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For Richard Nixon, August 1974 was the month when he finally reaped what he’d sown long before.

My grandpa (a Nixon voter) spent that month doing pretty much the same thing.

Except, instead of calumny and disgrace, he had his hands full harvesting a much happier crop:

Tomatoes.

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August 10, 1974. Mets lose, Yanks win.

My grandfather’s calendar entries from early 1974 (such as this one) indicated he had his mind set on a serious year of gardening. He had his eyes on the seed catalogs in February, and he got an early start.

And in August — just after Nixon shuffled off to California in disgrace and Gerald Ford took office — my grandpa began to reap the benefits of his work and attention.

On Aug. 10 — the first day on the calendar that specifically mentions tomatoes — he harvested a dozen, weighing more than seven pounds. On the next day, a Sunday, the haul continued under sunny skies:

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August 11, 1974. Mets lose, Yanks win. Again.

Two days later was his 64th birthday, and he marked it with three more tomatoes weighing a pound and a quarter.

By the end of that week, he’d harvested 18 more tomatoes weighing more than nine pounds. The week after that (Aug. 18-24), he took 82 tomatoes weighing roughly 40 pounds.

(Just how big was his patch? I don’t remember it being that big. But he had a decent-size yard to work with. And in this period of time, he seems to have dedicated himself to working with it.)

My Aunt Elaine and Uncle Steve moved to a new place the following week, which called my grandpa out of town. He made up for it upon returning, picking a one-day record number of tomatoes:

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August 30, 1974. Mets and Yanks both win. President Ford meets Woody Hayes.

The harvest continued at a slightly slower pace into September. In fact, you could technically say it continued into the fall, as the last tomato-related entry shows up a day after the autumnal equinox. (It’s slightly unclear on which day the tomatoes actually got picked, but it doesn’t matter at this distance.)

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September 23-24, 1974. Mets lose. Yankees are swept in a doubleheader, knocking them out of first place, which they will not regain. President Ford meets Bart Starr.

Actually, I take that comment back about the last tomato-related calendar entry: On Oct. 2, the calendar records “100 green T.” Ever thrifty, my grandpa, and not one to let possibly usable tomatoes wither on the vine.

And at the end of October, he did the math and summarized the season’s take:

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October 1974. It is entirely possible my grandpa picked his own weight in tomatoes between Aug. 10 and Oct. 2.

If there’s a downside to this run of calendar entries, it’s that my grandmother almost certainly couldn’t make a marinara, Bolognese or puttanesca sauce worthy of the name.

The idea of all those garden-fresh tomatoes makes the mind reel with recipes, most of them involving olive oil and garlic … but, most likely, the season’s bounty was either eaten raw or put up in jars.

No matter. I’m sure every one of those 347 tomatoes was enjoyed, for flavor, for thrift, and for health.

And I imagine Richard Nixon — ailing and stuck in San Clemente — would have given what little he had that summer and fall to swap harvests with my grandpa.

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Tick.

Tick.

Tick.

I’m imagining the cuckoo clock at 1107 Hope Street counting down the minutes, as the occupants of the house sit quietly locked into small tasks — peeling potatoes, washing dishes, reading Time magazine.

I’d love to imagine them doing something more interesting or significant. Unfortunately, in this week’s post, the silence is the story.

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July 1970. The Mets spend the month in first place. The Yankees start it in second, but drop to third.

There are very few months on my grandpa’s 15 years of surviving calendars where he does not make his presence known.

I’ve mentioned that May and June 1971 were slow months for calendar entries, and for good reason. My grandpa’s heart attack at the start of May laid him up for a while. He wasn’t keeping lots of outside appointments, except with the doctor, and he apparently lost his usual interest in the weather.

July 1970, shown above, was another slow month. Almost half of the days are completely blank. Many others are close to it.

And on some days — such as the 8th, the 19th, 22nd and 23rd — the writing appears to be my grandmother’s, not my grandfather’s. He’s not much in effect until the very last week of the month, when he turns in the kinds of entries that I’ve come to identify as much more his style.

Of course, I wonder why he was so quiet.

I haven’t read day-by-day through the month’s newspapers, but a look at Wikipedia suggests July 1970 was a quiet month on the national scene. No space flights, no assassinations, no increases in the cost of postage, and none of the other stuff that used to make it onto calendars.

I know there were fewer people in the house to generate calendar entries. My dad had long since married and moved out, while my Aunt Elaine — not yet finished with grad school — was apparently in California. You’ll note a visit from Rod and Lynn — my as-yet-childless folks — from the 9th through the 12th, and a phone call from Elaine in Palo Alto on the 19th.

 

That doesn’t explain the near-complete absence of weather, appointments, gasoline prices, long-distance phone calls, church events, meals out, and the million other things my grandpa used to write down, though.

I know he was still working at John McAdams and Sons in Norwalk in the summer of 1970. So he wasn’t out of town all those days in July; he was home and on duty.

(His entries near the end of the month mention a vacation, which we’ve written about before.)

I concocted a theory that John McAdams and Sons had told my grandpa in advance about their plans to let him go at the end of the summer, and the news had depressed him to such an extent that he’d lost interest in his daily routines for a while.

