 1975.

My brother, not sure he likes either slides or cameras. Stamford, 1975.

As verdant a portrait of suburbia as has ever been taken. The family is treated to a swim in the neighbors' pool, summer '75. The garage of 1107 Hope Street is in the background, as is my family's '73 Plymouth Satellite. I am the little kid stood up on the stool, clutching the beach ball.

As verdant a portrait of suburbia as has ever been taken. The family is treated to a swim in the neighbors’ pool, summer 1975. The garage of 1107 Hope Street is in the background, as is my family’s ’73 Plymouth Satellite. I am the little kid stood up on the stool, clutching the beach ball.

In the shadows of 1107 Hope Street, 1983, a year before my grandparents sold the place.

In the shadows of 1107 Hope Street, 1983, a year before my grandparents sold the place. The front door with the glass butterfly leads out onto the porch facing an increasingly busy Hope Street. The house lives on in the shadows of memory; maybe this is a good place to leave off.

I wonder what woke my grandfather up at 2 a.m. on January 16, 1967. The sirens, perhaps? The smell of smoke? The hum of fire engines?

I suppose it’s possible he slept through to the morning and got the news later.

But I suspect he couldn’t help but wake up as part of the church across the street from his home burned.

January 16, 1967.

January 16, 1967.

As I’ve previously lamented, the Stamford Advocate has no publicly accessible online archives, so I don’t know what caused the fire at the Springdale Methodist Church, now known as the United Methodist Church of Springdale.

(An Associated Press article that ran the day after the fire didn’t give a cause, but said it started in the cellar. The article estimated the damage at $40,000, which is about $282,800 in 2014 dollars, if online inflation calculators are to be trusted.)

The church’s website says the fire destroyed the original section of the church, dating to 1876 — an area including the original sanctuary, the fellowship hall, kitchen, choir room and secretary’s office.

A substantial portion of the church was saved, including the more recently built sanctuary and social hall. The morning after the blaze, a city fire official suggested the more recent wing of the church might be available for the following Sunday’s services, and perhaps it was. (January 16 was a Monday, so they would have had a whole week to get work done.)

My grandpa does not seem to have taken pictures of the blaze as it happened.

Maybe he wasn’t comfortable with his ability to take pictures in such unusual lighting conditions. Maybe he wanted to stay out of the way. Maybe he did take pictures, but threw them out because they didn’t come out to his satisfaction.

(Or, again, maybe he slept through the whole thing.)

He was there to capture the razing and clearing of the fire-damaged parts of the church. The weather looks to have been temperate; you can see the gents from the wrecking company in what appear to be windbreakers. Perhaps those conditions made the fire easier to fight and contain.

 

Church Razing 4

Church Razing 2

Just for comparison’s sake, here are a couple of shots of the church in the years before the fire:

Christmas 1958 or 1959. The portion of the church to the left of the front door was destroyed in the fire.

Christmas 1958 or 1959. The portion of the church to the left of the front door was destroyed in the fire.

1960. I believe the people pictured were leaving on some sort of retreat.

1960. I believe the people pictured were leaving on some sort of retreat.

A church bazaar in 1959 ...

A church bazaar in 1959 …

... and another in 1960.

… and another in 1960. Nice hat on that kid in the foreground.

The church added a new wing the year after the fire, and is still using it.

I think the new section of the church is visible behind my brother and I in the next picture, which was taken in 1975.

My memory, which is not what it used to be, says my grandparents took us across the street to play on a small playground next to the church. Of course the camera went with us.

The architect hired to do the job clearly did not make it a priority to match the look of the existing building. But, however drab or stark it might be, concrete has one wonderful attribute: It doesn’t burn.

1975

Seems like I’ve written a lot about hot weather on this blog — the blisterbitchers, and the lack of air conditioning, and the end-of-summer bursts of heat, and slow sizzling afternoons at the beach.

Not sure why that is. Maybe it reflects some deep-seated personal preference for summer over winter.

