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Posts Tagged ‘1964’

For those who like a good news-bath, there’s no richer fount of information than a Sunday New York Times.

Even in this vaunted journalistic age, the Good Gray Lady’s Sunday edition is still a potent collection of news, comment, wit, perspective, and what A.J. Liebling used to call “agglutinated sapience.” Few, if any, American newspapers can compare.

Our journey this week involves one of a million such dead-tree doorstops. Specifically, this one made its way to the dinner table of a draftsman and his family in suburban Stamford.

But why?

May 3, 1964.

May 3, 1964. The Mets have played 16 games – and are already eight games out of first place.

I’ve previously written that my grandfather’s newspaper loyalties lay primarily with the New York Daily News — “New York’s Picture Newspaper” — and with the hometown afternoon paper, the Stamford Advocate.

So why would he leave himself a special note to buy the New York Times?

I’m especially puzzled because I don’t think it was common newspaper practice back then to tease what you had coming up on Sunday.

Today’s newspapers are not shy about promoting upcoming stories. (Many of them will get anything really cracking up on their websites ASAP, rather than hold it.)

I don’t think that was as common a practice in 1964. Papers were more protective of their scoops — in part because many cities were still home to more than one paper, and they didn’t want to tip their hands to their rivals. Which leads me to wonder how my grandpa knew in advance that he had to have a copy of the Sunday Times.

Inevitably, this calendar entry sent me searching to find out what was in the May 3, 1964, New York Times that might have interested my grandfather.

I have a book of historic Times front pages big enough to land a Piper Cub on, and the May 3 edition is not reprinted in it. So there couldn’t have been anything truly historic on the front page that day.

The Web mentions a couple items that might have been interesting at the time, though I don’t think any of them would have enticed my grandpa to buy the paper:

– The weekly magazine ran A.M. Rosenthal’s “Study of the Sickness Called Apathy,” a follow-up article about the March murder of Kitty Genovese, who was reportedly stabbed to death while dozens of neighbors did nothing. (More recent accounts suggest that the Times sensationalized the case, and the paper’s initial reports — which fixed the details of the case in America’s national memory — were largely untrue.)

– In the world of arts, Howard Taubman reviewed a production of James Baldwin’s “Blues for Mister Charlie,” telling readers in New Canaan and Mount Kisco that “Mr. Baldwin speaks fervidly for the Negro’s anguish and passion, and none of us can afford not to heed him.” (However earnest Mr. Taubman’s prose might have been, getting an actual Negro to review the production seems in retrospect like a worthwhile step.)

– Timesman McCandlish Phillips — who became better-known the following year after he unmasked the Jewish background of a prominent Klansman and American Nazi — contributed a story about the high cost of food at the recently opened 1964-65 World’s Fair.

Wikipedia says the first major student demonstrations against the Vietnam War took place May 3, 1964, in several locations including Times Square. Maybe that got covered in advance somewhere in the Sunday Times.

Perhaps there was a letter from a Stamfordite, or a feature story about Stamford, somewhere in that Sunday’s Times. Again, I’m not sure how my grandpa would have known about that, but maybe some sort of grapevine informed him.

Given the sheer heft of a Sunday Times, I guess it’s impossible for me to surmise what my grandpa would have considered must-read about it. Unless the Internet gods drop a vintage copy in my lap, I’ll probably never know.

(Note to the Internet gods: If you have a copy, try to drop it on me from a low altitude. Catching those Sunday editions upside the head sure does sting.)

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I don’t know that much about the sibling relationship between my dad and my aunt when they were growing up.

I have never heard reference to any great tension; and in any event, the Blumenau household on Hope Street seemed like a pretty low-drama place. So I imagine my dad and his little sister got along well enough.

Except maybe for the occasional dig at each other — like on this week’s calendar entry.

"March 32, 1964."

“March 32, 1964.”

The addition of an extra day to the calendar proves that my grandfather’s puckish sense of humor was passed on to his son. The carefully drawn numbers suggest that my dad also inherited his attention to detail.

As for the wisecrack about the wig-fitter, I have no idea whether that was inspired by a real-life haircut, or was just a big-brotherly twack on the nose. Perhaps my father and aunt remember; perhaps they don’t.

