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Posts Tagged ‘1958’

It’s still hotter than heck here in eastern Pennsylvania — forecast to reach 90 degrees all but one day this coming week.

As payback, perhaps, for our record-setting snow of January, we’re now getting plenty of summer. Summer enough for everyone.

Well, it says here that our visit to the beach last time around wasn’t nearly long enough. So, like Frankie and Annette, we’re going back.

Except we’re going back a few years earlier, and to a different beach. Perhaps you’ve been to this one. A lot of people have.

Jones Beach Trip

Note the two young ladies in the brochure trying their skill at archery. It is 1958, and Katniss Everdeen has not yet been imagined. Neither have the New York Mets, but the Yanks are sitting pretty in first place.

I’m not sure why the Hope Street Blumenaus went to Jones Beach State Park, on Long Island, when they could have gone to coastal beaches closer to home in Connecticut. (They could also have hitched a ride to Rockaway Beach … though that trip hadn’t been imagined in 1958, either.)

Jones Beach is a draw for people throughout the New York area. According to Wiki, it’s the most-visited beach on the East Coast. To me, that just screams mad crazy hassles with traffic and parking and finding towel-space.

But, sometimes, the biggest tourist spots seem more desirable because they’re so popular. It is only the sourest and most reticent of us (I am looking in the mirror here) who avoid going places because they draw crowds. To many, the place with all the people is the place to be.

Also, a check of the calendar reveals that Aug. 19, 1958, was a Tuesday. My grandpa might not have been quite so thrilled about going to Jones Beach on a summer Saturday. But Tuesday? Sure, that might be a little more manageable and a little less crazy.

So, off went the bridge-and-tunnel Blumenaus to the big city …

Jones Beach 2.jpg

See? The big city. (I’m too slack to figure out which bridge this is, but I’m sure it’s some span whose name lives in regional traffic-report infamy.)

Jones Beach 3

Jones Beach’s famous water tower, seen through the windshield of the Ford du jour.

Jones Beach 4

Compare this to what you’d wear to the beach today.

Jones Beach 5.jpg

My grandpa looks like Marcel Proust at a Parisian sidewalk cafe, not a dude at the freakin’ beach. My grandma’s conical sun hat (I said “conical,” not “comical”) is also smart and styled for the season, in adspeak.

Once the Blumenaus of Hope Street finished their travel and food, and finally got to the beach, it appears that they chose a pretty good day to go. Sunny and not too crowded at all.

Jones Beach 6

Jones Beach 8

The people at far left are fully dressed; everyone else is in beachwear. Maybe a dressing room sits somewhere between the two sides.

Jones Beach 10

The dude in the barrel is so charming, it’s easy to miss the wave and the “JB” set into the ironwork on the other side of the pole.

Jones Beach 12.jpg

A pic to prove that someone from the Blumenau family actually put on suits and went into the water. My aunt is at the center of the photo, in the yellow swim cap, and my dad is to her right.

Jones Beach 17.jpg

One of potential historic value: Wiki says there used to be two pools at Jones Beach (east and west). The west one is still in operation but the east one is closed. Wonder which one this is? It’s a little crowded at the right-hand side of the photo but it looks like things aren’t too nuts here either.

Jones Beach 16.jpg

One last from the big trip. Of course my grandma and great-grandma stayed clear of the water. My grandma’s smile indicates that she’s perfectly fine with that. They’re sharing a bench with strangers. The family-history buff in me wonders who they are; I wish I could find their grandson or granddaughter on the ‘Net and say, “Hey, you might like to see this picture.”

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A little thematic music.

This post doesn’t have any real connection to yesterday’s. It’s just an opportunity to whip out a couple pictures my grandfather took that I kinda like, but that don’t have any other home in the narrative.

Thought you might enjoy these — especially as a reminder, in this wintry time of year, that there really are four seasons, and the weather isn’t going to be snowy forever, and the dogwoods will bloom in just a couple of months.

My grandpa took these in 1957-58, looking out from (I believe) the rear-facing attic window at 1107 Hope Street. Click for larger versions of the pix if you are so moved.

Back yard in winter.

Back yard in spring, with dogwood in full effect.

Summer. The trees are in leaf, the roses are in bloom, the Yanks are in first, and all is right with the world.

Back yard in autumn.

And back again to a frosty blue winter evening.

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Another special edition of 5,478 Days.

When my grandfather stopped by the Stamford High-Norwalk High football game in October or November 1958, his main purpose was to take pictures of my father, then a skinny sophomore playing in the Stamford High marching band.

But when he saw one of pro football’s greatest defensive ends milling among the crowd, my grandpa couldn’t resist asking to take his picture.

And, just like any self-respecting local hero would do, Andy Robustelli obliged.

Andy Robustelli, autumn 1958

At the time my grandfather snapped this picture, the unprepossessing fellow in the gray cloth coat was at or near the peak of a remarkable, late-blooming football career.

Robustelli, a Stamford native, turned 16 the day before Pearl Harbor and enlisted in the U.S. Navy two years later. After his tour of duty, he came back to Connecticut and went to college in Bridgeport. He got drafted by an NFL team, but not by much — 19th round to the Rams, in 1951 — and was 25 by the time he went to his first pro training camp.

He defied the experts by not only staying with the Rams, but starring with them. And when he moved to the semi-hometown New York football Giants in 1956, he cemented his legend as a dangerous, durable pass rusher who used speed and intelligence to make up for what he lacked in pure size and strength. (The Football Hall of Fame lists Robustelli at 6’1″, 230.)

Only two months or so after this photo was taken, Robustelli would take part in the 1958 NFL championship game against the Baltimore Colts — a game celebrated in NFL legend as “the greatest game ever played.” Robustelli’s Giants lost in overtime to the Colts, but the game played a key role in popularizing the NFL and televised pro football to audiences nationwide.

Robustelli retired after the 1964 season, and was elected to the Football Hall of Fame seven years later.

In the only blot on his professional resume, he served as the Giants’ general manager during their fallow years of the Seventies, proving that he was less adept at drafting and managing talent than he was at being it. (This is a common shortcoming among star athletes in all professional sports, and is scarcely unique to Robustelli.)

Back home in Stamford, where Robustelli became a successful businessman, the poor fortunes of the mid-Seventies Giants put scarcely a dent in his reputation.

By all accounts, he embodied the old-school example of the local boy made good — humble, grounded, steady and clean-living. People spoke well of him, and meant it.

Decades after my grandfather took this picture, Robustelli was still attending Stamford High sporting events to cheer on his grandchildren, mixing unpretentiously with the crowd as he did in 1958.

He was not the sort to seek out a neighbor with a camera, but not the sort to shrug them off if they asked for a picture or two, either.  My other grandpa, a lifelong Giants fan, also lived in Stamford, and I’m fairly sure that among his effects is a picture of him with Andy Robustelli at one or another civic event. On the football field, Robustelli was an immortal; off the field, he was a quiet, distinguished, but accessible part of his community.

Andy Robustelli died Tuesday, May 31, in the city he called home all his life. He was 85.

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