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Posts Tagged ‘1960s’

I spent a fair amount of time at my grandparents’ house on Hope Street as a kid.

And through this blog, I’ve spent a fair amount of time revisiting it in my mind — most notably in a post from this week in 2012, when I wrote a room-by-room tour of the place from memory.

That’s why I was interested — though maybe not surprised — to discover that one of my grandpa’s recently discovered journals includes a year-by-year list of every significant improvement made to the house, starting in January 1946 and ending in October 1984.

The first page ...

The first page …

... and the last.

… and the last.

It would have been around October 1984 that my grandparents sold the house at 1107 Hope to developers, who tore it down the following year to make room for condos.

I can only assume that front porch roof really needed to be reshingled in the fall of ’84; I can’t imagine my grandpa enjoyed sinking $350 (about $800 in 2015 money) into a house he knew he was going to leave.

On the other hand, I am oddly touched by the $2.44 spent on a new toggle light switch for the bathroom medicine cabinet. It’s like a fresh young soldier reporting to a platoon that knows the battle’s lost. Here’s this shiny new part looking forward to a lifetime of service, and getting six months tops before the bulldozers come.

I won’t bore my Five Readers with a lengthy breakdown of what got spent, when. I know no one really cares about the details.

I will share some of the more interesting items, though.

For starters, here’s a list of the paint colors (besides basic gray, white, blue and green) applied to different parts of the house over that 38-year period. The house in my memory was fairly drab — maybe “plain” is a kinder word — but this parade of names makes it sound like a riot of color:

Pine green
Mint green
Light green
Kentucky green
Cordovan brown
Forest green
Dawn yellow
Pilgrim gray
Smoke gray
Park green
Misty gray
Blue moon
Provincial grey
Slate grey
Pastel pink
Battleship gray
Candleglow (it appears to be a light beige-yellow)
Mission rose
Antique white
Evergreen

And now for some journal entries:

October 1946.

October 1946. Twenty-five pounds of furnace asbestos. Wonder what that was — insulation, maybe? It was only a buck — good deal if you didn’t mind getting cancer years later.

April 1947.

April 1947. My grandpa splurges and blows eight dollars on evergreens. Wonder if they are the ones visible in this photo from circa 1973.

October 1947: Wood for the rose arbor.

October 1947: Wood for the rose arbor. This might or might not be the (heavily weathered) wood from the cover photo of Hope’s Treat, the official soundtrack to the Hope Street blog.

March 1956. Remember when a radio was something you got fixed?

March 1956. Remember when a radio was something you got fixed?

April 1957. Look, Ma, I made the newspaper.

April 1957. Look, Ma, I made the newspaper. Wonder how many of these building improvements — heck, how many of these buildings — are still extant today. Also, I have always thought of Stamford as a predominantly Italian city with a minority of eastern Europeans, and this clipping does nothing to change my mind.

August 26, 1967.

August 26, 1967. Home security is not a running theme in this journal, so the mention of a lock stands out. My grandparents’ home would be broken into in the early ’80s — perhaps a minor contributing factor to their eventual decision to sell.

October 18, 1968.

October 18, 1968. This is probably the same clothesline my grandfather photographed, encased in ice, after the ice storm of December 1973.

January-February 1975.

January-February 1975. Regardless of what Fela Kuti might tell you, water is the homeowner’s enemy. I think this is the only reference to an insurance claim in the entire journal. At least it’s the only one that sticks out now that I’ve been through it three or four times.

October 14, 1977. No idea why my grandpa saw fit to illustrate this, but here you go.

October 14, 1977. No idea why my grandpa saw fit to illustrate this, but here you go.

October 1979.

October 1979. It’s a family affair: John Jacobellis, who replaced part of my grandpa’s porch floor, is my cousin on my mom’s side. (He’s been active in the building trades in Stamford for many years, and is referenced in passing in this post from four years ago.) He shows up in my grandpa’s journal on one or two other occasions in the late ’70s and early ’80s, as well.

March 5, 1981. Salty Grandpa shows up for a moment ("crap trap").

March 5, 1981. Salty Grandpa shows up for a moment (“crap trap”).

Summer 1983.

Summer 1983. My grandpa tackles a home improvement task — and, by his own concession, does a “lousy job.” The roots of the sale of Hope Street and the move to Rochester might lie in moments like this, as my grandfather realized he was no longer as capable of this sort of repair as he used to be.

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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.

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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.

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“Me and my stupidity, sittin’ on a fence
Digging what I thought was New York City.”
Ian Hunter

This is another post in which my grandfather does not figure.

My aunt’s in it, near the end, but it’s not really about her either.

It’s about New York City. Two New York Cities, actually … as different from each other as Mona Lisas and mad hatters, but equally fabled, and equally real.

Climb the grimy stairs from the subway to the sidewalk, turn your shoulder into the wind, and I’ll tell you about them.

# # # # #

From cultural scraps and second-hand narratives, half-hour scripted dramas and faded ads on the sides of brick buildings, I have constructed a mental narrative of two sharply different worlds occupying the same scattered geographic footprint.

We’ll call the first one “Golden New York,” and presume it existed from the end of World War II until sometime in the 1960s.

In my imagination, Golden New York is a place of cool confidence … a city where well-barbered men in crisply pressed business shirts make lots of money during the day and drink bourbon on the rocks in conservatively decorated penthouses at night.

You know this city as Sinatra’s New York, and Don Draper’s as well.

It is Holly Golightly’s playground, and Murray the K’s, and Harriet the Spy’s — a metropolis benevolent enough to protect tomboys who peer into skylights and squeeze into dumbwaiters.