But I don’t think that’s a realistic read. My grandfather was committed to providing for his family, but he wasn’t a wage slave.

It’s also possible that my grandpa was in a funk for no particular reason. I didn’t know him to be depressive, but we can all land there sometimes, and maybe he did.

(His description of the Fourth of July holiday as “CLOUSY” could be interpreted in that direction. It was common for him to note rainy, overcast or depressing weather in straight descriptive terms; it was less common for him to pass any kind of judgment on it.)

All I know for certain is, whatever stilled his hand in July 1970 wasn’t there before or after. I guess that’s a good thing.

Tick.

Tick.

Tick.

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These calendar entries of my grandfather’s aren’t just windows into what was.

From time to time, they’re glimpses into what wasn’t — things that could have become part of the family history, but didn’t in the end.

We’ve looked at the Rambler he didn’t buy, the retirement village he didn’t move into, and the lottery ticket that didn’t make him a millionaire. (More than one of those, actually.)

We’ve got another one of those entries this week featuring an institution that could have been part of the Blumenau family warp and weave, but didn’t make the cut.

Join us in the old Ford, then, on another steaming hot New England summer day. We’re going to visit a college:

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July 17 and 18, 1964. Yanks split two. Mets lose two, the latter in sickening fashion. The 4 Seasons are at Number One, but the Beatles have a hot new one on its way up. Rod’s skin is still around today, with Rod in it, so the tests of the 17th must have come out OK.

Google Maps today shows the University of New Hampshire at three hours and fifty minutes away from Stamford, even with an accident in Hartford and a battalion of work crews blocking the way. Either the highways of 1964 weren’t what they are today, or similar long-ago impediments got in my grandpa’s way.

This was my aunt’s trip, so I’ll turn to her to lay out the basic information:

Yes, I visited the University of New Hampshire in the summer of 1964. I was interested in the education program there, so Drawing Boy, your grandma, and a friend who was also interested in the school took a ride there to check it out. I recall the campus was beautiful!

My friend wound up going to UNH and the New England setting was great for her skiing enthusiasm. I chose Southern Connecticut State because I was looking for more urban education programs.

I couldn’t tell you if it was the best choice, but it was the right choice at the time! As I have said previously, college choice was not the huge deal then that it is now!

(As the parent of a soon-to-be high school senior, I can attest that college choice is indeed a huge deal now, and will only get huger between now and next March or so. Maybe I am making too much of it.)

What did my aunt miss by not going to UNH from 1965-69? Let’s see:
– A mob of 2,000 students pelted 20 pacifists with eggs.
– Sargent Shriver spoke on campus, telling students: “There is only one war and we are all in it. It is the same war in Watts as it is in Vietnam. … The war for human dignity and human rights is going on everywhere.”
– Also speaking at UNH: Labor leader Walter Reuther; U.S. Sen. Wayne Morse; poet Stephen Spender; political theorist Hannah Arendt; and socially active priest Father James Groppi.
– Performers on campus included the Shirelles, cellist Janos Starker, and the Juilliard String Quartet.
– The hockey team was pretty good; the football team won some and lost some.
– The Public Service Company of New Hampshire announced plans to build one of New England’s first nuclear power plants in Newington, about seven miles from Durham. (The plan was shelved, then resuscitated in the early ’70s farther down the coast in Seabrook. It became the site of extensive anti-nuclear protests.)
– People attending UNH during that time included Carlton Fisk; future New Hampshire Gov. Steve Merrill; actor Michael Ontkean, who played on the hockey team; college football coach George O’Leary; and television producer Marcy Carsey.

(Some of the above info comes from Wiki, while other tidbits come from back issues of the Granite, the UNH yearbook, helpfully digitized by the university library. The rant that opens the 1967 yearbook, in particular, is a hoot — though it probably hits home to the members of the Class of ’67.)

After graduating from Southern Connecticut State, my aunt went to grad school at Boston University. I eventually chose to go to BU as well.

Since that visit in July of 1964, the closest the University of New Hampshire has come to being part of the Blumenau family story has been to serve as the target of boos and jeers at the BU hockey games I attended long ago.

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I’m scheduled to go back to New England in a few weeks for — yup — a couple of college visits. UNH is not on the agenda, so it looks like another generation of Blumenaus is passing up whatever charms it has to offer.

As I tour the various campuses, I’ll be wondering in the back of my mind which one becomes part of the family’s life, and which ones will end up as a footnote many years from now.

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Rather than one long disquisition this week, we’ll make a couple of stops, beginning with a subject we touched on last time around.

My post on the Pink Tent Festival, an annual arts festival held in downtown Stamford’s Mill River Park in the ’60s and ’70s, raised but did not answer the question of whether my grandpa ever had his paintings displayed there.

A little more calendar digging suggests he did:

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June 24, 1974. Mets win, Yanks lose, Phillies in first (what?)

“Koreen” was a family nickname for my grandma, Corine.

Longtime readers will recognize that June 24, 1974, would have been a birthday ending in five or zero for her … hence the dinner out at Chimney Corners, which longtime readers might also remember hearing about.

