Posts Tagged ‘1983’

Last week, I explored the roots of the Blumenau family’s summer cottage tradition. While I don’t have a calendar entry to go with this post, this seemed like a logical sequel.

A starter cottage, you could definitely call it.

The place on Keuka Lake my parents bought circa 1980-81 was a no-frills spiritual heir to the lake cottage in Becket, Massachusetts, that my dad visited for several summers during his boyhood.

According to lore, the place on Keuka had been built in a week — or was it a weekend? — by a bunch of like-minded, tool-handy amateurs, back in the days before building permits and zoning inspections. Its septic tank, befitting Keuka’s best-known industry, was said to be a repurposed wine barrel.

There was no heat, except for a space heater. Other operating systems were seasonal: The boat rails, the dock and the water pipe went into the lake every cold April and came back out every cold September.


The Blumenau brothers on maintenance duty, 1981, with the bluff of Keuka Lake’s “Y” in the background.

It might not have been quite as shacky as I make it sound. It never fell over, like a house of cards, and had to be rebuilt.

But it lives in my mind as a place of mothballs, must and mice — regular co-tenants that we would occasionally corner, our sneakers in our hands, and beat to death. A place with a secondhand utilitarian funk I’d never experienced and didn’t much like. A place where what was yellow was left to mellow.

(In fairness, it was also a place where I loved to row a rowboat, chill in an inner tube, clamber up hillsides in search of blackberries, burn marshmallows into blackened goo over a fire, and watch Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola call the Game of the Week on staticky Channel 3 from Syracuse.)

Despite the cottage’s isolated funk — or maybe because of it — my folks were glad to invite friends, relatives, and friends of relatives down to share their newfound getaway. They were never eager to get into the rental game, but guests were welcome.

And, in the summer of 1983, my grandparents and great-grandma joined the roster of guests making the trip down.

They were still living on Hope Street in Stamford then. I’m guessing they came to Rochester and then we drove them the rest of the way to Keuka, rather than force them to navigate the backroads of the Finger Lakes.

I didn’t appreciate the significance of their visit at the time. But now that I’ve thought and written about the rented cottage at Becket, it seems cool and appropriate that my dad would invite his folks (and his grandmother) to the lake.

Like a kind of repayment, or a returned favor … with an element of celebration, too.

You guys introduced me to rustic summer getaways, he might have thought. Now I’m fortunate enough to have one of my own, and I’d like you to come share it. Put your feet up and feel the breeze.

It took a little doing to get them there.

Specifically, you had to climb down a steep old set of concrete steps to get from the road to the cottage. My 96-year-old great-grandma was not denied; slowly, with escorts on all sides, she made it down (and up again).

Here, then, a gallery of pix — some my dad’s, some my grandpa’s — from the Hope Street Blumenaus’ trip to that first cottage on Keuka Lake.

Twenty-plus years past Becket, everyone discovered once again that escape from the world is sometimes the only frill you really need.


My great-grandma and grandma on the pitted concrete porch.


Still life with dock.


Grandma gettin’ in deep. (Note the open toolbox next to the boat. This was a frequent sight.)


Me in the rowboat, dressed for the high seas. My brother fishing (illegally — shhh, don’t tell anybody.) Dad in the water.


View from the porch. Looks like a nice day for a sail.


Always looking for painterly inspiration, my grandpa took a bunch of landscape pix around the lake. Some others appeared in this long-ago post, if you want to see more.


Tom and Huck.


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Today we duck in briefly to share something we could not offer yesterday: A picture of a Connecticut Lottery winner.

Jan. 4, 1983. "They told me playing the lottery was a waste of money..."

This is my maternal grandfather — not the guy who kept the calendars, in other words, but my other grandpa.

I think he was a more frequent player of the numbers than my other grandfather was. And on either Dec. 30 or 31, 1982, he lit up the Connecticut Lottery to the tune of $32,000.

(At least, that’s the amount on the check he’s holding a couple of days later. That’s probably after taxes. Not sure what his “announced total” would have been.)

I imagine the lottery got more out of him over the long run than he got out of them. Still, I present his picture just to acknowledge that, every once in a blue moon, people do get lucky.

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The title of today’s post is a reference to this regionally renowned writer. I might have become the next him, if I’d never been to Boston.

Last month, I set out on a rural, rolling New York state highway to fulfill a personal quest.

I was visiting my folks’ cottage on Keuka Lake for possibly the last time, after 30 years of summer visits. (My folks are considering ditching New York for a more competently run and intelligently financed state.)

So I brought a camera with me and spent several hours driving from Penn Yan south to Bath, taking pictures of (mostly mundane) sights and places I remember from all those years. If I wasn’t going to get back there, I was gonna get some stuff down on film, as a lasting record.

I had my grandfather — the ostensible subject of this blog — in mind the whole time, for two reasons.

First, I took most of my pictures with a Pentax K1000 film SLR that used to be his.

K1000s are brilliant machines, as simple and solid as straight razors. While my SLR skills are primitive (I’m not great with straight razors either), I plan to use mine until it is no longer cost-effective to operate, because I like what it is and what it does.

I also knew I was following in my grandpa’s footsteps in terms of subject matter.

About two weeks before I left for Keuka, I looked at a DVD of my grandfather’s old slides, scanned in by my dad. I was surprised to find that my grandfather, in the early 1980s, had already taken some of the pictures I planned to take to capture my Finger Lakes memories.

He took the hell out of ’em, too — he got a gorgeous day and he knew what to do with it. (The day I picked for my shooting journey was overcast, not that that’s any excuse for the pictures I ended up with.)

I tried not to take any picture exactly as my grandfather had. Instead, I tried to capture some images that would preserve my memories and bring the Keuka ambiance to mind.

I think he might have found a few of mine worth considering for the family scrapbook. Here are some of our best. You can click them to enlarge — and his, you’ll want to:

Circa 1983. You can forget about the rest of the gallery and just look at this one if you want.

2011. I imagined this to be an old schoolhouse. I went up close to it and looked through the window; there was a wooden rowboat inside.

Circa 1983.

2011. No lake to be seen, but I like it anyway. Back roads are part of the trip too.

Field of Grass

Circa 1983

2011. You can almost smell the Queen Anne's lace ... if Queen Anne's lace actually smelled like anything, that is.

Circa 1983. View from my folks' dock.

2011. Different dock at a different cottage; similar view. I took this one with a toy plastic camera, hence the vignetting and general lo-fi funk. His pictures are 30 years old and look timeless; mine are two weeks old and look 30.

I suspect I have accomplished little with this exercise except to convince my readers that I’m not a good enough photographer to hold my grandpa’s flashbulb.

Still, if anyone’s inclined to see it, the full photographic record of my Finger Lakes journey can be seen here. I think I’ve nailed down most of the captions so they explain why some of this boring stuff felt to me like it was worth photographing.

My grandfather didn’t need words to explain why he took pictures of something. It shone through when you looked at his prints.

In a world full of people with my grandfather’s talent, there would be no need for writers. Thankfully, only some people have that gift.

The rest of us aspire, and hunt, and peck.

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