I see Aunt Elaine got a little of her own back the next “day,” underneath the comment about buying presents for Rod’s birthday (roughly two months in the future at that point).  Serves my dad right for getting in a second jab.

I was going to say that this is a rare entry because it shows my dad and aunt seizing total control of the family calendar — generally the terrain of my grandfather.

But my grandpa’s presence makes itself known through the “recess” marking (presumably my dad’s college recess — I bet Aunt Elaine was glad when he went back to school) and a reminder to himself to get a new tailpipe put on my dad’s crungy old Plymouth.

He seems to have taken no notice of his kids’ sniping. Maybe he let it pass by unreproached because it wasn’t interfering with a real calendar day.

Dad and Aunt Elaine, if you want to share any memories of this entry in the comments, please do.

But keep it civil, won’t you?

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Two years ago in this space, I set the scene as a three-generation American family sat around its TV set and met the Beatles.

This week, we watch as the Beatles’ cultural influence — the stamp their words and actions would leave on daily American life — starts to sink in and take root.

It starts with a rare thing among these calendar entries: a direct written exchange between two family members.

Usually these entries are declarative statements, almost always by my grandpa. But here we have actual interaction. (This is like an archaeologist finding the Lascaux cave paintings, and discovering that someone had crossed out all the bulls and re-drawn them.)

February 27 and 28, 1964.

February 27 and 28, 1964.

Something — perhaps two inches of snow, or perhaps a visit by her boyfriend Jess — has motivated my Aunt Elaine to scrawl “YEA” in big blue letters, with a pint-sized “H” added as a humorous coda.

My grandfather, apparently ruffled by such adolescent outbursts, responds, “ERASE THIS IMMEDIATELY!”, with an exclamation point as large as the H in “YEAH” is small. To which my aunt vehemently replies, “NO!”

(And she didn’t erase it, apparently, since here we are 50 years later looking at it under a microscope.)

But the real meat of the story is on the 28th and 29th (and a happy leap year to you, too):

February 28 and 29, 1964.

February 28 and 29, 1964.

Someone has added two more YEAHs (in their compressed form, YA) to the calendar, turning my aunt’s exclamation into that most topical of phrases: “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

Who was it? Not my great-grandma. Not my dad, who — as the calendar indicates — was off at college pounding keg beer on Saturnalia.

I’m guessing not my grandma, just because she didn’t write on the calendar that much. And it wasn’t my aunt, because that’s her handwriting asking, “Is this supposed to be funny?”

That leaves my grandfather … and a scenario falls into place nicely. Here’s a father on the old side of the generational divide, gently needling his daughter on the younger side, evoking something she’s crazy about and that he doesn’t get at all. It’s a nice bit of cross-generational interaction.

But, to come back to where I started, the exchange tells us something else. It tells us that the Beatles, just a few weeks after “meeting” most Americans, were already inescapable.

I’m sure there are parents of Justin Bieber or One Direction fans who can’t sing any of their daughters’ favorite songs. My grandpa’s generation had no such choice in 1964, it appears: Like it or loathe it, everyone had the yeah, yeah, yeah chorus in their ears.

There would be more such choruses to come.

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“The Reverend, Rabbi and Rod” sounds like the start of a walks-into-a-bar joke.

In real life, it was a minor chapter in the long history of community radio … a small part of a nationwide movement to bring popular music into the church … and a curious footnote to a long-ago Christmas.

Put aside your last-minute wrapping, then, and switch on the Wayback Radio. (Are the tubes glowing? Good. We’ll proceed.)

December 25-26, 1964.

December 25-26, 1964.

“The Rev” mentioned above was Rev. E. King Hempel of the North Stamford Congregational Church. The rabbi’s name is lost to history, at least among the Blumenau family.

Together, the men of the cloth hosted a weekly talk show on WSTC-AM, Stamford’s longtime local news and talk radio station.

This sort of Upstanding, Thoughtful Community Programming was once a staple of America’s locally owned, community-focused radio stations. I’m sure this kind of show carries on today in the world of low-budget local radio, interrupted only by the occasional teenage jokester calling in to request “Free Bird.”

(The Interwebs tell me “WSTC” stood for STamford, Connecticut, as indeed it probably did. Radio call letters are a marvelous topic of discussion … there is a station in Massachusetts that will forever be known to me as Wet Porno Love Music. But I digress, big-time.)

