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Posts Tagged ‘connecticut’

This past week marked the 62nd anniversary of the first issue of Sports Illustrated — the magazine that became must-read fare for American sports fans, despite being ridiculed by Time Inc. highbrows who called it names like Jockstrap and Sweat Socks.

My grandfather the Time Inc. employee, perhaps attuned to the great possibilities ahead, saved not only that first issue from August 1954 …

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Wes Westrum of the Giants, catching, was the Giants’ manager at the time of SI’s 20th anniversary in August 1974. Eddie Mathews of the Braves, at bat, managed the Braves in 1972-74 but didn’t quite make it to the anniversary: He was fired in late July.

… but also the first of several pre-production mockups, or “dummies,” from the previous December.

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Not a swimsuit in sight.

The SI saga is interesting enough … but really, an enterprise as entrenched and successful as SI doesn’t need me to tell its story.

Instead, we’ll look at a note from my grandfather’s personal journal, which documents a different, less successful Henry Luce magazine venture … one that my grandpa never bothered saving souvenir copies of.

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This journal entry was clearly revisited and revised several times; I’m assigning it a date of 1964, for reasons that will become apparent.

I’d heard of Time Inc.’s Big Four publications – Time, Life, Fortune and SI — three of which continue to publish today.

I wasn’t familiar with Architectural Forum, but its name made it easy enough to imagine — a specialized trade journal. (The New York Times’ obit of Luce said he bought Architectural Forum in 1932 because he was interested in the field.)

But what was House & Home? Was it a lifestyle and decorating magazine, of the sort that are a dime a dozen on today’s magazine racks? Did Henry Luce pioneer a publication America wasn’t ready for, but has since come to crave?

The answer turned out to be … no.

Various sources, including the obit linked above, indicate that House & Home was spun out of Architectural Forum in 1952. The new title was aimed at the building trade, not at home decorators. It targeted the booming residential construction market, while the older title continued to focus on commercial construction.

Time announced the new magazine’s arrival in January 1952 with a characteristically backwards-written blurb: “To more than 100,000 subscribers this week went a brand-new magazine : HOUSE & HOME, ‘for those who plan, build, buy, sell or finance new houses.’ “

And 10 years later, a full-page ad in Luce’s Life magazine touted House & Home as “the management magazine of America’s biggest industry,” full of house plans, construction products and methods, financing information, and other dope that would help professionals “design, build, finance, supply and sell houses that won’t be obsolescent before the first owner moves in.

(The cover of one issue, from April 1955, can be seen here.)

It actually sounds like an old issue of House & Home might be an interesting read, the way insider snapshots from the past sometimes are.

And, given all the houses that got built in America during those years, one would think such a magazine would thrive.

But it didn’t. Or, at least, it didn’t do well enough to be worth keeping around in the Time empire.

According to Luce’s obit, House & Home was sold to McGraw-Hill in 1964, the same year Architectural Forum was folded.

(The two decisions were apparently made separately — see how my grandpa reduced the number of Time titles from six, to five, to four.)

The name House & Home is still being used today, but the focus on the building trade was abandoned somewhere along the line. The current publication is very much in the mass-market home design tips-and-tricks bag, with a sideline in celebrity headlines like “Can You Believe A Jonas Brother Built This Jersey Home?”

Given the power of Henry Luce’s publishing empire back in the ’50s and ’60s, I wonder if Time Inc. could have created or defined the kind of home magazine America eats up today.

I’m sure ladies’ magazines over the decades have offered plenty of decorating tips, and Time would not have been the first publisher to enter the genre.

Still, since Luce and Co. dominated the newsmagazine and sports magazine fields, one imagines they could have owned home design and lifestyle as well, with a little bit of vision. All those new suburban homes could have been ripe targets for a well-pitched publication.

On the other hand, given the internal resistance to Sports Illustrated, imagining Time Inc. entering the home-design field might be farcical.

A company that scoffed at the idea of a magazine with Y.A. Tittle on the cover would probably have laughed itself hoarse at a cover piece on “Redecorating Your Farmhouse Colonial.”

So, who knows. Opportunities that seem evident in the rearview mirror are not always evident at the time.

Just ask the Time bigwigs who probably went to their graves thinking of Sports Illustrated as “Sweat Socks.”

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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.

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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 …

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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.)

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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1963 was a pretty good year — dare one say, a high-water mark? — in the history of American beach culture.

The summer of ’63 has been pegged as the birth of the beach party movie trend, with the movie “Beach Party” leading the way.

The third of three Gidget movies was in theaters that summer too, and the third of six original Gidget novels could be found in bookstores.

