Posts Tagged ‘massachusetts’

Tired of going to the beach yet?

This week, we’re going to follow the Hope Street Blumenaus on vacation again.

This time, they’re headed inland — on one of a series of trips that, I think, would have a lasting influence on my family’s life.


On the world stage, the first few days of August 1962 are starcrossed.

They will be Nelson Mandela’s last days of freedom for nearly three decades: The South African anti-apartheid activist is arrested Aug. 5 and remains imprisoned until early 1990.

They are also Marilyn Monroe’s last days of life. Sometime on the evening of Saturday, Aug. 4, the screen icon takes a fatal overdose of barbiturates at her home in Los Angeles.

Drugs also prove the undoing of Tusko, a 14-year-old male elephant at the Oklahoma City Zoo, who dies a seemingly bizarre and unnecessary death on Aug. 3 after researchers inject him with a megadose of LSD. (The researchers were trying to simulate a state of temporary madness that affects male elephants.)

Other matters that will change the world are simmering this week, but not yet ready to break.

CIA Director John McCone is, presumably, gathering evidence this week and building an argument on an important national security matter. On Friday, Aug. 10, McCone will send President Kennedy a memo raising his suspicion that the Soviet Union is putting missiles in Cuba.

Distinguished meteorologist Harry Wexler is looking ahead this week to an upcoming talk about the possible effects of chlorofluorocarbons on the ozone layer. Unfortunately, he won’t get to deliver it: He dies Saturday, Aug. 11, while vacationing on Cape Cod. It’s later suggested that Wexler’s death is a significant setback to the issue of ozone layer depletion; the first scientific papers on the subject are not published until 1974.

And in England, a young man named Pete Best is approaching his two-year anniversary as drummer with the Beatles, one of the most popular “beat” groups on the Liverpool scene and recent recipients of an EMI recording contract. Best will be sacked on Thursday, Aug. 16; none of the rich and often conflicting lore that has arisen around the Beatles suggests that he saw it coming.

In the midst of all this, the Blumenaus of Hope Street, Stamford, Connecticut, are not on Hope Street. They’re getting away from the increasingly crazy world in a little corner of the Berkshires.

Becket Cottage.jpg

Becket, Massachusetts, is a small town southeast of Pittsfield, near the edge of Berkshire County. (Mapquest puts it at about two hours and 45 minutes from Stamford.)

I’ve not been there that I can recall, but from the sound of things, it’s a nice woodsy place where camps and cottages mingle with artists’ colonies.

In the ’50s and ’60s, a guy with the marvelously euphonious name of Heimo “Hoot” Huhtanen and his wife Olive owned a cottage on Center Lake (a.k.a. Center Pond) in Becket.

My grandmother was an old friend of Olive Huhtanen’s, and through that connection, the Blumenaus of Hope Street sometimes rented the cottage.

From the looks of it, it was no-frills but cozy, with boating, swimming, walking in the woods, and lying in the sun the chief attractions.

Becket 23


Becket 21.jpg

Swimming. (FWIW, these pix are from a visit in the late ’50s sometime, not August 1962. The place didn’t change too much, I don’t think.)

Becket 26.jpg

Walking in the woods. There’s the conical (not comical) sun hat again.

Corine and John

Lying in the sun. (My grandma is enjoying the collected short stories of John Steinbeck.)

My dad recalls the place thusly:

Yes, Becket was pretty basic.  The terlet was essentially a large porta-potty, which we had to take out to a specific site in the woods every day and empty.  And there was no running water; perhaps you’ve seen the picture of Elaine or me pumping the water.  But it was a great vacation cottage; I loved it.  And the old AM radio could get stations all over the eastern U.S. at night; I specifically remember listening to Albany and Troy stations as a portent of things to come.  Great stone fireplace where Drawing Boy would make a fire and make popcorn.

June 19, 2011: Dads.

Let a man come in and do the popcorn.


My aunt on pump duty.

I suspect the Huhtanens’ cottage in Becket planted seeds in my dad’s mind regarding the pleasures and relaxing possibilities of a vacation cottage.

In the early 1980s, as a grown man with a family and a corporate job, he bought his own cottage in the Finger Lakes of central New York. He didn’t feel like renting it, so he sought to get as much out of it as he could; and it became a regular part of my family’s summer weekends to spend time at the lake when I was growing up.

