Feeds:
Posts
Comments

On Hope Street, the turbulent year of 1967 came in with fire and went out with ice.

(Granted, there were some pleasant moments in between.)

My earlier post about the Connecticut ice storm of December 1973 is one of the most-read installments in the history of this blog.

So when I learned from my grandpa’s calendar that there was another ice storm in Stamford six years earlier, I figured I’d write about that one too.

dec1967

December 11, 1967. Later in the week, just two towns over from Stamford, a child is born who will grow up to be a titanic figure of my college and early-twenties years in New England.

 

If you’ve never heard of the Ice Storm of 1967 … well, there’s a good reason; it turns out that it wasn’t that big a deal.

The New York Times dispensed with it in a 10-paragraph article on page 41 of the Dec. 12 issue, summarizing: “Icy rains pelted the suburbs, snapping power lines.” (The city proper was plagued by blowing, heavy mist and rain, but temperatures stayed above freezing.)

The article singled out classic Tri-State sprawl-spots like Mamaroneck, West Nyack, Ramsey and Nanuet for mention, but didn’t say anything about Connecticut. Presumably that meant there was no news fit to print there.

By the following day, ice had been replaced by what the Good Gray Lady called “muddy fog,” in a story noting that New York had received two-and-a-quarter inches of unseasonable rain in two days’ time. (The author of this shoe-leather mood piece? Future two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner J. Anthony Lukas.)

The Chicago Tribune, meanwhile, ran a one-paragraph brief on page 3 noting that “a sleet storm tore down power lines” in the New York suburbs. This item appeared beneath a similar one-graf news brief noting that the Maui Nukupuu — “a small bird with a large down-curving bill and a tubular tongue for extracting nectar from flowers” — had been spotted in Hawaii for the first time in 71 years.

The relative silence of my grandpa’s calendar suggests that the power stayed on and life went on more or less as usual. The calendar also makes no mention of a day off work, which my grandpa would usually note when heavy weather occasioned it. (Dec. 11 was a Monday.)

I guess, then, that the December 1967 ice storm was nothing epochal. It was just a bump in the road … something to be tolerated amidst the ongoing grind of holiday errands, like retrieving college-age kids, buying Christmas trees and putting up home decorations.

dec1667

December 16, 1967.

One hopes the people of Fairfield County tolerated it without too much grumbling. Just a few years later, they would see much worse.

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.

foon.jpg

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.”

Once again I begin to run out of things to say and ways to say them … so we will stop briefly in two separate places this week, and leave it at that.

# # # # #

Just a few days ago I dreamed quite vividly I was on Hope Street again, in my

untitled21_2

Sleeping, 1978. Not on Hope Street but it’ll do.

grandparents’ old house at 1107.

The plot of the dream, such as it was, was farcical. My high school winter track team had been invited to a meet in Stamford, and somehow it’d been decided that about 16 runners were going to save money by bedding down on Hope Street.

(Me and about five others were wedged into the small studio-slash-bedroom where my brother and I used to sleep.)

Even if this had been permissible in real life, it would not have been possible, as my grandparents were gone from Hope Street before I began running winter track.

The setting was not entirely true to life either — a large (totally fictional) aquarium with a small AM radio built in was part of the action, for instance.

And the dream was not entirely pleasant, as much of it revolved around the discomfort of trying to squeeze all these people I knew into this small old house such that they could attempt to sleep, with the resultant fear that they were all going to hate me after their restless night.

But it felt real to be there, and I felt pretty good to be there again, even as I was trying to figure out how to turn off the damn AM radio to get the place quiet enough for bedtime.

I bring this all up, as much as any other reason, because I’ve spent more than five years thinking about my grandparents and Hope Street for the purposes of this blog.

I’ve recalled just about every detail of the now-demolished building — from the location of the cesspool to the medications in the bathroom cabinet. I’ve even recreated a room-by-room walk through the house. I’ve delved into the hearts and minds of the people who lived there, too.

And I’m pretty sure this is the first time in all that time I’ve dreamed about the place.

I buy into the theory that dreams are a sort of funhouse-mirror repository for the things we think about during the day. So, for all the hours I’ve thought about Hope Street, you’d think I’d spend more dreamtime in Stamford.

Or, I dunno — maybe I clear out my Hope Street thoughts so thoroughly via this blog that there isn’t anything left to consider at night.

At any rate, it was nice to be back, even on an overbooked flight, and I look forward to the next time I can punch my ticket there.

# # # # #

We’ll go here this week, too.

who-knows-38

I have no idea where the hell this actually is: On my thumb drive of my grandpa’s scanned-in slides, my father labeled this photo “Who Knows 38.”

I know it was taken in 1962, most likely in New England someplace. I suspect it was taken as possible inspiration for a future painting, though I don’t recall ever seeing one that looks like it.

Beyond that I have no idea. Sunrise? Sunset? Spring? Late autumn? Your guess is as good as mine.

I lean toward sunrise, because the sky has none of the colors of sunset; and autumn, just ’cause that’s what time it is now.

The people on this farm (we’ll say it’s in western Massachusetts, or one of the more rural precincts of Connecticut) are already up and doing the salt-of-the-earth farm-grind thing.