On the radio, The Beach Boys were churning out Top Ten singles and albums, like the anthemic “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” “Surfer Girl” and “Be True To Your School.”

Lesser California acts had a pretty good summer too. In the week ending July 20, 1963, Jan and Dean’s “Surf City” (co-written by the ubiquitous Brian Wilson) became the first surf song to hit U.S. Number One.

In that sand- and sun-kissed summer, the Blumenau family of Hope Street was fortunate enough to have an ocean close to home. And while they weren’t surfin’, like Cal-i-for-ni-a, they enjoyed escaping the summer heat with a sedate, well-covered trip to the seaside.

This week we go with them to a semi-historic location that’s still around, and is probably packed as you read this:

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July 3-4, 1963. Yanks win and stay in first; Mets lose and stay in last.

A town or two up the coast from Stamford is Sherwood Island State Park, in the town of Westport.

According to various sources, the park on Long Island Sound was Connecticut’s first state park, with the first land purchases beginning more than 100 years ago. You can swim, picnic, bird-watch and fish there.

You can also see the New York skyline from parts of the park, which only adds to its summery appeal.

Nothing makes a cold lemonade taste sweeter, or a breath of sea air feel more refreshing, than seeing the sweltering city a stone’s throw away and knowing you’re not stuck there in a fourth-floor walkup or a traffic jam.

(On a more somber note, local residents gathered at the park on 9/11 to watch the aftermath of the attacks, and the part of Sherwood Island that faces Manhattan is now home to a living memorial to those who lost their lives that day. Having noted that, we return to the beach-crazed Camelot summer of ’63.)

What did the Blumenaus of Hope Street do at Sherwood Island on July 3, 1963?

The family’s worldly-wise 20-year-old son smoked a cigar, for one thing …

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Sorry, Dad. Love ya, but I have no idea what the hell you’re doing in this pic.

… they ate marshmallows …

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My dad appears to be playing chubby bunny here.

… and, they ate 39-cent Wise potato chips.

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My dad and aunt wore their bathing suits, and no doubt they enjoyed the water. I’m guessing my grandfather didn’t feel like bringing his camera down to the seashore to get pix. Didn’t want to risk getting salt water in the works, most likely.

This was not the family’s first or only visit to Sherwood Island; the pic below was labeled “Probably Sherwood Island ’58” by my dad, and shows my grandpa in full beachside grilling mode.

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It’s fun being the paterfamilias sometimes. God forbid you cook your hot dogs directly over the coals, though.

I’m not near a beach this holiday weekend, but these pictures bring back the feeling of sand in sneakers, and the cries of birds, and the sweep of tides … without the hassle of finding a beachside parking spot. A pretty sweet deal, all in all.

Pardon me while I put on some Beach Boys …

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my grandfather’s purchase of his first car, a brand-new 1949 Ford Fordor sedan.

I’m gonna duck back to that for a couple more seconds, to share another memento that shows what the big day meant to my grandpa.

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My dad was kind enough to scan this in from the family photo scrapbook my grandfather was keeping in the late ’40s.

The treatment given to the arrival of the new car was “bigger than anything else save for the arrival of Elaine and me,” my dad says.

(Regular readers here will recognize that my grandpa pulled out the explosion motif only for big occasions. He must truly have seen this as a major addition to the family. Did people in other countries get so excited about their cars, or was it just an American thing?)

It’s probably a trick of perspective, but the Fordor — touted in its own catalog as “a living room on wheels” and “a big car” — really doesn’t look that big to me, especially in the first of the two pictures.

I’m not going to go so far as to look up comparative wheelbase lengths, but the Fordor to my eyes looks almost … midsize. Maybe it’s a function of the car’s clean design. Or maybe you just had to be there.

All I know is, other cars that showed up in the Hope Street driveway over the years looked a whole lot bigger than that one.

Summer 1963: Imported from Detroit.

Oh, hi again, Dad.

Which leads into another Hope Street observation my dad made: You’ll notice the driveway in the 1949 pictures is pure grass, because no car had troubled it for any length of time.

When my dad got his first car — circa summer 1963, shown above — the back part of the driveway at Hope Street had been worn down to ruts. (The front section closest to the house and street was paved, but the back half never was.)

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July 1983. Behind me you can see the point where the pavement stopped and the ruts took over.

One last family note: You’ll see (especially if WordPress allows the photo to be expanded) that the first license plate number Connecticut bestowed on my grandpa was JR-932.

My grandpa saved all his license plates over the years, as well as the little punched-out metal tags that were placed on them as yearly registration markers. And when his grandson came along with an interest in cars and history, they got passed down.

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(I’m not sure this plate was actually used in 1956; I vaguely recall mixing and matching the metal tags off my grandpa’s old plates once when I was a kid.)