(I don’t know if he gave any thought to buying in western Massachusetts. Probably not; it’s too far from Rochester for a relaxing weekend trip.)

A few years later, seeking more comforts and fewer hassles, my folks sold the first cottage and bought a nicer one. And just a year or two ago, they sold up in Rochester and moved to the Finger Lakes full-time.

So, that first week in August 1962 — as well as other, earlier visits to Becket — would shape the next generation of Blumenaus’ routines and experiences.

I didn’t take to roughing it as comfortably as my dad did, and I never enjoyed the place in the Finger Lakes as much as he did. So I don’t have a summer place of my own, either owned or rented.

But my kids have always enjoyed going to see their grandparents at the Finger Lakes. So maybe someday they will get away to a shack on the water, and the tradition of Becket will leap a generation and continue.

The lake in Becket is still there, of course, but the cottage that helped to start all this may be lost to history. My dad, again:

Went back there a few years ago, circled the whole damn lake and couldn’t find the cottage.  Probably just as good; it lives best in my memory!


Read Full Post »

I don’t know much about my grandpa’s dating history, which is fine with me; I don’t need or want to know that.

I do know that — no matter what was going on in the real world — my grandpa went through a period when women were an ongoing source of inspiration at his artist’s table.

I believe most if not all of these drawings date to the mid-1930s, many years before the Hope Street calendars, and before my grandpa got married or moved to Stamford. (He was living in Springfield, Mass., then.)

He did an occasional side business as a commercial artist, and some of the drawings below might have been made for that purpose. Others might have been made as part of art classes.

And others … well, who knows? Bill Blumenau was a red-blooded young man, and maybe he just liked to make beautiful dames appear out of the air.

A gallery, then, of The Women Of Bill Blumenau:

The geometric quality of this one -- is that the right word? -- leads me to wonder if it began life as a class drawing exercise.

The geometric quality of this one — is that the right word? — leads me to wonder if it began life as a class drawing exercise. (Sorry for the intrusive folds in some of these pictures, but they’ve been folded up for 80 years.)


This one, meanwhile, looks like a rough sketch of something a florist might have commissioned -- or something my grandpa sketched out in hopes of selling to a florist.

This one, meanwhile, looks like a rough sketch of something a florist might have commissioned — or something my grandpa sketched out in hopes of selling to a florist.


Wonder what 19-year-old this was meant for? It's clearly a rough sketch, yet at the same time, he sketched in the woman's body pretty extensively.

Wonder what 19-year-old this was meant for? It’s clearly a rough sketch, yet at the same time, he shaded in the woman’s body pretty extensively.


This face, with its heavy lids and puckered mouth, looks like an exaggerated version of the face in the florist ad mockup above. (Which leads to another thought: I imagine most of these faces are based on pix of actresses clipped from magazines, not on real-life models. Can any movie buffs in the audience tell me if any of these sketches look like famous actresses of the day?)

This face, with its heavy lids and puckered mouth, looks like an exaggerated version of the face in the florist ad mockup above. (I imagine most of these faces are based on pix of actresses clipped from magazines, not on real-life models. Can any movie buffs in the audience tell me if any of these sketches look like famous actresses of the day?)


This one's pretty; not sure what else to say about it.

This one’s pretty; not sure what else to say about it.


The only dated picture in the collection: Sept. 24, 1933.

The only dated picture in the collection: Sept. 24, 1933.


The image of a woman as a perfect factory-produced good just waiting to be unwrapped would not play well with the women I've known. Times change.

The image of a woman as a perfect factory-produced good, unsullied in any way and just waiting to be unwrapped, would not play well with the women I’ve known. Times change.


A couple of dance-related sketches, now.

A couple of dance-related sketches, now.



Finally, my grandpa illustrated at least one catalog for Foerster’s Furriers, a long-ago Springfield business. There’s nothing particularly distinctive about these drawings — neither Foerster nor my grandpa wanted to break new ground, apparently. But, they still seem like suitable additions to the Gallery of Dames.





Read Full Post »

It’s been a pleasure over the past few years to acquaint total strangers in cyberspace with people who were dear to me.

It’s also been interesting, from time to time, to acquaint myself with people in my family I never really got to know — as in this entry from a few years ago, and this one and this one as well.

We’ll do that again this week, as we step back in time 46 years to the funeral of a relative I wish I could have met.