“Rod” was my father, a sage 21 years old at the time. He wasn’t a regular panelist on “The Reverend and the Rabbi,” not having the necessary qualifications.

Instead, he was in front of the mic as a special guest, discussing a most contemporary topic — the marriage of worship and popular music.

The day after the Rev., the Rabbi and Rod rocked the mic together, my dad led a special jazz worship service at North Stamford Congregational Church. He pulled together a small combo to play music he wrote himself. (Today he dismisses it as “lousy.” No recording survives.)

An ad for the jazz service. Presumably this hung in Stamford's hipper hangouts.

An ad for the jazz service, courtesy the Rod Blumenau Collection. Presumably this flyer hung in Stamford’s hipper hash dens.

My dad, in a small way, was part of a nationwide movement of musicians looking for ways to combine faith and jazz.

By the mid-’60s, Duke Ellington and Vince Guaraldi were composing and performing in church settings, while John Coltrane, Albert Ayler and others were cutting music that was deeply spiritual, if not directly intended for performance in church.

Tenor saxophonist Ed Summerlin is often credited with pioneering the movement with his 1959 composition Requiem for Mary Jo, which he followed up with similarly themed pieces like Jazz Vesper Services.

Summerlin appeared on national TV in 1960 to discuss his “liturgical jazz,” which leaned more toward the cerebral than the gutbucket. (He also performed, around the same time, at the Methodist church across the street from my grandparents’ house on Hope Street. My dad attended.)

The idea of jazz in church spread quickly. My dad’s band director at Stamford High, Russ Martino, performed a local jazz service in the early ’60s. And Herb Hodgson, the Protestant chaplain at the college my dad attended, was enthusiastic about new ideas. My dad remembers him as “a really cool guy,” a rare accolade for a man of the cloth.

So, in 1963, with Hodgson’s encouragement, my dad rounded up some musician friends at college and performed a musical service of his own at a church in downtown Troy, N.Y. He reprised the music, with some of the same musicians, in Stamford in December 1964.

The idea, he says now, was to promote the legitimacy of jazz as a music capable of expressing spirituality and connecting with a 20th-century audience. (This was much the same point he made on the radio with the Reverend and the Rabbi, too.)

In his words:

I didn’t believe in a religion that said you have to say the same words in the same language as Jesus did, or people in Rome did. I thought you could express your feelings in a modern way. … I thought, “Jazz is legitimate, serious music with which one can contemplate the meaning of life just as much as Bach or Beethoven. Why not?”

There was no burning bush or flash of light … I just thought it would be kind of fun.

# # # # #

The service in Stamford was a special event held in the evening and was promoted as a “Demonstration Service,” which rubbed my dad wrong:

That suggested even E. King wasn’t convinced of my position. In Troy, we did it in a downtown church, and it was their Sunday morning service — take it or leave it.

The faith-jazz trend, as it turned out, would have larger obstacles to overcome than the misgivings of local reverends.

While the movement would produce some memorable recordings, such as Ellington’s first Sacred Concert, jazz’s niche popularity limited its penetration into mainstream church services. By the Seventies, the guitar, not the tenor sax, would become the chosen weapon of preachers trying to reach the masses in Their Own Language.

My dad says:

The fallacy of my reasoning, which I did not realize at the time, is what a small minority of the U.S. population jazz lovers were. I thought jazz represented youth, modernity; in actuality, that died with WWII. Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry represented youth and modernity!

Today many churches feature house bands which play their (amateur) stylistic interpretation of the “music du jour.” Probably a large percentage of their congregation views this music as their own, and therefore, this does a better job of making liturgy more meaningful than jazz ever did.

That doesn’t stop musicians from continuing to bring jazz into churches. My dad performed jazz services many times when I was growing up. Those were blowing sessions, rather than formally programmed liturgical music. And they usually drew a full house or close to it.

The Sixties vision of jazz as a link to the common man will probably never come true.

But if every man prays in his own language, then there seems no reason why jazz can’t be one of them.

# # # #

As a side note, check out my grandpa’s Christmas calendar entry: A record high of 63 degrees on Christmas Day, 1964, followed by 60 degrees the next day.