Or maybe southern Connecticut just tends to get hotter than colder, so I’ve had more calendar entries to choose from on the warm end of the scale.

Now that it’s winter enough for everyone, it seems like we’re due for an entry with some really savage cold, lest my readers get to thinking Fairfield County is some sort of tropical paradise.

Set the controls to … well, not the heart of the sun, exactly. Set ‘em for January 1968.

Lyndon Johnson is president. The Beatles, Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, and Jay and the Techniques (of Allentown, Pennsylvania) are on the radio.

And most of the United States is as cold as a whore’s goodbye.

January 8-11, 1968.

January 8-11, 1968.

We’ll choose the morning of January 9, and let the Associated Press tell the story (as reproduced on Page One of the Plattsburgh, N.Y., Press-Republican):

– Temperatures below freezing are clocked in 47 of the 48 contiguous states.

– Freezing rain, drizzle and sleet tie up roads from New Mexico to Oklahoma. Some parts of New Mexico — New Mexico! — receive six fresh inches of snow atop five already on the ground.

– A record low of 13 degrees is reported in Dallas.

– “Numerous deaths” are attributed to the weather; one assumes they were still being counted. (By Thursday afternoon, authorities would quantify the cold-related deaths at 82, with at least another 18 to 20 still under investigation.)

– Up to 10 inches of fresh snow fall in parts of the Northeast.

– A hotel fire in Philadelphia forces 350 elderly men and women, some naked, into the streets in 10-degree weather. Remarkably, none are killed in the fire, though 39 people are hospitalized.

(That’s just Page One. On Page Two we read about firefighters in Schenectady, N.Y., fighting two major downtown blazes in seven-below-zero cold, and a nationwide outbreak of Asian flu that’s killed 192 people in the Northeast alone.)

And that wasn’t the end of the cold. It kept going and going, all week long.

On Friday, Jan. 12, the New York Times reported that New Yorkers had endured seven straight days of below-freezing temperatures, with three of the days setting record lows.

The Automobile Club of New York reported receiving 23,000 phone calls since Monday the 8th from drivers unable to start their cars. Con Ed reported record demand for electricity, steam and natural gas. Commuter railways suffered major weather-related delays. And a ship just in from the North Atlantic turned around and left New York for Baltimore, hoping its winches and other equipment would thaw out enough there to allow for the unloading of cargo.

Speaking of Lyndon Johnson, as we were a while ago, the cold of January 1968 forced itself into his routine as well.

Cut to about 4:05 into the monthly film of Johnson’s activities produced by the U.S. government, and you’ll see footage of kids in fake fur-trimmed winter jackets, bopping up and down in the cold. You’ll also see adults wearing that sure-is-cold rictus grin that grown-ups get when they have to stand outside at official events in the wintertime.

The scene could pass for Albany, or at least Philadelphia.

And then you hear the voiceover: “On the 7th of January, some very chilly citizens of San Antonio gathered at Randolph Air Force Base.”

LBJ missed the very worst of the weather because he spent the first half of the month at his “Texas White House,” hosting Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and working on his State of the Union speech.

My grandparents, stuck in Connecticut not far outside New York City, didn’t have that good fortune.

I would like to say they kept moving and muddled through. But I see the canceled doctor’s appointment on the calendar, and I conclude that this cold snap was bad enough to force even the most stoic to the sidelines.

(I’m not sure I can blame cold-related befuddlement for my grandpa recording his doctor’s appointment at 12:30 a.m., rather than 12:30 p.m. He did that on other calendar entries. It seems to have been a repeated quirk of his, like buying lottery tickets.)

I also notice that my grandfather didn’t embellish extreme cold like he did extreme heat. There are no creative expressions for cold days — no “blisterbitchers” or “dingdongers.” Just extra-thick, extra-emphatic numbers with what look like long, trailing fingers of ice.

Maybe, for all his protestations about uncomfortably hot weather, he preferred that extreme to the other.