March 13, 1969.

March 13, 1969.

Bob Kidd would have been my great-uncle, had we lived at the same time; but he could have been my grandfather.

Back in the ’30s in Springfield, Mass., Bob dated a young lady named Corine Wambolt. Then he decided that Corine’s more outgoing older sister Eleanor was more his type, and transferred his affections.

Corine went on to marry a draftsman named Bill Blumenau — the guy who kept the calendars — and, years later, became my grandmother. Bob Kidd and Eleanor also got married, had two sons, and settled in the Springfield area.

Bob and Eleanor on their wedding day, November 1940.

Bob and Eleanor on their wedding day, November 1940.

My dad’s description of his uncle:

Bob Kidd was a fun-loving, athletic, bright, truly funny man. Had kind of a New England nasal way of speaking. Self-made man. Worked for Holyoke Wire & Cable (I believe). High school graduate; was at one point a time-and-motion study person (forerunner of an industrial engineer), and ended up as a vice-president.

(Ancestry.com tells me that Bob’s Scottish-born father, Charles MacEwan Kidd, entered the U.S. from Canada in March 1911 through Rochester, New York — a city that would pop up again in Blumenau family affairs 55 years later. Coincidental, but interesting.)

The Blumenau and Kidd families spent time together fairly regularly when my dad and aunt were growing up. My dad still holds fond memories of those days, and of his funny, fun-loving uncle:

He and Eleanor were a great match; two of a kind. It was always fun to get together with them and our cousins.  Nice, decent, grounded Methodist folks, just a heck of a lot livelier and more fun than the Blumenaus!
The only time my father had beer was with Sunday dinner and whenever we got together with the Kidds.
Bob Kidd hula-hooping, 1958, at 1107 Hope Street.

Bob Kidd hula-hooping, 1958, at 1107 Hope Street. Can’t say whether beer was involved.

Nice, nice people. (This is my dad talking, again.)
Eleanor and Bob Kidd at my parents' wedding, July 1967.

Eleanor and Bob Kidd at my parents’ wedding, July 1967. Jeez, don’t they look happy?

Unfortunately, by my dad’s telling, the stresses of a vice-president’s job wore hard on Bob; my dad describes him as “more high-strung than he used to be” in his last years. Like most men of his age and time, he also smoked.

Both of these things might have contributed to his early death. On March 10, 1969, Bob Kidd died of a cerebral hemorrhage at 54.

My grandpa took it hard. My dad, who still remembers the phone call, has a few regrets regarding his passing as well:

I will forever feel guilty for not making that funeral; I had a bad cold and my ’66 Mustang was acting up with carburetor problems and I apparently had my priorities in the wrong place.  Uncle Bob was a great guy!

Clearly, from his calendar entry, my grandfather, grandma and aunt (who was in college in New Haven at the time) attended the service. He was not so grief-stricken that he couldn’t keep track of his mileage; but I don’t take that as a sign that the day was not meaningful to him.

My great-aunt Eleanor is still alive at 102, and has had the pleasure of meeting grandchildren and, I think, great-grandchildren as well.

I am sure she still feels her loss of 46 years ago. But, if it is any consolation, her husband is fondly remembered by those who met him.

And some who didn’t.

Read Full Post »

My dad sent me the photo below as a follow-up to yesterday’s post. (You remember, the one about my grandfather going to see his old friend Fred Dearborn perform.)

This was taken in August 1959 at Lake George, in the central Massachusetts town of Wales. It was my dad’s only trip to Lake George, which was a favorite hangout of my grandpa and his friends when he lived in Springfield.

My dad believes the shorter, balding man in the back row is Fred Dearborn, and his wife and mother are both seated in the front row.

Lake George, Wales, MA 1959

This also happens to be a superb picture of my grandfather, who is seated in the front row, smiling as if he owned the place.

Lake George, DB Wales, MA 1959

Read Full Post »

OK, I’m probably the 3,000th amateur genealogist-slash-pop music geek to use that post title in the past week. Sorry ’bout that.

I spend most weeks cobbling together images of the past from whatever materials I can find — a calendar entry here; a family photo there; a snatch of personal reminiscence; maybe a YouTube video or an old newspaper story if they’re relevant.

But once in a while I get served up a big bright shining detailed picture of how things were.