They did it yesterday and will do it again tomorrow. It wears on them some, and sometimes they daydream about what life would be like without it, but it’s what they know, and it’s what they do.

At least, that’s my suburban-snobby guess of what’s going on in this picture. I have no dirt under my fingernails; it’s entirely possible that I’m wrong.

Who knows? It’s even possible that last night, someplace in America, a grown man dreamed nostalgically of finding himself back in that long-gone barn again.

I have previously mentioned the young girls with rakes and faces but no names.

They had names then, of course, and friends and schoolbooks and favorite candy bars and maybe posters on the wall.

But they passed through the history of Hope Street — this history of Hope Street, anyway — without anyone writing their names down. They do not seem to have made it onto my grandpa’s calendar, for instance.

Here at my computer in the autumn of 2016 they are only images on a thumbdrive of my grandpa’s old photos … one-dimensional children in short-sleeved T-shirts in the tall fall grass, doing a neighborly favor.

october75

(Did they shiver and complain about their lot in life? No. Most likely they were quite comfortable.)

113.JPG

I imagine they were my grandparents’ next-door neighbors, possibly even from the light-colored house in the rear of the photo above. (The folks on the other side of my grandparents had a son my dad’s age.)

If I had a 1975 city directory at my fingertips, I could probably find out their names, or their parents’, quickly enough.

I also imagine their house disappeared in the same condominium sweep that tore down my grandparents’. I wonder if they have been back to Hope Street lately, or if there is nothing for them there.

nov752

If you’re reading this post, you already know the backstory. My grandfather suffered a heart attack in 1971 that required him to scale back his household activities as much as possible.

The house at 1107 Hope Street had a good-sized back yard and a lot of trees. Raking all those leaves would have been one of those jobs my grandpa looked to outsource, either to professional yardsmiths or neighborhood urchins.

How many years of help did my grandpa get from the girls next door? Maybe not many. The older one, especially, looks to be approaching the age where she can invent plausible other things to do besides squatting in the grass to clean up somebody else’s yard.

nov753

Of course I wonder where they are now, and what they are doing. It is that time of year, after all.

Perhaps they have kids who are bracing to spend the coming weekends with rakes in their hands (though some back-of-the-envelope math suggests that the girls in these photos are probably empty-nesters already. Time does fly.)

Perhaps they have grown into the sort of people who refuse to dirty their hands with leaves, and hire yard companies to do the work. “I’ve bagged enough leaves for one lifetime,” they sniff.

Or maybe, in a different lawn with different trees in a different state, they are still at it. Perhaps they even enjoy it. Maybe, for reasons they can’t quite remember, it reminds them of good deeds and hard work well-appreciated.

The rest of my family would probably run their daily affairs entirely through the ether — by synching up their phones and such — if it weren’t for me.

I don’t completely lack for tech savvy, and I run my work life through my Outlook calendar. But at home I’m still used to looking at a piece of paper on the wall.

And so the notion of keeping a hard-copy calendar lingers, at least for a few more years.

Having featured hundreds of my grandpa’s calendar entries and pages over the years, it seems only fair that I post one or two of my own. Here’s what the family tradition looks like in the 21st century:

IMG_2620.JPG

September 2016. The Mets are headed for the postseason; the Yankees are not.

(No, I don’t have a Leon Trotsky Quote-of-the-Month calendar; it’s pictures of New York City. We’re not too choosy about the images on our annual calendar. Typically it’s something like Ansel Adams. Maybe goats in trees next year?)

Not sure if WordPress lets you click to enlarge pix any more; but if you could see this photo large, you’d know that my handwriting — unlike my grandpa’s — is damned near illegible. I usually settle for writing one word clearly enough to be understood, and that clues me in on the rest.

My grandpa’s old calendar standbys — weather reports, lottery tickets, increases in the price of postage stamps — won’t be found here. Instead, the Blumenau family’s September 2016 calendar includes:

  • Four high-school cross-country meets
  • Two rock concerts (this one and this one)
  • One Lehigh Valley IronPigs minor-league baseball game (the last of the year)
  • One fundraising hoagie dinner to benefit the aforementioned cross-country team
  • One driver’s-ed lesson
  • One weeklong on-call work shift

We keep a separate weekly dry-erase calendar on the fridge, too; it gets updated every Sunday, usually after the grocery run. Not everything on one calendar overlaps onto the other, so they both serve a function.

This is where the family history of wordplay and sketching lives on:

img_2621

Fat man rockin’” = the first of the two concerts listed above.

M meet – Pokenose” = a cross-country meet held up north in the land of the heart-shaped bathtub. (The booster club buys the kids hoagies for the long bus ride home. We eat a lot of hoagies over the course of a school year.)

“HS meat the teacher” – My grandpa would have liked the hamburger lecturing at the blackboard, I think.

meattheteacher

The hard-copy calendars don’t really get saved, and the dry-erase gets wiped clean every week.

So my grandson or granddaughter, if I have one, won’t wonder in 50 years what went down at Meet-The-Teacher Night.

Or what the hell my calendar entry for Sept. 5, 2016, was supposed to mean.

Just as well, I suppose.