But what catches my eye here is the mention of “art delivery” at the Pink Tent trailer at two points during the day. (While I didn’t take a pic, the adjoining calendar entry for June 30 mentions “art pickup.”)

I’m taking that to mean that my grandpa must have had a painting or two on exhibit at a significant local arts festival, since he had art dropoff and pickup marked on his calendar.

That’s pretty cool. My grandfather flew the flag for the enthusiastic (and not unskilled) amateur, and I’m glad to know that an event like Pink Tent had space for the likes of him alongside more commercially successful artists.

I also enjoy the thought of thousands of culture-minded Stamfordites strolling through the festival, taking a look at his work, regardless of what they thought of it.

What’s more, I remember that his year-end roundup of art expenses for 1974 mentions two art sales. I wonder if either of them took place at Pink Tent? Maybe he picked up less than he dropped off.

Cool, anyway.

# # # # #

From there, we’ll make two more stops over the following weeks, just for giggles.

The first will be the Fourth of July, which landed on a Thursday that year (making for a super-convenient, beer-soaked, heat-stroked four-day holiday weekend):

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July 4, 1974. Mets win, Yanks split a doubleheader, Phillies already back down to third place.

This is what a Fourth of July is supposed to be. It’s wretchedly hot, there’s fireworks, and there’s a picnic of some sort.

(The “J’s” were my maternal grandparents, who also lived in Stamford. There must have been a big family get-together over there, probably full of corn and burgers and macaroni salad. Indeed, I feel full of corn and burgers and macaroni salad just thinking about it.)

And finally, the end of the vacation:

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July 8, 1974. Mets and Yanks win; Phillies in second.

I’m writing this on Father’s Day (I sometimes write these entries a week or two in advance.)

While days like Father’s Day tend to focus on Life-Changing Teachings and Formative Moments, this entry strikes me as one of the thousands of smaller-scale times when fathers (and mothers) earn their stripes.

We’re looking at a more than six-hour interstate road trip in a big hot car with two little kids, one three-and-a-half years old, the other just turned one. I don’t know how gracefully my parents got through it, but they did, and that’s as much a credit to them as any Big Lesson they conveyed.

Perhaps my grandpa watched them leave and remembered when he’d been the boss of similar trips, back in the day … and he wondered how the boy in his back seat had gotten to be thirty-plus years old with two kids of his own.

Or maybe he just went back inside and opened a cold bottle of 7-Up and thought, “Damn, it’s hot.”

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If the longtime Stamfordites in the audience want to chip in with personal memories on this entry, I’d welcome it.

Without that, we’re grasping at fragments and guesses — a wisp of wind-blown music here, the sound of thoughtful chatter there, a glimpse of paintings hanging, the feeling of damp grass underfoot, and big tents dyed an improbable hue.

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June 28, 1973. Mets and Yanks don’t win. Neither does lottery ticket 60688.

Every community worth its salt needs an annual festival of the arts (if not a couple annual festivals of the arts).

You know, the sort of thing that has bands and paintings and photos and craft booths and maybe food stands. The kind of event that draws both hardcore culture vultures, and everyday people just looking for a nice afternoon out.

Stamfordites of a certain age might remember the Pink Tent Festival as just such an event. It was originally held in Stamford’s downtown Mill River Park from 1968 through 1976.

(The sense I get from the Internet is that the park was on the run-down side, and the event was a way to put it to use and get more people to go there, but I could be wrong about that. Online searches also suggest that the tents that housed the festival were, in fact, pink.)

If you scroll down to the text box at the bottom of this page, you’ll get some idea of what the last original Pink Tent Festival involved.

The newspaper writeup cites four nights and two days of continuous arts performances; movies; crafts; flower art; special Bicentennial exhibits; and a tent with artists from throughout the Tri-State Region selling their work “in the Greenwich Village style.”

That last component makes me wonder whether my grandpa had his own work shown at the Pink Tent Festival — either in 1973, or some other year.  I don’t know how high the bar was set, and how serious an artiste one had to be to be included; it’s possible he didn’t make the grade.

My grandpa’s calendars indicate he also planned to visit the Pink Tent Festival in 1972 and 1974. There’s no mention of it from 1968-71 or in 1975, and his 1976 calendar does not survive.

After 1976, he was out of chances. According to the New York Times, that year’s Pink Tent Festival drew 50,000 people. However, the city Parks Department refused to grant permits for subsequent events unless organizers posted bonds against damage.

Some online searching suggests the name was revived for later events; it doesn’t appear that it’s still in use today.

There’s also been a Stamford Festival of the Arts set up since the end of Pink Tent. (In these municipal minutes from 1983, city officials seem to refer to Pink Tent and the Festival of the Arts more or less interchangeably.)

Mill River Park, meanwhile, has gotten a multimillion-dollar makeover since the last pink tent was struck, including the replacement of 100 cherry trees removed as part of the restoration of the river. It sounds like a nice place now, nicer than it was when my grandpa visited.

More than that I cannot add … but again, if you’re out there, and you remember the Pink Tent Festivals, do consider leaving a comment. They were a short-lived tradition, but it seems they’re not entirely forgotten.

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