This city of promise and adventure is also home to the Yankees, who roll to championship after championship with the same unruffled confidence shown by the bourbon-drinking business magnates; and the football Giants, who are not quite as dominant but capable of beating any team in the league with points and personality to spare.

Life in Golden New York is burnished and radiant and early-autumnal.

And it will not last.

# # # # #

We’ll call its replacement “Tarnished New York,” though you might know it by its sardonic early-’70s nickname, “Fun City.”

It’s the squalid, bankrupt, grime-tattooed city Sinatra bequeathed to Lou Reed and Johnny Thunders when he pulled up stakes and moved to Palm Springs.

No one knows what happened to Don Draper and Holly Golightly — death? The suburbs? A quiet life somewhere upstate? — but they don’t walk the streets of this New York.

(Most people don’t, if they don’t have to. Even Theo Kojak tends to stay behind the wheel until he gets where he’s going.)

It’s no place for inquisitive schoolgirls with spy-notebooks. Life is cheap in Tarnished New York, and even getting onto a commuter train is a matter of taking your life into your hands. Never mind who you might meet if you step into a cab … or, hell, if you simply try to cross the street.

The Yankees? They’re struggling to win more games than they lose. And the football Giants? They’re in New Haven.

Tarnished New York, like Golden New York, will pass away with time. But it will leave its own counterbalancing impression, a burnt taste shadowing the autumnal crispness of its predecessor.

# # # # #

If you buy the vision of two New Yorks, an inevitable parlor game follows: Where was the tipping point? Is there a single central moment of transition, or does it depend on the beholder?

(Exceptions and outliers can be found on both sides of the divide. The brutal murder of Kitty Genovese belongs to Sinatra’s New York, while the joyous, improbable victory of the ’69 Miracle Mets belongs to Ratso Rizzo’s.)

For my Aunt Elaine — who has been patiently riding the train in from Stamford during this entire rambling exposition, and is about to disembark in Manhattan — Dec. 31, 1966, might well have been a personal tipping point.

New Year's Eve, 1966.

New Year’s Eve, 1966.

What was supposed to be a fun trip to watch the ball drop turned out to be something disillusioning. In my aunt’s words:

 I went  to Times Square on New Years Eve 1966 to watch the ball drop. It was the only time I did that because at that time I thought I was going to be trampled to death!  I traveled into NYC w/a male friend from Stamford, as I was home from college for  Christmas break.

We took the train to avoid drunken drivers. It seemed like a fun idea, but soon became apparent that the people in the larger area surrounding the ball were bombed and stomping around without regard for those under their feet!
I tried to get a drink at a bar, because I was 18, and it was legal in NY to serve liquor to 18 year olds, but they would not serve me. Then I tried to hide in doorways of stores to avoid serious injury and my friend tried to shield me, but that didn’t work very well either. So I watched the ball drop from this vantage point, but it was not nearly as exciting as it looks on TV!  

Perhaps if we had arrived in mid-afternoon to get a front row spot and had brought our own flask, this endeavor would have been more successful!

# # # # #

Which New York will the ball drop on tonight?

A decade after its lowest low, the city appears to be riding high — maybe not as high as it did in Sinatra’s day, but successful and spirited nonetheless. (In fact, the well-being of New York City seems to be outpacing the well-being of the country as a whole, fraught as it is with shootings and fiscal cliffs and government gridlock.)

The city is closely connected to its suburbs, as it has always been. Perhaps tonight will be a night to remember, one way or another, for some 18-year-old taking the train in from Stamford.

That will be someone else’s myth to create.

For now, Golden New York and Tarnished New York are growing hazy and disappearing before my eyes like steam from a manhole … and a salaryman going on 40 in eastern Pennsylvania will take to his bed well before midnight tonight.

Happy New Year.

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Nov. 2, 1965.

(Edit: I spat out this piece of stentorian dross before Hurricane Sandy. If you are reading this and still without power, feel free to skip this entry so as to save yourself a self-righteous bludgeoning about the head.)

 

I won’t pretend to tell you who to vote for at the polls tomorrow.

But I will tell you to vote.

Nov. 8, 1966.

Why? Well, my grandpa would have wanted you to. It seems pretty clear from the drawings and exhortations he put on his calendars over the years.

(Look at the mob in the 1965 illustration above, or the 1963 illustration below. We’ll see if that’s what the turnout looks like tomorrow.)

Nov. 5-6, 1963.

OK, maybe that’s not a compelling reason to anyone who didn’t know my grandpa.

But seriously: People surrendered their lives to give us this right, and to keep it for us.

Think of a Revolutionary War farmer-turned-soldier lying crumpled next to his musket in some long-ago colonial clearing. Then ask yourself if you really need to be in that much of a hurry to get to work, or to get home to cook.

There is nothing jingoistic or stentorian or unseemly in appreciating the gift we have and putting it to use.

We are fortunate to have it. So, whatever our views, let us use it.

Nov. 3-7, 1970.

I expect Twitter to be awash today and tomorrow with people saying, “If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain about what happens.”

I have never had any truck with that statement, me.

For one thing, logic has never stopped anyone from complaining, anytime, anywhere.

For another … well, if you are American, you do have a right to complain about what happens, regardless of whether you vote or eat cheeseburgers or support public television or make any one of a million other personal choices.

You have a right to piss and moan until you are blue in the face, about anything you want, without any kings or dictators to insist you hew to a single state-sanctioned party line.

The people who gave their blood and sweat so we could vote earned us that freedom too.

Seems kind of a pity to use their sacrifice in such a petty way, though.

No?

Nov. 2-6, 1971.

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