I doubt that’s still the record, but it’s warm, even by today’s standards. (As I write this, the National Weather Service is calling for a high of 36 degrees in Stamford on Christmas Day 2012.)

My grandfather’s illustrations try to capture a sense of holiday gaiety. I love the intricate blue-and-white ornament; he put some time and effort into that. But the green grass underneath the tree makes it clear this was no white Christmas.

Thanks for reading and have happy holidays, whether they’re green, white or somewhere in between.

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For a year or two, around the turn of the last century, I served as business editor of a daily newspaper in the western suburbs of Boston.

One of the shiny new ideas of those prosperous times was the notion of home grocery delivery. You’d send in your order over this semi-newfangled Internet thingy, and a van would come to your home at a pre-arranged time with your bag of pork chops and canned pineapple slices.

I used to indulge in lengthy debates about this with my technology reporter, a sharp young woman who has since gone much farther in life than I ever will.

She eagerly touted the benefits of having someone else gather and deliver your groceries. In contrast, I said I enjoyed choosing exactly the right red pepper; found such an activity relaxing; and would consider it a defeat to surrender the task to a stranger.

What I didn’t remember at the time — maybe she did — was that the model of home grocery delivery had much deeper roots than the Internet boom. In fact, my grandparents and great-grandma benefited from it.

When it worked, that is.

Sept. 22, 1964.

For some reason, the year of Beatlemania and the Tonkin Gulf Incident was a particularly poor year for milk delivery. (I am presuming that “no milk” on these calendar entries means that none was delivered, not that none was ordered.)

May 11, 1964. A rare contribution in the hand of either my grandma or my great-grandma.

May 19, 1964. I’m pretty sure that’s my great-grandma’s writing.

I’ve never had anything delivered to my door except pizza, wings and Lake Tung Ting shrimp. So the idea is sort of alien to me that people used to open their door in the morning to find a glass jug of milk. I mean, I’ve heard of milkmen (and heard the jokes), but I’ve never really thought about it as a regular part of daily life.

(What did they do during blisterbitchers? Did the stuff ever curdle before anyone could get outside to bring it in? Of course, being Yankees, my grandparents surely would have put it to use anyway.)

According to my dad and aunt, the company my grandparents and great-grandma used to rely on for their dairy needs was Sheffield Farms Dairy, which was part of Sealtest and based about a half-mile away from my grandparents’ house.

My dad remembers:

You left your old bottles (early recycling!) by your front door with a note in the top specifying how much of what you wanted this time.  Initially I only remember two choices – milk and cream. 

Not sure I have my chemistry correct, but I believe the milk was pasteurized but not homogenized, meaning it was safe to drink but the top inch or more in the bottle was cream.  The bottle was filled to the brim and “sealed” with a cardboard insert.  If the milk sat out too long in the winter it began to freeze, and the semi-frozen cream would push the cardboard insert up and out (I’m sure the cardboard was used on purpose so the glass wouldn’t break in case of freezing). 

The frozen cream which came out of the bottle was fair game for kids to eat with a spoon; it tasted like the world’s richest ice cream.

I’m not sure what happened to Sheffield Farms or Sealtest … well, to be more precise, I know what happened, but I don’t know when.

A Google search shows they were still advertising jobs in Stamford’s Springdale neighborhood as late as 1967. Newspaper obituaries from the late ’90s, meanwhile, make reference to “the former Sealtest Dairy” in Stamford. So, at some point between the two dates, Stamfordites had to steel themselves to leaving home and going to get their milk at Stew Leonard’s or Bongiorno’s.

That said, Stamford is an affluent community; and what goes around, comes around.

Another Google search (I rely on Google like my grandparents relied on Sheffield Farms) shows at least three dairies, and possibly more, offering milk delivery to homes in the city.

Quality is now a selling point along with convenience, with the companies advertising the animal- and earth-friendly nature of their milk. They also use insulated drop-off boxes now, which, I imagine, cheat the children of Stamford out of the wintertime treat of frozen cream.

For all I know, the people living in the condos that now occupy the 1100 block of Hope Street might be getting their milk delivered every morning.

They don’t have much in common with my grandparents and great-grandma besides an address. Who would have guessed that a jug of milk on the front stoop might be a common bond?

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