I enjoy the thought of my grandfather looking through a parking lot — outside work, or at his kids’ school, or at the commuter rail station — and his eyes lighting on JR 932, and his simultaneously feeling a small swell of pride and the comfortable recognition of, yup, that’s mine.

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It is Saturday, April 30, 1949. The Yanks are already in first; the Giants and Dodgers are not far back.

It’s a slow news day. There’s not much in regional papers except wire-service dispatches related to Communism and post-World War II Europe, and not particularly meaty dispatches at that. In one piquant news item, the wife of a G.I. shaves the head of her husband’s 18-year-old German girlfriend and douses her with acid.

The NATO defense alliance is roughly one month old. So is Gil Scott-Heron. The revolution is not being televised, but other things are: Arturo Toscanini has recently conducted Aida on NBC live from Rockefeller Center, while Milton Berle is three weeks away from landing on the cover of Time magazine. (Eugene Dennis, general secretary of the Communist Party of the U.S., is on this week’s cover.)

In New Canaan, Conn., a 38-year-old family man from nearby Stamford is registering himself as a firm supporter of capitalism. He’s signing papers, handing over checks, and achieving a core piece of the American dream.

His own wheels.

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As shown on the receipt below, this is the payment for license plates (“markers”), not for the full car.

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This was definitely my grandpa’s first new car; it may have been his first car of any kind. (You’ll note no mention of a used car on the receipt.)

Either way, I’m sure he was thrilled to take delivery.

For one thing, he had two young children, and he certainly wanted to move his family in safety and style.

For another, he’d been waiting for this car for a while. A handwritten sheet of his notes — yeah, that got saved too — suggests he’d put down a $100 deposit on his car two months before. I bet he spent plenty of time between February 5 and April 30 daydreaming about his new ride.

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Some time ago, I wrote a post wondering if any examples of my grandparents’ stationery still existed. The answer: Yes.

So what did he spend, and what did he drive away in?

$1,757 in 1949 money equals roughly $17,580 in today’s money, according to online inflation calculators. That’s more or less the MSRP for a brand-new Ford Focus sedan today. So, it’s good to know that the cost of a relatively low-frills family hauler bought straight off the lot maybe hasn’t gone up that much.

But, while today’s Ford Focus makes at least an attempt to be sporty, efficient and maneuverable, its 1949 equivalent proudly advertised itself as “a living room on wheels!”

Seriously, see for yourself:

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Ah, for the days when a car could be advertised as “as deep and comfortable as your sofa.”

It’s easy to jab at the styles of the past, but the Ford Fordor sedan (the coupe, inevitably, was called the Tudor) was actually a fairly exciting item in ’49. According to Wikipedia, the ’49 Ford line was the first all-new design introduced by the Big Three automakers after World War II.

Wiki goes so far as to say that the popular and attractive ’49 design saved the struggling company, and that 100,000 orders were taken on the cars’ first day of availability. I wonder if my grandpa’s order was among them.

Judging from his notes, he was torn between black, Midland Maroon and Sea Mist Green. He chose black. Based on a review of the paint chips, I would have picked the maroon, myself. But, it’s easy to jab at the styles of the past.

I also note that he sprung for a heater, but not for a radio. This is consistent with his later behavior: The car he drove 40 years later when I was in high school didn’t have a radio either. He liked music fine, but not while he was driving, apparently.

Unfortunately, he did not leave behind any notes on why he chose Ford over a number of other American automakers.

I’ve written many times about his loyalty to Fords, which continued until the early 1980s. That loyalty would have started here, in the spring of 1949, but I don’t know the reasons behind it. Maybe the brand-new style got him started as a customer and build quality kept him there.

Finally, I always enjoy Googling the landmarks of my grandpa’s time and seeing what’s going on there now.

You can’t buy a Ford at the intersection of Forest Street and Locust Avenue in New Canaan any more; but you can, if the New York Times is to be believed, dine quite nicely on brick-oven pizza and Italian nosh-plates.

An online search finds New Canaan Motor Sales carrying on into the early ’60s. I’m guessing the dealership changed its name at some point, but I don’t know what it became or how long it lasted.

(Back in the ’50s, New Canaan Motor Sales used to advertise at the Talmadge Hill commuter rail station in New Canaan — the next station up the line from Springdale, and a location my grandpa photographed some years later. Perhaps the auto ad along the platform in my grandpa’s photo is for some dealership descended from New Canaan Motor Sales. Alas, the photo gets no larger.)

Talmadge Hill station, February 1970.

Talmadge Hill station, February 1970. This seems like a good place to stop.

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