When that happens, I just stand back and try to take it all down.

I got one of those pictures last week, when the National Archives released digitized images from the 1940 U.S. Census. It’s not every day you get access to a door-to-door, hand-gathered portrait of America, taken in the minutest possible detail.

Of course, the 1940 Census predates by many years the period I usually cover on this blog — January 1961 to December 1975, the years for which we have my grandpa’s old calendars.

But, format and strict definitions be damned. There was no way I wasn’t looking up my family in those records.

It’s not easy, not yet anyway. The information is sorted solely by census enumeration districts, and there might be dozens of those in any good-sized community. Unless you know your ancestors’ address — which can be used to find their census district — you’re best off waiting until a name-searchable database is built.

Thankfully, my dad knew the address of the apartment my grandpa and my great-grandmother shared back in that time period.

And in Census Enumeration District 22-113 within the city of Springfield, Massachusetts … on page 29 of 46 … all at once was I, several stories high, finding them on the street where they lived.

25 Rochelle Street. Roughly halfway down, between the Murphys and the Steeres.

Some of what the 1940 Census told me, I already knew.

For instance, I knew my great-grandma had long since been widowed, and was living with my grandpa. I am not sure either of them expected the arrangement to last through the early 1990s.

(A note on the form indicates that my great-grandma supplied the census takers with their information. Perhaps they came while my grandpa was at work.)

I also knew my grandparents weren’t married until the following year. If I had to guess, I’d guess they were seeing each other in April 1940 but not yet engaged. Social mores being what they were, I doubt either of them gave a single thought to living together before the wedding.

Other tidbits, new to me, fill in some details of my grandpa’s life when he was (gack) almost 10 years younger than I am now:

  • He worked as a draftsman at a company that made candy-wrapping machines. (Actually, I did sorta know that — it’s listed on his resume, as included in this earlier blog post.)
  • It was a settled job. Not only had he worked a full 40 hours the week before the census-taker came to call, he had been on the job a full 52 weeks in 1939.
  • He made $1,410 in 1939, if the figure in column 32 is correct. That seems remarkably low to me, and I can’t find a good salary inflation calculator to check it.
  • But life was more affordable then: He spent $28 per month on rent. (I do not believe he owned a car in those days, either.)
  • My grandpa and great-grandma had lived at the same address for at least the previous five years.
  • My great-grandma is listed as a home-based music teacher, a pursuit she would continue until the early 1970s. Yet, despite working 20 hours a week, she reported earning no income the previous year. Maybe she earned a pittance from teaching. Or, maybe she figured the census man wasn’t the taxman, and didn’t need a detailed financial report.

We also learn some things about the community surrounding my grandpa and great-grandma:

  • My grandpa’s salary was roughly in the midrange of his neighborhood — higher than some, lower than some.
  • There were more renters than owners on Rochelle Street, but both groups were represented.
  • There were no people of color living on that stretch of the street, nor any divorce(e)s.
  • His neighbors on Rochelle Street included a traveling salesman for the Raybestos brake-lining company; a city schoolteacher; a meat-cutter; a laborer for the city Streets Department; and two other men employed at what was presumably the same candy machine factory.
  • Only two of the people listed on the page are described as looking for work, a suggestion that perhaps economic times were improving. (No one on the page is listed as performing “emergency work” for federal agencies like the WPA or CCC, either.)

Rochelle Street as it looks now, via Google Earth. My grandparents last visited circa 1993. My grandfather swore the shutters he made for the second-story apartment in the 1930s were still on the house.

Finally, I can’t help but note the different, more self-consciously clear handwriting in which the last name “BLUMENAU” is recorded, as compared to the writing used on the rest of the page. Maybe they were trying to be sure it was legible for history. Thoughtful of them.

At some point I’ll see if I can’t find my grandma, who was living elsewhere in Springfield in 1940 with her sister and her sister’s husband.

For now I’ll just enjoy the feeling of diving into the huge pool of data and actually finding the household I was looking for.

Not to mention the feeling that maybe in 2052, if the world isn’t irreparably torqued by then, some descendent of mine might look for me in the same way in the 1980 Census, and might feel a similar rush of accomplishment when they finally track me down.

(Here’s a hint, kid: State of New York, county of Monroe, town of Penfield. Look on Timberbrook Lane. Just trying to save you some time.)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »